JGS How to create a fast-growth startup with Immaculate Vegan’s Simon Bell (episode 365)

Simon Bell is the co-founder at Immaculate Vegan, a curated fashion marketplace–for consumers who like a lot of style with their ethics. Launched in 2019, growing fast has always been part of the plan and in year 2 they’ve experienced over 300% year on year growth.

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Simon’s Backstory

Simon worked for Unilever and The Sunday Times in a variety of marketing roles for 20-odd years. He wanted to get into the digital side of things and started out by becoming a Marketing Director of an agency focused on eCommerce. He then built his own agency — Diligent Commerce — which aims to bring fashion, luxury, and lifestyle brands to life online.

In 2018, a potential client of the agency approached him about starting a website dedicated to selling vegan fashion products. Having just turned vegan and because he was looking for a retail project to work on at the time, he offered to develop the idea with the client. And that’s how Immaculate Vegan was born.

About Immaculate Vegan

  • Based in the UK
  • Is a multi-brand marketplace that sells vegan products of brands from different countries
  • Sells to customers all around the world
  • Is on Shopify

The Team

Aside from Simon and his co-founder Annick, there are two other full-time employees. They also have part-time employees: a finance manager, an SEO specialist, and a PR manager.

They also have people helping out with content and imagery, among other tasks. But they’re looking to recruit more individuals down the road as the business grows.

Starting Out

When starting a business, you have to understand that you don’t know everything. Adopt a test-and-learn approach, and pivot or change things if needed.

Simon and his co-founder believed in their idea and the opportunity it presented. So they decided to launch quickly with a minimum viable product and to test and learn. This approach has proven effective for them.

Talking About Fast Growth

Simon says if you spot a good opportunity, go for it and do it fast. Otherwise, someone else will get to it before you do.

And for Simon, focusing on vegan products does not make Immaculate Vegan a niche business. Rather, it gives them the chance to also get into sustainability and ethics, which more people are getting involved in.

All of these combined have resulted to fast growth for the business.

Minimum Viable Product

For Simon using the MVP model is not only about the website but the entire cost base.

While it’s true that he wanted to launch the best website with all the trimmings, he knew doing that would take a while to develop. So instead of missing an opportunity that was already there, they launched quickly and developed along the way.

Working remotely and having part-time employees are also part of it. 

It helps that Immaculate Vegan has a comprehensive profit and loss statement. It gives them a very good idea how and when they incur cost so they can manage it accordingly.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Simon, it’s SEO because it’s fundamental but it doesn’t get the press it deserves. He also mentions PR, as well as free social media marketing opportunities as strategies you should get into for traffic.

Tool Top Tip

  • Slack communication platform

Growth Top Tip

  • Be patient, make sure you have everything in place and your business model worked out. Also have people around you who can do things better than you and be prepared to learn.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 052: Nineteenth Amendment’s Amanda Curtis on building a designer fashion marketplace from scratch
  • 253: Ethical eCommerce and how to get to 10,000 customers in 18 months with Lucy Bloomfield
  • 335: Next level fashion sustainability to satisfy a $120bn opportunity with Camilla Olsen

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