Today i have micky and rajohan, founders of Uneek Garmz, they share their story with us on how they started their company, their entrepreneurial journey and their plans for the future.
Enjoy the interview!
Hey Guys, how are you both doing today?
Great... “The sun is shining the weather is sweet, makes you wanna move your dancing feet.” (In actual fact it’s threatening to snow again, but hey ho.)
Can you give us some background information? About yourself? Who you are? What roles both you play in the company?
Micky: Hmmm... This is where we tell you about growing up in the troubled East London area and dreaming of getting out right? How we used to shoot up schools but we’ve turned it all around because a kind hearted old black man taught us how to play basket ball well and believed in us?
We’ll we’re not your typical Cinderella story. We are both from East London but contraire to the bad press it receives, we actually both love living here. We travel ALOT for work and despite visiting some wonderful places there really is no place like home and my ruby slippers be a tapping after a few days away!
Rajohan: Its true, the ruby slippers, the black Louboutins, the pink Dr Martens, the red Converse – Micky has a lot of shoes! Nah, but seriously, London is so full of talented people, I am so inspired by people who are creative and driven and doing what we do we get to meet those people first hand.
One of the reasons why we started Uneek was because we found it hard when Micky first started doing photography to network in industry and gain exposure for her work and the more people we did meet the more we realised we weren’t the only ones. That’s why we wanted to have a featured artist section on the website to help to give people who are truely talented a helping hand to getting their name out there.
Micky: The roles we play in the company are pretty simple really, I’m the eyes of the company and
Rajohan is the mind. He comes up with concepts for the branding, marketing ideas and deals with all the paperwork which would make my eyes go crossed and I put those ideas “onto paper”, I design stuff for the brand, the website content, I take and edit all of our marketing images and I create the final designs for the clothing.
What inspired you both to start the company?
Rajohan: Well we were only 21 when we started the company and for me that was the age when I actually really started think, “right what do I want to do with my life?” College was done and I knew I didn’t want to work a nine to five forever, I wanted to wake up and be inspired, I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to make a lot of money!
Coming from a street dance background I had already begun to decide that I wanted to do something creative as a career and something that would give me the freedom to be my own boss and I’ve always loved fashion so when Micky asked me to be her partner in crime I couldn’t say no!
Micky: Yeah, weve both always loved fashion but we realised a long time ago that the things we loved weren’t that easy to find in high street shops, not only that but I hate walking into a place to find 10 girls wearing the top I just brought from Topshop which is why I rarely buy high street anymore.
We’ve been customising our clothes for a long time to create things which other people wouldn’t have and we get loads of people asking where they could get stuff like ours so I started thinking about putting a label together.
The main difference I wanted Uneek to have was not only the designs but also the fact that they are true limited edition. Where most brands say limited but there’s actually a 50,000 piece run, our clothes actually are.
How did you get started in this business?
It wasn’t easy, it was loads of research and a lot of trial and error. You have to be dedicated and motivated, it’s not something that I would recommend for someone hoping to make a quick quid without putting in the work. We were both working fulltime jobs when we started Uneek and we had to put in late nights for no pay just to get everything done for the launch but it was definitely worth it.
Were you both exposed to entrepreneurship as a child or was it something you picked along the way?
Micky: Not entrepreneurship but definitely hard work. Both my parents taught me from a young age that you can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind which is why I got my first job at 15. My mum and dad have always been a massive inspiration for me, they both had to struggle to provide for me and my younger brother and sisters.
I realised from a young age that you get out what you put in and also that I don’t want to have to struggle to get by, I want to be successful enough to re-pay them for all the opportunities they have given me and to make them proud.
Rajohan: I agree with Micky, I haven’t been exposed to entrepreneurship but my older brother and sister were great role models to me growing up. I know the value of money, like Micky I got my first job at a young age and working for a national newspaper I know what grind is, and what can be gained from hard work.
How did you finance the business?
The business was financed with our own money. We invested in it because we believe in it. What we’re doing is not only a business to us, it is a project that is grounded in all the things that we are passionate about and luckily other people are passionate about it too so it’s proven itself to be a worthy investment.
What was the most difficult part of starting the business?
The nerves, that’s why we named our first blog newbies, nerves and neeks! The hard work and long hours was nothing compared to the nerves of when the website went live and we were awaiting the public response. Uneek started as an idea in 2007 and we worked on it for a long time getting everything to our version of perfect but the hardest thing was seeing if people were actually going to appreciate it like we do.
I have seen loads of clothing line come out of the UK over the past year, what makes your business different/unique? Or s it just another clothing company?
A lot of people ask this and somewhere in all our paperwork is our original business plan which clearly has all our objectives and number one is to not be just another clothing company. The reason we started Uneek was because we had enough of all those carbon copies.
We wanted to bring something fresh to the table. We promote young artists, we provide services like photoshoots and styling, we put creative people in touch with other creative people and try to help the UK creative scene grow, and we do all of that looking fly in clothing that you can’t get at every boutique in Shoreditch. So are we just another clothing company? Ask our customers ;o)
What is an average workday like for you?
There are no average days, that’s what we love about it. One day we can be shooting for a magazine editorial with some of the most creative young minds in London, the next we can be in China sourcing new products, it’s crazy and exciting and tiring but we love it!
How have sales grown in the last few months?
We’re really lucky in that since we started the support has been huge, our customer base is always growing and a lot of our customers keep coming back to get more bits for themselves and as presents for other people! A lot of our customers have brought a few bits after they received their first order which lets us know that were doing something right.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Looking after the people that support us. We wouldn’t be here without our customers and our fans, once people sign up to the mailing list they are part of the Uneek Family and get exclusive discounts and news bulletins whenever we have shoots and things, we like to let our customers know when we need models etc because we like them to get involved in Uneek, they’re the reason for our success so it’s only right that they should share in it.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
We’ve got a lot planned for this year. We have a whole host of new products that will be on the website shortly and lots of exciting events that we’re going to be organising to give our customers a chance to get involved more. We’re also going to be doing some fundraising for charity. We believe that when you’re blessed in your life it’s so that you can bless other people.
How do you market your products or services? What has been your most effective marketing tactic?
Most of our marketing is done online as we are an online business and we don’t sell in the shops to keep our products exclusive. We’re on social networking sites as it not only gives us an opportunity to find new people that may be interested in what we do but it also helps us to keep up with our existing fans and customers.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Micky: Be prepared to work hard, don’t get into this industry unless you have the drive to see it through, it’s not a quick fix to make money you do have to put in the hours.
Rajohan: Read, research and learn, even now, were forever learning – it’s what helps our business to grow, if you become complacent then that’s it, you won’t go any further.
Micky: Have fun, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing, enjoy every last second because there will be days when you’re working nonstop and feel like just jacking it in but it’s those days that your passion will get you through.
If you were to start another business, what might it be?
Micky: The obvious ones would be a photography studio, a magazine or possibly another clothing line, this industry is all linked and its where my passion lies but for me its not if it’s when so I cant give too much away.
That said, one thing which I would love to do is to start a charity that provides support and counselling for carers of people with Multiple Sclerosis.
Not many people know but aside from all this, for the last 5 years I was also a fulltime carer for my dad who sadly passed away in September from MS. I know firsthand how hard it is to live through that illness and I also know there’s not a huge amount of support available for carers as it’s not as well documented an illness as something like Cancer. I’d like to raise awareness about MS and help the people that have to live with this illness.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Keeping up with Uneek and finding the time to have a holiday! The label has already surpassed all our expectations and is continually growing.
When you find something that you’re so passionate about and it is received so well it can become hard to switch off and to delegate to other people. We know how we want everything done so it’s tempting to work, work, work to make sure it’s perfect for our fans but it’s important to find time for ourselves and our family and friends.
We need to delegate where possible because we can’t do everything on our own! This year were definitely going to be looking in to hiring more staff!
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years or so?
Doing what we’re doing now but 100 times bigger.
Thanks for your time.