For this issue’s Made in Sussex, SBT’s Jess Saunders caught up with Urban Industry’s Dan King to find out about his journey so far
Jess Saunders: Dan, could you give us an overview of what your business specialises in?
Dan King: We started Urban Industry back in 2002 and we’ve just celebrated our 14th year! We started off in South Street, Eastbourne and now ship out of a warehouse just off Lottbridge Drove. We specialise in men’s fashion clothing in a particular part of the market, which has been called Streetwear. We sell well-known brand names such as Nike, Adidas, The North Face and Levis, but we also stock a large number of brands that are off the beaten track. A lot of our products you won’t find on the traditional high street and that is our point of difference.
JS: What was it that made you decide to start your own business. How did you go about it?
DK: After various jobs in the web industry in London and Eastbourne, I was made redundant. My wife and I had been toying with the idea of having somewhere to base the clothing brand from, so we borrowed a small amount of money from my parents and an equally small amount from the bank and just went for it. It was incredibly difficult for the initial two years.
JS: You now ship from a warehouse, but how long did it take you to make this step?
DK: It took us five years to get our first, separate warehouse. We started in July 2002 and opened the first website in May 2003, using the basements of the two stores we had to house the stock for the shop above. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when we started the web store, so we had to rely on Google and Yahoo to pick us up in searches for our products.
JS: How soon would you say it took for your business to take off?
DK: It wasn’t until 2007 that we really felt the business was motoring. The internet side of the business was really driving the whole thing forward and it was around then that the sales from the web overtook that of the shop we had. When we outgrew the basement we decided to try a short-term lease on a warehouse in Hailsham, which proved to be a success, so we made a plan to close the high street store and put the whole business into a new warehouse development. It took three years to finally outgrow that unit, but then we made the decision to move over to our present unit.
JS: Tell us a bit about your distribution
DK: We primarily sell to the UK – it’s by far our biggest market. We do ship globally every day with big marketing in the US and Hong Kong. Depending on currency fluctuations we also sell a lot into Europe too, which is now a focus for us.
JS: What would be your advice to people with the same aspirations that you had?
DK: I think the most important element to remember if you are starting a new business is that no one is going to do the work for you. I feel we really tried everything we could to make those important early sales to keep the business going – lots of local activity and, of course, constant web marketing in later years. I’m still learning every day. I would also add that small is beautiful. Try and keep your business moving forward with a really keen eye on the costs, keeping them under control. It seems obvious but you can get carried away with big investments into the business that might not actually pay back.