Pippa Middleton carries their handbags and they've just raised £3m - meet team Knomo
The British bagmaker that wants to conquer international markets
Three reasons you should be watching them
What it does, in a sentence: Knomo helps to organise your life so that you can live and work freely
Founded: London 2004
Founder/s: Howard Harrison & Benoit Ruscoe
Size of team: 40
Your name and role: Howard Harrison – co-founder & CEO
What problem are you trying to solve?
Technology allows us to work when we want and where we want. Knomo is focused on organising and protecting your technology to enable you to travel, move and work freely. We are building a lifestyle brand that balances style and function with bags and accessories that are versatile (you can carry a Knomo into a business meeting or on holiday) and combine smart technology (including charging on the go and RFID protection). Knomo stands for KNOwledge and MObility.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
Knomo is selling to men and women who are living increasingly mobile lifestyles. The Global accessories market is huge. In 2015, the global luggage and women’s luxury handbag markets were estimated to total $31bn and $33bn respectively. Men’s spending on bags has increased more rapidly than that of women for the past few years and will grow to be $10bn by 2020. We intend to build a £100M+ global lifestyle brand.
How do you make money?
The business is divided into Ecommerce 40 per cent, retail (5 per cent) and wholesale & licensees (45 per cent). The brand is sold in over 40 countries around the world through premium retailers and distributors. Retail partners include Harrods, John Lewis, Nordstroms, Macys, KaDeWe and Dufry.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
Fred Edwards- Fred is a serial entrepreneur and heads up operations and finance.
Deena Ghazarian- Deena is the former VP of sales for monster headphones who helped launch Beats, and is our global VP of sales.
Simon Wilkinson- digital director- formerly at Doc Martens and Charles Thyrwitt, Simon manages our ecommerce.
Caroline Mackay- marketing director- Caroline has been with the brand for 10+ years and is our marketing guru.
Scott Hix- Scott is our USA MD and has huge experience scaling tech lifestyle brands in the US and internationally.
Who’s bankrolling you?
Knomo is a close to breakeven business and so most funding is organic, however we raised £3m from Rockpool Investments to fund the investment into retail and to fund international operations.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
Focus on running a lean business and prove its viability and product market fit before trying to raise significant capital. Once it becomes clear that you can grow faster with the use of funding and you can prove that the numbers make sense, then try to find a strategic partner to support this growth.
What metrics do you look at every day?
Ecommerce & wholesale sales and web traffic
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
The value of celebrity – a few years ago we discovered that Pippa Middleton had a Knomo briefcase that she was carrying everywhere. We were surprised at how quickly the press picked this up and the style instantly became a bestseller.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
Too many to mention! Product can take a long time to scale. We make a complicated product that now speaks for itself, but it took us a long time to get it to a globally competitive level. We didn’t invest enough at the outset to get the product right – but after over 10 years working and re-working to make the perfect bag I think we’re pretty close. Our designers here at our London office do an amazing job.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
There is a large focus on building smart (tech integrated) consumer products. Most of them don’t really add value or are too gimmicky, but there is a lot of innovation in this area.