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Three wise men

Although still in their 20s, three stars of Drapers’ 30 under 30 feature which ran in January had plenty of wise words to pass on to delegates.

There’s nothing worse than hiring the wrong person. Make sure you do thorough interviews and that you hire the best person there is,” says Richard Hurtley, owner of Rampant Sporting. It sounds like he has been in the fashion business for decades, but the 26-year-old only set up his sports heritage casualwear brand in 2008 and has already attracted investment from lifestyle brand Joules.

The brand, which began with Hurtley being “my own accountant, marketing executive, designer”, now has a team of 12. “There’s so much to learn, that when you start off doing everything, you learn your strengths and weaknesses,” he says.

Primark senior menswear buyer Oliver Kinnill, 29, who used to DJ at nightclub Fabric - the venue for the Next Generation Academy - believes staying in touch with the early skills you develop on the shopfloor is vital as you grow into your role. “I can’t recommend enough going onto the shopfloor regularly,” he says. “You see how the customer is changing. Men in particular have changed so much in the past few years, becoming much more fashion-conscious. To get noticed in a business, you have to put ideas forward, you have to keep introducing new things. Just like any brand, you [as an individual] need a unique selling point.”

Maintaining good relationships is also key to success, says 27-year-old John Reid, co-founder of Bristol premium indie Garment Quarter. “I underestimated the impact of treading on other people’s toes, of how they would react to my decisions. Fashion is a small world and can be very political, so you have to think about what you say. You think because it’s your own business, you can make your decisions, but there are so many people involved, from suppliers to landlords, that can cause things to go wrong.”

Kinnill agrees, and puts communication at the top of his agenda. “Often, when things go wrong it’s because of poor communication. If you communicate well, people feel confident,” he says, adding that those around you can be great mentors. “[Primark founder] Arthur Ryan is very inspirational and very involved in [the day-to-day running of] the business and [head of menswear] Steve Lawton is very enthusiastic about menswear. I’m very ambitious and want to be director of buying and, ultimately, a chief executive. I have a very talented team and enjoy nurturing them.”

The social network

For Reid and Hurtley, social media has been hugely instrumental in growing their businesses. “In our first year, 75% of hits [to our website] came from Facebook and it is still important today. Facebook has a high impact considering it’s cheap,” says Hurtley.

Reid agrees: “We started [marketing the business] with social media,” but he adds that there are different channels for entrepreneurs to exploit. “Every marketing decision we make, we do it for our brand. We’re holding a spring party for our customers and when we launched, we sent [information packs] to about 100 different media.” It was precisely this initiative that attracted the attention of Drapers and led to Reid’s regular column in the magazine.

Even unexpected media coverage can work to your advantage, says Hurtley, whose complaint about a Barclays loan when he set up the business led to an article in the Daily Telegraph supporting Hurtley’s cause. “Barclays saw [the article] and gave me £30,000,” he laughs. “Perseverance is key. You see people driving sports cars but they had to start somewhere. Everyone who’s succeeded went through a tough time.”

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