| Butterfly Twists, women’s shoes with a luxury look and a comfortable sole, were born in 2007 after one of the four (male) Founders knew exactly what it felt like to be in a woman’s shoes after losing a bet and attending a party wearing a pair of 6 inch stilettos. In 2012 Pentland saw the potential in the brand and made a sizeable investment.
The brand has now won numerous industry awards and is sold in over 50 countries with international expansion continuing. He won’t tell us if he was the one who lost the bet, but our Director Zena Everett interviewed one of the Founders, Emmanuel Eribo, to discover more about his career and the lessons he has learned along the way.
What has been the defining moment in your career?
We have had a few defining moments to be honest, but it all just turns into a bit of a blur! We’ve had some great achievements but when your hopes are so high you don’t really acknowledge some of the lesser successes, which is a little bit silly. However, I do remember a defining moment for our business back in 2008. We had the idea for our business, sourced a factory and flew out to meet and teach the team in the Far East to manufacture our brand. We used our combined savings (£50,000), all we had at the time to order our first batch of inventory. When the inventory got to the UK it was a disaster, the quality was terrible and nothing was as it was supposed to be. We knew we couldn’t build a brand around bad quality inventory so we had to start again. We lost a whole year of the business and had to keep working and saving up to invest in doing it all over again. It would have been very easy to quit at that point but we hung in there. Not quitting at the first major hurdle was potentially one defining moment.
What would you do differently if you could turn the clock back?
In business trust is good but you also need to protect yourself. We trusted that the factory and the team we were working with at the time were as invested in our vision as we were. We clearly didn’t understand at the time how irrelevant our business potential was to them. We should have invested a little more time at the factory and overseen the manufacturing and quality inspections to a much higher degree. Ultimately we were naive. A £500 flight to review the production before shipping could have saved us £50,000 and in hindsight it was a no-brainer.
Do you have a Mentor, if so how do they help you?
We have quite a few mentors because being a part of the Pentland Group opens us up to talent in almost every field. The best thing about a mentor is that whilst they don’t always know the answers because your business is unique, they can help you to unpick your problems and think them through. You are empowered to make your own decisions based on their experiences. Without a doubt, experience is gold and my advice would be never be afraid to ask for it. You don’t necessarily want the answers, but you want the guided thinking to help you find them.
What inspires you about what you do?
We are trying to build a house-hold brand name. It’s funny because that’s not what we set out to do when we started. Things always change and it's important to be chasing something to stay motivated. We look at some of the top global brands and think "wouldn’t it be great to build something like that?" We currently sell in over 50 different countries and there is nothing more amazing than chasing a dream. We are a long way off it but there is no point in dreaming about the easily obtainable.
What’s the best bit of advice you have been given?
When I worked in investment banking I wanted to be a property developer like a successful business man I knew. I told him I was ready to quit my job and work with him (kind of like a crash course in business). His response to me was ‘What have you done for yourself?’ I didn’t know what he meant at the time. But basically what he told me to do was – go out and do something, fail and learn for myself. That was probably the best advice for someone who wanted to start their own business. Go out there and do it. Plan but don’t over think it. The chances are whatever you start off doing will change with time.
We are really grateful for Emmanuel for being so candid with us. We hope you found his advice helpful and please feel free to forward this to your network. If you have any feedback for us or Emmanuel, or if you've got your own inspiring story for "An Interview With...", then we'd love to hear from you.