As part of our ongoing efforts to profile the most exciting up-and-coming young British businesses we sat down with the co-founder of Look Mate London – who had some interesting business mistakes to share, as well as his grand vision for beautifully-designed socks.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Vahan Hovhannisyan and I recently left my corporate job and co-founded Look Mate London with my brother Vahagn.
At Look Mate we collaborate with leading designers to design and manufacture exquisite socks. Each month we launch a new design. Designers commissioned are anyone from industrial designers to visual artists. Some of the names may familiar to you, like Supermundane, Hey and Yoni Alter. In this short time Look Mate was featured in Design Museum and this January exhibited at London Fashion Week Men.
Look Mate also offers a sock subscription service for members who receive a pair of socks from Look Mate’s latest designs.
(2) How long have you been around for?
We started late 2015 with one design by working on our first collaboration with industrial designer Nick Rawcliffe. Up until April 2017, Look Mate was run as a side project alongside with my day job.
(3) How do you make money?
By not chasing money and focusing on our customers, designers and product.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
We believe in getting pleasure from the small things in life. We believe in making these small things beautifully designed.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
Starting small. In the beginning, small things are the big things. The key was to design and bring to life one pair of Look Mate for a small community.
At the very early stages of Look Mate, when the idea was still on the paper, I got into running and joined the local running club. I believe in taking small steps, so we did the first collaboration for a small community of runners with my friend Nick, who at that time was one of the fellow runners. Nick is somewhere in between an engineer, a designer, an inventor and an entrepreneur – which is exactly the type of person I wanted to work with.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Leaving my day job and starting Look Mate. It is very liberating and does not feel like a job anymore.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
All sorts of, we even have a list of things that went wrong but we learn from our business mistakes and quickly move forward. The reason we keep a list is, firstly, we like lists and, secondly, the goal is to make the same mistake only once.
One of our business mistakes was in the ordering of our first 2,000 gift boxes. The post office classifies 2.5cm as a large letter, and above that threshold, it’s a small parcel. The price comparison is £1 if it’s classified as a large letter, and to £3.50 if it’s classified as a small parcel. So when we took our packaged products to the post office we learnt that our boxes wouldn’t fit through the 2.5cm letterbox. We call this our 1mm mistake. We had to place another order with our packaging company.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
Doing something meaningful for sure, but I do not have a five-year plan.
One product, one brand, is a killer combination to stay competitive. For Look Mate the vision is to make the most comfortable socks with inspiring and talented people and bring it to as many people as possible.
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Sometimes the most game-changing email is also the most uncomfortable to write and hit “send”.
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
I have a few. Tim Ferriss, for providing us with tools we need to execute as a startup. The Minimalists, for keeping it simple. Alain de Botton and School of Life, for the emotional intelligence. And, finally, Naoto Fukasawa, for product design that makes a change.
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