It has been an exhilarating few months for Stylopoly, from winning Elmbridge Borough Council’s ‘best start-up bootcamp idea award’ to their recent launch. Co-founders of this innovative online fashion business, Vik and Sunaina Patel have worked diligently to turn their initial concept into a fully-fledged operation yet stress the invaluable help Elmbridge Borough Council has provided them.
Like many great ideas, Vik’s eureka moment arrived one unassuming evening when he noticed that Sunaina’s online quest for new clothes had left her with over 100 tabs cluttering her computer screen. This, coupled with her phone storage filled with countless shopping apps, left Vik determined to create a painless solution – and things progressed rapidly from there.
Benefiting from funding provided through the Council’s start-up grant programme, enabling them to buy previously unaffordable equipment such as a state-of-the-art laptop for website development, the pair combined their expertise to develop the new business based in Walton-on-Thames.
Making use of Vik’s technical experience as an IT professional who graduated with a Computer Science degree from Manchester University; and Sunaina’s Warwick Business School knowledge and proficiency with digital media and marketing - the brand name, logo and mock website were pitched to retailers, receiving very encouraging feedback.
With the tagline ‘discover and shop the world’s most stylish brands’, Stylopoly offers an easy online fashion shopping experience. Partnering with the world’s leading fashion retailers including Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and Adidas, the most stylish and desirable products are compiled in one location – providing a convenient experience for the customers.
These essential partnerships with leading fashion brands stemmed in part from research which Sunaina compiled utilising Warwick Business School’s Alumni access to Marketline, competitor and general company data - “In the UK, ecommerce has grown steadily, reaching £137.38bn last year” and “The online share of overall retail sales is currently 16%, up from around 9% in 2012, according to ONS data” this allowed the team to understand their market, target audience, partner companies and competitors.
The duo have been backed by Elmbridge Borough Council with a range of business support to kick start their new venture. In addition to accessing the Council’s business grants Stylopoly attended a start-up bootcamp day, Google Digital Garage event and were provided with both business masterclasses and their own stand at the Elmbridge business conference.
This support from the Council provided the pair with knowledge they have continually applied to the Stylopoly brand, and opened doors to networking events and links to business advice organisations. Vik claims the support has “put Stylopoly on a pedestal that would ordinarily have been almost inaccessible at this early stage”.
But it was winning the Council’s best start-up bootcamp award that really catapulted the local business forward. The pair took advantage of the prize of free access to the Accrue Workspace in Cobham and moved their business out of the spare bedroom and into this fantastic new co-working facility. The networking and connections among the businesses based at the Accrue Workspace proved invaluable, as they have been able to bounce ideas off people in similar start-up positions and make use of their expertise.
Sunaina also felt the award generated recognition which “helped elevate our brand, and even ensured that we have become an attractive employer for a host of passionate international business and fashion interns from leading Universities”. The pair encourage other aspiring local business owners to take advantage of all that the Council and Universities have to offer and get the help necessary to drive their business forward.
Councillor Ruth Mitchell, Portfolio Holder for Resources said “Stylopoly are another great local Elmbridge success story who help to showcase the entrepreneurial talent and range of support on offer from the Council. I would encourage anyone with a business idea or just starting up to attend our next start-up bootcamp on 8 March or find out more about our start up grant, get some practical expert advice and find out more about all the support on offer. I look forward to hearing more about Stylopoly and wish the team all the success for the future.”
The long-term aim for Stylopoly, is to give back to Surrey and the UK economy, expanding enough to establish several offices and provide national job opportunities for local people.
But for now, the aim is to ride through the initial growth stage and emerge a recognised and flourishing staple of online fashion shopping.
Businesses can sign up to the next Elmbridge Borough Council start up bootcamp event on 8 March.