05 07

What I wish I knew

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Three founders – in London, NY and LA – share what they wish they knew when they launched their business.

Downtown Music Publishing

Justin Kalifowitz, Founder

Downtown Music Publishing is an independent music rights management company based in NYC.

“At the beginning, our hiring policy was opportunistic. People focus on domain experts but I think at the really early stage you need people who are hungry, capable and who want to solve complex problems – they don’t need to have domain expertise. We have 300 employees worldwide now so we had to relax that policy after the first dozen or so. One of the best examples I can give of someone who had a passion for complex problems but who had never worked in the industry before is Joe Conyers. We ended up founding Songtrust [a digital rights management company] together.”

Botanic Lab

Rebekah Hall, Founder

Drinks brand Botanic Lab this year partnered with Deliveroo to offer ‘CBD on demand’.

“I feel often that in entrepreneurship you are told to get yourself a co-founder because life would be easier with two people. It’s not always the case, though. It can be quite difficult having a co-founder. Differences of opinion and approach can, and did in my case, lead to a separation of founders. I had a co-founder initially for two years – we had different ideas and skill-sets that weren’t complimentary. Parting ways is not a pretty process. I would consider getting a co-founder in the future but I would be more diligent in finding someone who was a better fit.”


Katerina Schneider, Founder

Ritual is a subscription-based vitamin supplements company for women, backed by investors including Forerunner Ventures.

“As a founder, you also pick your investors. It’s a two-way street, like a date or an interview. These are people who are going to be by your side for the long-term. You have the ability to choose who will sit around the table and it will have a big impact on your future business. I was guilty of thinking it wasn’t that way but I ended up being quite selective. Three out of four are female, they come from diverse backgrounds and the dynamics are interesting and helped us grow. Being in charge of your fundraising process is definitely something I’ve learnt along the way.”

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Why knowing and understanding your audience is important.

Catherine Tough, knitwear brand

Mailchimp helped Catherine Tough grow her online retail business, knitting together e-commerce and email.

Catherine started her knitwear brand Catherine Tough when she graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 1999. What began at small market stalls at trade shows when the internet was in its infancy – in fact, Catherine remembers her first orders taken via fax – grew into a global wholesale business. And today, the company is a flourishing online retailer. She explains how Mailchimp helped power the most recent phase of growth.

‘Until about five years ago, the majority of our business was wholesale, and always had been. At the same time as rebuilding our website, we decided to subscribe to Mailchimp – I was particularly excited about how it would integrate with the new e-commerce platform, but I had no idea how important it would be for building relationships with individual customers.

‘It worked really well. We immediately felt the difference, being able to keep track of interactions with customers from website purchases through to email campaigns. We saw sales improve by segmenting our audience, and we still segment all our mailings using simple criteria. For example, we send tailored messages to returning customers who have bought at least one item before, people who haven’t ordered but have opened at least one email from us, and new customers who haven’t done either yet.

Catherine Tough Socks

‘We also learned so much from Mailchimp about who our customers are. The data helped us create customer personas and learn about what attracts them to our brand. So, we have one persona who typically lives in rural areas and the nostalgia of lovely knitted garments appeals to them. And there’s another persona who lives in trendy urban areas and we learned they’re really big fans of our ethical production values.’

Catherine is currently focused on building the direct-to-customer retail audience, and Mailchimp has proven invaluable there, too. ‘Through some carefully chosen brand collaborations, we’ve teamed up with companies like Dorset Cereals and most recently Yeo Valley. We create a bespoke Catherine Tough product they can offer their customers as a prize, and we promote our brand and build our subscriber list. All that’s made so easy through Mailchimp,’ she says.

Catherine Tough
Catherine Tough Threads