CEO Talk | Sarah Curran, Founder and CEO, my-wardrobe.com

sarah-curran

Sarah Curran, Founder and CEO, my-wardrobe.com

LONDON, United Kingdom The Business of Fashion can exclusively reveal that my-wardrobe.com, the London-based fashion e-tailer positioned at a mid-level pricepoint between Net-a-Porter.com on the high-end and Asos.com on the low-end, has just closed its second round of investment.

My-wardrobe continues to grow at a rapid pace, having achieved an extremely healthy 169 percent jump in sales in its third year, growing from £1.56m in sales in 2008 to £4.23m in the fiscal year ending March 2009.

It may not be surprising then that a group of high-net worth investors have injected an undisclosed sum of money to further the site’s expansion into menswear and international markets, amongst other initiatives. Perhaps as a sign of the times, the new funding valued shares at the same price as in the first round, as opposed to achieving a higher share price as would have normally been the case in the past. That said, the investment opportunity was heavily over-subscribed, demonstrating the market’s continuing belief in the online fashion retail segment.

It’s been a busy few months for my-wardrobe’s CEO Sarah Curran, who has also just brought in a new Chairman, Jean-Marc Bouhelier and concluded a first-ever shop-in-shop concession deal with BCBC Max Azria, but I caught up with her quickly after our panel discussion in Vienna to bring you this BoF exclusive.

BoF: You’ve just closed a round of funding in the middle of a deep recession. Tell us the details of the investment. Did you have to take a lower valuation on your business?

Following the first round of investment, my-wardrobe.com has been trading to forecast. We entered the second round of investment at the same time as the global recession was officially announced in the media. Taking into account the current economic situation, we took the view to keep the share price the same as with the first round of investment.

BoF: Raising funding in this economic environment is no easy task. How difficult was it?

The second round of investment was actually an easier sell to investors than with the first round. This came off the back of the continued and accelerated growth of the business, delivering what we promised in the first round in the Information Memorandum. As with the first round, our strategy was to target high net-worth individuals rather than institutional money. Incredibly, the second round was so successful that we found ourselves being oversubscribed, which considering the climate, it was very fortunate place to be. In fact of the investor presentations that we made, our success rate to conversion was around 80 percent.

Ultimately the reason we found it easy is because we were still delivering our growth despite credit crunch and recession. We were able to show that we had tracked according to forecast numbers, against a particularly brutal economic environment.

Following the closure of the first round, we also formalised our board and strengthened our management team. This gave future investors confidence and reassurance that the company had the support required to take it to the next level.

BoF: What do you plan to use the funds for and how long do you expect them to last?

Fundamentally the funds will be used for working capital to assist in range development, customer acquisition and developing the company’s team resources. We aim to continue the improved sales performance and we don’t have any plans for fundraising requirements. However, we will continue to monitor market opportunities and if we feel that it makes sense to invest in these opportunities, then we will consider our options at that time.

BoF: What advice do you have to other businesses looking for funding in this environment?

Believe in your product and be passionate about your brand, whilst thinking about the longer term implications of the amount of equity that you are willing to put forward. In your financial model, present a conservative forecast, but work to an aggressive target, ensuring that you always over-deliver.

Make sure that you are put in front of investors who actually understand your industry. It may sound obvious, but at times we were put in front of people who didn’t understand or believe in the online retail sector, so make sure that the potential investors that you present to have a good understanding or a belief in your product or market.

BoF:  What are your other plans for the future of my-wardrobe.com?

Our main priority at the moment is to focus on menswear and womenswear and develop and improve these departments. For the future we are considering broadening our channels and looking at options for international development, but our attention has to be on delivering the perfect 360 experience for the customer on my-wardrobe.com.

Imran Amed is Editor of The Business of Fashion.

CEO Talk is BoF’s forum for in-depth discussions with the fashion industry’s global decision makers, conducted by founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed.