Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network. This time, we're chatting to Andrew Pearce, CEO and founder of thortful. Get to know him better below...
Tell us about thortful and the problem it solves. What inspired you to launch?
I have always had a keen interest in all things design and I started to look into the online greetings card business. I learnt back then that the retail card business is worth £1.6 billion a year, yet less than 5% of those cards are currently bought online.
I found this weird; in this world of AirBnB, ASOS, Ocado and Uber, to name a few, why haven’t we changed our buying behaviour of cards in line with this?
I then learnt that there has been no serious innovation in the industry since the launch of Moonpig over 18 years ago.
I spotted a gap in the market for a well-curated, easily accessed collection of brilliant cards. We took the decision to pay designers an industry leading royalty of 30p for every card they sold. In this industry, exclusivity is key – and if we want original cards, we need to pay our creatives properly for designing them.
So, we saw that you pitched at Dragons' Den....what was that like?!
In a word: exhausting!
They allow each entrepreneur an hour to an hour and a half to pitch, and they then condense those pitches into the 10 minute slots you see on the programme.
I was last to appear in front of them, so I waited around for 12 hours before I got my moment. I found the Dragon’s incredibly dismissive to begin with – but when my business credentials were uncovered, the mood changed and they realised I could negotiate with them on their level. I got a very good deal.
It was fabulous exposure for us as a business. 25,000 people hit our website when it aired, so it was all worth it!
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
My issue is always that I want to run before I can walk; nothing moves quickly enough for me! We are growing really fast, but I am always 10 steps ahead! I need to learn some patience.
What’s the weirdest/funniest/most alarming [you choose!] thing anyone’s said to you in business?
One of the funniest moments in my career occurred when I was running Powwownow: in the midst of the financial crisis in 2012, we developed a marketing campaign around a fictional, odious ‘fat cat’ called Cecil Goldwell; the campaign was highly inappropriate, sexist and elitist but clearly a JOKE.
One of the ads we ran on the tube read ‘Who cares about Greece? I am waiting until Ireland is up for sale’. It was clearly very tongue in cheek, but something must have been lost in translation as we received a cease-and-desist letter from the Greek Embassy in London!
What’s the most important piece of legal advice you’ve ever needed as a business owner?
I am lucky enough to have never really needed legal advice whilst running any of my businesses. It is very important, however, to get good legal advice when you are selling businesses – and, having sold three times, I would never skimp on this.
How important would you say creativity is in business?
Very. It runs through everything we do; we are a business that supports a community of creatives – and it is very important that we support them in all we do.
In a rather short space of time, you've built a huge community on social media – what would you say has been the reason for that success?
Our content is king. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s timely creative work that really hits the zeitgeist that get us our engagement. We have an excellent social media team that curate really good content that appeals to our followers.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to be more creative in business?
Every business I have ever launched has had creativity at its root.
With my first business, Inkfish, the way we trained and motivated staff was different and creative.
Powwownow was marketed in a very creative and bold way. Despite the fact it was a B2B business, we weren’t frightened to be edgy and a little bit naughty!
With thortful, we are reinventing the greeting card, engaging a whole generation that had dismissed cards as old fashioned and irrelevant.
I have spent most of my career in B2B businesses and I have never let that stifle my creativity. Be brave and bold, think differently, challenge the norm –it will make you stand out!
Want to know more about thortful?
Visit their website at thortful.com
Andy Pearce and his dog Buca, the thortful Mascot
If you found this startup story inspiring, check out the Farillio blog to discover more!