Model and entrepreneur Caprice ventured to London, England from Southern California and quickly became one of the most photographed women in the world, having appeared on over 350 magazine covers across the globe and over 200 TV shows. She was voted GQ Magazine’s Woman of the Year, and Maxim’s International Woman of the Year for three years running.
In 2006, Caprice started By Caprice Lingerie which she fully finances, designs, models and markets. She started the company in hope of creating a brand and company that she could pass on to her future family and most importantly doing what she loves to do best: make gorgeous, comfortable, garments for her customers so they feel beautiful, sexy and feminine.
Easyspace was delighted to get the chance to chat to Caprice recently. We hope her success story inspires you to turn your own ideas for an online business into reality:
Q1. Caprice, tell us a little bit about your background and what led to you to becoming an entrepreneur
Everyone knows my name and that has great value and I wanted to utilise it and develop ‘Caprice’ into a brand. Initially I tested the water risk-free with my license agreement, it allowed me access to a market I had no knowledge in. However there’s a big leap between talking about ‘doing it yourself’ and actually making it happen but entrepreneurship is in my blood, as the daughter of an entrepreneur – my mom has her own interior design business in LA – it’s in my nature to take risks. I think Americans are far more entrepreneurial. If they see an opportunity they go for it. If you have a dream, you obtain it.
Q2. You had a very successful career as a model, becoming one of the most photographed women in the world having appeared on over 350 magazine covers across the globe and over 200 TV shows. Yet in 2006 you backed away from most of that – the fame, the money, the perks – in order to concentrate on building your business ‘By Caprice’. Why did you do that and how difficult was it building your business from scratch?
I knew I needed to think of something because I was in my thirties and modelling wasn’t going to last forever so I suggested a licensing deal to Debenhams and they went for it. I also saw how rich they were becoming off the back of my name and thought, “I want to do that for myself”, so I bought back my license and convinced Debenhams to start buying from me and that’s when I started By Caprice Lingerie.
When I launched By Caprice I had to learn as I went along and it was an expensive lesson – there was one season where the fits weren’t right and the styles were rejected, because I didn’t pay enough attention to the fits.
One of the most essential things I have learnt is how important cash flow is to any business. In the beginning I didn’t realise you had to keep investing money to keep a business afloat.
I put a lot of hard work into my business, educated myself with every intricate part of it and that’s one of the reasons for my success. I can even do my own cash flow!
Q3. In the early days you licensed your name to Debenhams for 6 years. But you then bought back your license and invested your own money into the business. Why did you decide to do this?
At first I wanted somebody else to take the risk. When I started my license deal with Debenhams it was a time when no one else was doing it – they were unheard of. Licensing deals only became popular a few years after I got my deal. I decided to buy back the license because I wanted control over my brand name and image and saw how rich those guys were getting.
Q4. How did it feel putting your own money into your business?
Luckily because I had a successful modeling career and earned a lot in the process, I had the cash to invest, however, it is still a scary move when it is your own money that you are using. This is why I studied and studied the sales figures from my license days for a couple of years and learnt what lines were popular, which weren’t…which colours were selling out etc, you get the picture….… I did my research and that is when I felt confident about investing my own money to launch By Caprice.
Q5. The lingerie business is very competitive, yet you have managed to get your brand stocked in major retailers such as Littlewoods, Next, ASOS, etc. How difficult was it to convince major retailers to stock your products?
It was a challenge getting the buyers to take me seriously in the beginning, I couldn’t get other stockists to even make an appointment to see me – even though the original Caprice range had sold well. Eventually, I managed to secure a meeting with Next. I said ‘Listen, I want to speak to your CEO and I want the meeting, and I have the proof on paper now: I’m selling.’ And I got the meeting and then the first collection sold out – I couldn’t even facilitate the demand.
Q6. What makes ‘By Caprice’ lingerie different from other lingerie companies?
By Caprice Lingerie makes a statement, we’re very feminine, we’re a little bit sexy, we’re fashion conscious and very wearable. With By Caprice you wear it and you wear it and you wear it. Women that buy By Caprice are not compulsive buyers, she wants really good quality and a lot for her money, I mean, she wants the whole nine yards!
Q7. How closely involved are you with the design of your products?
Honey, I take a hands on approach to everything. I take my signature design that the customer loves and I attend two shows in Paris every year to find the latest designs, embroidery and mesh materials in order to get an idea about what’s out there. I also listen to my customers to see what they like each season. I look at weekly sales figures and see what blocks are working. This is how I go about designing and developing my lines.
Q8. How do you market your business?
Initially my former career was a great boost, as it helped me with marketing to launch the brand but now it doesn’t help me as much, because there’s no new story.
I continue to do shows such as Style Wars, where I was a judge, but I don’t really care about the fame side, I just care about marketing my company.
For me I find social media to be much more useful for marketing and everyone can access that – it’s free marketing for everyone. If you want people to take notice you have to be creative.
Q9. Currently you don’t sell your products via your own online shop – instead your lingerie, etc are sold via your partners stores and websites such as Very.co.uk, ASOS, Figleaves, etc. Why don’t you sell via your own website, and is this something you might do in future?
This is definitely something that I might look at in the future, however, my current process really works for me and I have great relationships with my online stockists.
Q10. By Caprice Lingerie has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2006. ‘By Caprice Swim’ launched in December 2007, followed by launching ‘By Caprice Bedding’ in June 2010. From your experience running a growing business, what lessons have you learned along the way i.e. employing staff, cash flow, etc?
Hire the right people and don’t go cheap. I did in the beginning and it was a huge mistake. Hire the right people from the start and ultimately you will make more money.
As I mentioned before, cash flow is your bible!!! Know your cash flow for the next 8 months. I didn’t start a cash flow at the beginning and I didn’t know what my out goings were, a dangerous situation for any business especially in this economy.
Q11. What advice would you give to somebody thinking of starting their own business?
Be passionate, live and breathe your business, if you don’t have passion, forget it.
Understand your target market and know what they want…they want quality at the best price.
Pay attention to your sales figures from all of your stockists every week. This will enable you to make better buying decisions and understand your target market as it changes. It is different year on year.
Customer service is key – spoil your customer and build customer loyalty
Do your research – there is so much accessible help out there in the form of government grants. Fantastic consultants are available – get advice
Don’t ever give up! If you get knocked down, get straight back up!
Q12. What are your future plans for ‘By Caprice’?
We have lots of exciting plans for the future at By Caprice. I would love to develop a By Caprice maternity range.
Thanks Caprice, from everyone at Easyspace. Good luck with your future plans for By Caprice.
By Caprice collections are available now. See www.bycaprice.com