I met Ben Fridja at London Fashion Weekend. He had a very colourful stand of delightful steamers. A good steamer is a stylist’s best friend and I just wanted to know what made Ben get into this steamy business.
What inspired you to started Fridja?
My grandfather ran a dress factory in Camden for 40 years. My mother is a fashion buyer, so fashion was always around me as I grew up. In 2009 I was working as a hypnotherapist in a clinic in Marylebone and going out with a beautiful stylist. She always had problems with getting an old bulky steamer from shoot to shoot. Having experience working for Nicole Fahri and Topshop, I was fully aware of the magic steamers performed on clothes. The problem with her old steamer was that the technology and design was old fashioned and someone needed to save me from carting this old beast around. Nobody was around to solve my problem, so I decided to create a steamer for her. Since then the fashion world, the commercial and domestic market have followed suit.
How did you start Fridja (as you have a BSc, Psychology from Goldsmiths)
I had worked at Wembley Market from an early age on my dad’s stall selling electronics. By the time I’d graduated, I managed the stall and learnt some of the tricks and trades of business. I knew of the limitations of buying stock within the UK, everybody else had access to it. Therefore I decided to go straight to the source and develop my own product that nobody else could buy. Once I’d worked with the appropriate designers/engineers, I found a reputable place to have them made in the far-east. The next step was to import them and get the name out, which was easier than first thought as everyone fell in love with the product.
You’ve been in business almost 2 years. What was the most challenging aspect of setting up your own business?
As I’ve run a business, I’ve tried to teach myself to be the master of so many different trades. We began as an online business so I had to learn how to write our own website (web guys can cost the earth!). After that I’ve had to learn the art marketing and social media. Getting the products in the right hands and letting people know about it. Other areas of the business I’ve just had to learn as I go. I’m still learning.
Your blog is a first in the garment care industry, what made you decide to document it this way?
A blog was nothing revolutionary in my eyes. We were being used at so many fantastic events and by incredible influential people. In addition, I had made friends with these talented people, so they wanted to help me show the world how a necessary a garment steamer was to creating perfect looks. It also gave me a way of documenting the company’s progress. Our early blog posts at the time were very exciting, but the later ones seem more impressive in some people’s eyes and we are involved in things that I could’ve never imagined.
What is Fridja School?
Fridja School is an exciting new section of our website that uses video tutorials to show how simple it is to steam a wide range of clothes. Steamers can benefit all sorts of people, not just those in the rag trade. People often need a quick lesson as to how to use one effectively. We decided to take a range of people, with a range of outfits and through interactive video tutorials, demonstrate how effective a Fridja steamer is. The website is the first of it’s kind and we are very proud of it.
What is the key to Fridja success?
Our success has been a combination of a number of things. Firstly, the product just works. It is a fun, cute steamer that punches the power of the industrial competitors. They also benefit from a fantastic aesthetic, which the others are no comparison.
What trade shows do you do?
We were the official sponsors of Vodafone’s London Fashion Weekend last September. This was the first event we tried via the medium of a trade show. Luckily we were very well received. We combined selling our products with doing the backstage garment care. Since then we’ve taken part in Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model and the Ideal Home Exhibition, similarly our product has sold well at these events.
Do you own an ironing board?
Ha! Yes I do. It really doesn’t see much action.
Where are you stocked?
We are mainly online at the moment, but are in discussions with giant retailers. It is only a matter of time till they are available to buy on the high street.
Are you working on new product development?
At the moment we are putting the finishing touches to our hand steamer, it will be released when we are 100% confident with it and not a second before.