Husband and wife team Vicki and Ian Ashman were senior partners in an international law firm before they sold their part of the business, left the city life, and set up a luxury lingerie brand.
After taking early retirement in their 40’s, the pair found it difficult to switch off from the business world. They set up a number of ventures in sectors as diverse as housebuilding and diamond dealing before settling on luxury lingerie, and Scrumpies of Mayfair was born.
Launched officially in October 2017, the startup currently has a core team of four staff, and the Ashmans are aiming for a turnover of £3m within three years.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
We are Ian and Vicki Ashman, retired lawyers and founders of Scrumpies of Mayfair, a luxury lingerie brand. We retired early from international law to bring our dream to life. Our knickers are miniature works of art – as striking and collectable as fine jewellery.
Our market is particularly strong amongst men, who count for 75 per cent of our sales, because a pair of Scrumpies’ knickers can make the perfect gift. Each pair comes packaged in a luxury box with its own unique collectible Czech crystal charm.
(2) How long have you been around for?
The brand has been in development since 2015. Starting from scratch is time-consuming, because even after the design process there is a vast amount of infrastructure to put in place before a brand can launch.
We wanted to time our launch to take advantage of Christmas and Valentine’s Day – key dates in the calendar for us – so our website went live at the start of October 2017.
(3) Where did the idea for your business come from?
We saw a gap in the market between the safe-but-boring cotton knickers for sale on the high street and the top end luxury lingerie brands, that are not only intimidating to wear but jaw-droppingly expensive. Scrumpies sits in that middle ground – special and beautiful, but still very wearable.
We chose the name Scrumpies because ‘scrumping’, or stealing apples from an orchard, is a uniquely British form of mischief. We thought the name encapsulated the ethos of our brand – British, fun and mischievous.
Each pair of Scrumpies is named after a different apple – Golden Delicious, Gala, Pink Lady and so on. The Mayfair bit comes from the fact that every design was initially thrashed out, literally, around our kitchen table at home in Mayfair.
(4) What was key in terms of getting started?
We had lots of experience of running business but were both new to retail, so we needed to recruit and retain the very best talent to help us.
(5) Any major setbacks along the way?
One issue for us as novices was separating good advice from bad. When you are new to any business sector you are susceptible to a lot of advice from veterans of the industry, who feel you should be educated on how things are done.
For example, at an early stage we were told that a brand ambassador was essential to our product launch strategy, but signing a brand ambassador is actually quite a tricky process because there are lots of stakeholders which makes negotiating difficult.
Luckily for us, our negotiations were so painful and protracted that it gave us time to work out that we didn’t actually want a brand ambassador. In fact, having one would be contrary to our brand ethos. This was an important moment for us, as we realised we had to have the confidence to keep our own voice.
(6) Describe your marketing technique. What strategies have you used?
We have three agencies that help us with social media, traditional PR and influencers. We have a luxury lingerie product and have a relatively long sales journey. Our buyers usually need to engage with the brand on one or two forums at least before they make a purchase.
We are very hands on with all our marketing and personally approve all social media posts. Influencers have also been a great help to us in establishing our place in the market. A watershed moment came when our complete collection video went viral, with over 650, 000 views on just one Facebook follower’s page.
(7) Which retailers have you partnered with to date?
We are exclusively online at the moment, but we’re in discussions with a handful of retailers outside our core online sales regions, which is currently the UK and US.
(8) What one tip would you give any new clothing company starting out?
Take advice but be true to your vision. There is a balance between following advice and the well- trodden path and understanding that the market wants to see a new idea. Just because something hasn’t been done that way in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea!
(9) In five years’ time, I will be…?
Enjoying the brand’s collaborations and further global expansion. Most importantly, we really want to grow our organisation with the brilliantly talented individuals that have been on the journey with us so far.
(10) Which brand do you most admire and why?
We admire brands like Scrumpies of Mayfair that are different, that represent exceptional quality and are the best in their field.
Calleija is the world’s leading pink diamond jeweler, for example. Pink diamonds are unimaginably rare and as old as time, but Calleija markets them with a contemporary vision. We love that brand because it represents impeccable class and style, and has a truly unique product.
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