On The Up

Tiny Fish: Rising to the challenge of ecommerce through trial and error

Hannah Wilkinson | 13 January 2016 | 8 years ago

Tiny fish

Operating in the notoriously competitive world of ecommerce, the founder of athleisure? brand Tiny Fish has built up an online and offline profile to increase sales.

Business Advice spoke to her to find out about the challenges of growing a business at a manageable rate and without external finance.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

My name is Kristina Carman. I was a make-up artist working in the fashion industry, but retrained as a yoga teacher after taking time out to have children, and wanted to combine my knowledge of the two industries to create a fitness clothing company, which lead me to start Tiny Fish.

(2) How long has Tiny Fish been around for?

Weve been trading for just over a year although it feels like a lot longer!

(3) How do you make money?

Before I started the company, I had assumed that having a really great product with good reviews would be enough to make lots of online sales, but it was quite an eye-opener to realise that wasnt enough. So Ive focused on getting Tiny Fish into pop-ups, festivals and other events, and have worked with other young brands to bring our brand to physical locations where people can actually touch and feel our products, and try them on. At the moment, 30-40 per cent of Tiny Fish sales are online, with the rest wholesale and through temporary retail spaces. As well as selling through our own site, were stocked by bigger ecommerce brands including Hip and Healthy and Yoga Luxe.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Tiny Fish is very much a lifestyle brand. it’s not so expensive that it’s inaccessible, but our clothes are luxurious, and we aim to encourage people to break out of their comfort zone a bit, even if that’s just by trying on a pair of print yoga leggings when they would usually only wear black ones.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Tiny Fish is totally self-funded, and, as a result, weve had to be very conscious of our costs, which meant launching with a very limited product range. We started by just selling one style of leggings, in lots of different colours, though were now focusing on expanding the collection. it’s definitely been a case of making sure we can crawl before we try to walk.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Getting to a strong enough financial position to be able to expand the product offering has been a great achievement. All the profits so far have been reinvested back into the business and it’s really satisfying to see that strategy working. Id like to keep Tiny Fish self-funded for as long as I can, because Im learning so much from the challenges, and I think that would change with external input from investors and faster growth.

tiny fish
Tiny Fish founder Kristina Carman
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Learning about the many different aspects of a retail business has been really difficult. I don’t think I had appreciated how hard it would be. From building a website which actually functions the way you want it to, to coordinating labelling and manufacturing, there are so many aspects which are challenging. I don’t have formal fashion training, although Ive picked up bits and pieces along the way so Im still making mistakes after almost 18 months, which is incredibly frustrating.

I work with an amazing part-time web developer, but learning about keyword strategy and how to use Google Adwords so that I can manage the content on the site has also been a struggle.

(8) In five years? time, I will be?

Running a predominantly online retailer with a wider product range of beautiful fitness clothing for women and, possibly, men too. I really wanted to start an online business, because, more and more, that’s how people are shopping, and though weve had to go offline as well as online to grow, my focus for the future is to sell more through the website.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Running your own business is amazing but it is so much work it’s a lot harder than it looks from the outside. There are some days when you will want to throw in the towel, and will be asking yourself why you’re standing in a queue at the post office for 45 minutes rather than paying an outside company for fulfilment.

I think it is incredibly important to remember that starting a business isnt a quick fix, and there’s no such thing as an overnight success. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not instantly as successful as youd like to be instead, focus on how far you’ve come.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Im really inspired by women who keep going despite people telling them that what they are trying to achieve is too difficult, and who are kind as well as hard working.

Julie Montague, who runs a lifestyle nutrition business which includes cookbooks, healthy snacks and teaching yoga, is a particular inspiration. She has four kids, and manages to combine looking after them with running a business and appearing in the TV series Ladies of London but she always has a smile on her face.

 

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