From Suit Tailoring To Tech Startup: What's It Like To Make The Jump?

06/09/2016 11:47 | Updated 06 September 2016


I used to be a suit tailor and now I run a technology startup. What's it like to make the jump?

Over the last two weeks I have dropped pins and needles and picked up keyboards and code manuals. I've changed from being in one of the most traditional industries to one of the most disruptive.

Can an old dog learn new tricks?

For years I have worked at a slow and steady pace selling bespoke suits to men in London. Now, I sit behind a computer and type as fast as my fingers can move.

I used to be a sole agent, carrying suits in one hand and a case in the other. Now I'm surrounded by twenty-somethings trying to change the world in one way or another.

My tech startup is a deal sharing community. A place people can find and share deals, discounts and voucher codes online helping each other save money. I had the idea when having dinner with Deepak Tailor who won BBC Dragon's Den, and we have worked on it for a year before taking the plunge and going full-time on it.

The first surprising thing I've noted about startups is how little selling takes place.

People seem to put off asking a customer for money until the very last moment. Logos get designed, branding gets obsessed over, Twitter and Facebook pages take priority.

When it comes to creating the product and selling it, people seem allergic to the words: "Would you like to buy it?".

In the suiting world it's the opposite. My opening sentence every time I met a prospective customer was, "Are you interested in suits or shirts today?"

I sold a product. With my money saving community LatestDeals, it's not too different - people share the products they find that have incredible discounts. You're either interested or you're not.

However, the startup world has pushed me out of my comfort zone in many other areas.

Facebook videos, for example. As we're bootstrapping the company, we don't have money for advertising so we're having to put ourselves out there.

In the video below, I reveal how I got a case of wine for just £3.50. It's the first time I've made videos like this, and despite the smiles, I'm actually incredibly nervous!

Building the confidence to put yourself out there takes time, but there are a few tricks I learnt from the tailoring world that has helped build LatestDeals in ways most startups have not.

Primarily, it's by picking up the telephone and developing close relationships with people by talking to them personally.

Startups tend to hide behind their screens. Emails, Tweets and Facebook Messages are preferred over telephone calls and in-person coffees. Having had for years met people in-person at their office and cold-called, I'm no stranger to the art of meeting people. I prefer it, in fact. Wherever possible I turn an email conversation into a phone conversation, and it works miracles.

People have already become avid fans of our business, and in just two weeks we've grown our community to almost 4,000.

While I sometimes miss the quiet solitude of making and selling a suit, the buzz of creating a company in a co-working hub of startups is very exciting, almost intoxicatingly so. There is so much going on and things change at such a rapid pace that time zooms by.

If you're a good few years into your career, I recommend you take a break and try it. You can always go back.


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