Lee Bradshaw is the founder of Lifestylish.com, a website selling the very best in design led gifts, gadgets and homewares from around the world. Lee founded the business in 2010 with his wife Julie. He is very hands on, from sourcing new products, managing the website, processing orders and shipping them out on time. With a background in affiliate marketing, Lee has huge experience with promoting successful websites.
Easyspace recently caught up with Lee for an interview:
Q1. Lee, tell us a little bit about your background and what led to you to becoming an entrepreneur and setting up Lifestylish.
Whilst working in IT for a major home shopping company, I stumbled across affiliate marketing in 2002 and initially worked it alongside my current job. Quite quickly, the business grew and I was fortunate enough to be able to work on it whilst travelling, so took a year out and travelled the world in 2004.
After seeing how many sales we were generating for other companies, I knew I had the potential to do it for myself and had always wanted my own retail site.
So, in late 2009 plans were started to launch our own retail venture and being a fan of good design, wanted to offer affordable, well designed, quality gifts & homewares…….and so Lifestylish was born.
Q2. Did you follow a business plan and how difficult was it getting the business established in the early days?
I was that keen to get going there was no time for a business plan, so just jumped straight in. To test the water we opened up an eBay shop in early 2010 to see how well the items we’d initially sourced would be received and very quickly could see the potential after a promising start.
Initially, it was all done from home but with two young children and a house of full of boxes, I took the decision to move to offices in the May of 2010 as I was also still running the affiliate marketing side of the business too.
After a month or so of researching different ecommerce solutions for Lifestylish.com, the decision was made in July to use Magento and daringly (or was that stupidly?) decided to build it myself.
Fast forward to September 2010 and throw in some blood, sweat & tears, and you have the birth of Lifestylish.com!
Q3. What was involved in establishing suppliers for your business, and have they changed since starting?
Good supplier relationships have always been on the top of my priority list, and we do work closely with them to ensure the very latest products are always on their way to us.
It’s a fast paced industry so you need to know that your latest bestselling products can be shipped within 24 hours, and having that good working relationship really does help you pull some favours.
Q4. How do you decide which products to stock and promote on your website?
We could sell anything and everything, but we’re looking for well designed, quality items and only the best appear on Lifestylish.com – there’s no training it’s just good old gut instinct and a keen eye. Whilst I might not always get it right with the buying, the repeat orders and volume sales do speak for themselves.
Q5. Where does your business operate from, and talk us through your order & shipping procedure.
After launching Lifestylish.com in the September of 2010 and the increase in sales for Christmas, we very quickly outgrew our office and had to take on the neighbouring office just to hold the stock, as well as take on another member of the team. It was obvious we needed warehouse space with offices, so decided to battle through Christmas from our two offices and secure a new space following the Christmas rush.
We got the keys for our new warehouse on Christmas Eve and moved in over Christmas/New Year, ready to start 2011 with a bang!
Q6. How did you fund your business when it first started?
It’s been funded from my own pocket from day one, which whilst makes me feel proud to say but has always left me with empty pockets!
We are always looking for investors, so if any business angels are reading please do get in touch!
Q7. How did you market your business when you first started and how do you promote it now?
Social media was key and we’ve always had a good presence on Facebook, Twitter et al. Building our email list is also important and ensures we’re in touch with our customers – although, we probably do need to promote the newsletter a bit more than we do.
Q8. What systems do you use for the ecommerce part of your website, payments, etc and how difficult is it to manage?
Magento is the platform we chose for Lifestylish.com and are more than happy with it. Whilst a steep learning curve to take on board the many features it has, we’ve been very impressed with the functionality and once mastered, it’s very easy to use.
Q9. Do you use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc, to promote your businesses? How successful has it been for you? Any advice on how businesses can use social media to promote themselves?
It’s all part of the marketing mix and as it’s where the action is at the moment, you really do need to have a presence. We like to keep it real and will post up pictures of new stock arriving, team nights out etc.
Q10. How do your products match up against your competitors and how do you stay competitive?
We do watch our competitors but prefer to simply offer the best price, great service, hassle free returns and hopefully the best range of quality gifts. Our clear pricing coupled with free delivery works very well and is loved by our customers.
Q11. If you had the chance to start Lifestylish all over again, what would you do differently?
Wow, that’s a tough one! Probably start it sooner and find that business angel from question 6 on day one!
Seriously though, we’re evolving all the time and finding easier/better/smarter ways of doing things, so maybe knowing best practices sooner would’ve saved us time but is all part of the growing process.
Q12. Which entrepreneur/person has inspired you the most & why?
Richard Branson’s no fear attitude is inspiring and always made me want to just do it. I’m also a keen reader of business books and can recommend the likes of Seth Godin, Malcom Gladwell & Tim Ferris to name a few.
Q13. What advice would you give to somebody thinking of starting their own business?
Be real and be prepared. It’s not a get rich quick scheme and be prepared for long hours. Whilst rewarding, it can be relentless and you just never know what’s coming around the corner.
Q14. Apart from Lifestylish, are you involved with any other businesses? Tell us about them.
Always wanting to keep our Lifestylish.com customers ‘sweet’ made me stumble upon another business. We started off throwing little bags of sweets in with the orders and customers were very happy to get their sweets….even more so than the actual item they’d ordered and paid for!
That was back in 2011, and now have two parts to the sweet empire – Pick and Mixture (www.pickandmixture.co.uk) for retail and Sweet Warehouse (www.sweetwarehouse.co.uk) for corporate and bulk orders.
Q15. What are your future plans for Lifestylish?
To continue what we do well but also streamline as much as we can. The team we have at Lifestylish.com are so important to our success and I’m always the first to say without them we’d be nowhere.
Building on our supplier relationships will continue and we’re keen to explore other avenues to compliment our current offerings.
Thanks Lee, from everyone at Easyspace. Good luck with your future plans.
If you want to find out more about Lee Bradshaw then you can visit him at his website www.Lifestylish.com
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