Website of the Year

Loubilou

Heath Kane of childrenswear brand Loubilou tells us about the business.

Loubilou.com is the first online marketplace for unique, high-quality children's toys, clothing, and gifts from around the globe.

What was the inspiration for the site?

The seed of the idea for Loubilou comes from Odelay.co.uk. It’s a free online marketplace to buy, sell, and share used goods that we developed two years ago. We positioned the site as an alternative to eBay, and hoped the allure of a free marketplace would drive users to the site. Sadly it didn’t quite work out as we had planned, but we did manage to create a loyal core of users who continue to use the site even today.

We knew that the underlying marketplace platform that we’d created was world-class. So we set about brainstorming ideas to do something more with the platform that we had created. The inspiration for Loubilou came after I bought my daughter a t-shirt from one of the big high street childrenswear retailers and then the very next day, we spotted three other girls at the playground wearing identical shirts. This sparked a conversation between myself and Jordan, although it was an idea that Jordan had thought about for many years, in which we both realised just how big and influential some of these high street retailers have become over the past decade, and how difficult it is to find and buy original and limited production children’s items. 
 
Jordan and I then researched the children’s goods industry and the channels currently available to small businesses for e-commerce, and confirmed that there was a real opportunity. We then set to work developing an online marketplace designed to support independent merchants selling original children’s goods while also supporting parents and friends who want to encourage individuality in the children they care about. The result of our work was Loubilou.

When did you launch the site?

We started Loubilou in February 2013, and then launched the site publicly in May 2013. It’s been growing steadily ever since.

What are your greatest challenges?

Time and money are our most immediate challenges.

We’re self-funding and devoting all of our time to Loubilou. When we meet the targets we’ve set for the site (e.g. number of registered sellers, buyers, and items), which we’re very close to achieving, we plan to reach out to get investors on-board to help us accelerate the business.

What's your background?

(Heath) I’m an entrepreneur and designer, with more than 20 years of experience working around the world for many of the leading design and communication agencies, including Sapient, where I was one of the first creative directors. After leaving Sapient I set up my own consultancy (Kane + Associates) and went on to become the only external consultant appointed to Freeserve’s brand committee – this is where I met Jordan. My clients have included Jamie Oliver, Be Broadband, Excel Airways, and Coast Magazine. 

Jordan Hammond, (CTO) has worked as a senior developer and consultant for the internet and banking communities over the past 12 years. Jordan gained valuable experience in what it takes to make a new venture successful by working for start-ups such as Blackstar.co.uk, Freeserve.com, and Betfair.com. Previously, Jordan provided technical consulting services to financial services companies including City Index and The Royal Bank of Scotland, enabling them to develop real-time trading applications.

Who do you admire in business?

Etsy stands out among the companies we admire. They seem to have achieved something quite extraordinary, having turned a virtually non-measureable market into a business that now generates almost $1 billion in sales. Their success has given us a lot of inspiration for Loubilou. We hope that we can replicate some of their success, and take significant market share in the children’s retail market  – an industry that generates over £100 billion worldwide.

What is the best piece of business advice you've been given?

“Fall forward faster” – which literally means, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The sooner you find out, the better off you are.

What is your motto?

“The customer is our business.” 

This might seem obvious given we’re a marketplace – but without buyers and sellers we would simply not exist. Therefore everything we do is customer focused. Our ethos is all about providing positively great service always.

Where do you see the business going from here?

We plan to continue growing the business – still with a lot of focus on the UK market, although the most exciting thing is to expand globally over the next coming years, which we have now set up and beginning to implement.

Have you entered an award before?

GWG Awards is the first award Loubilou has actually entered. Although earlier this month we were delighted to be informed that we have been awarded “Best Online Marketplace for Children” from My Family magazine – best of all, we didn’t even know we had been nominated!

Where did you hear about the GWG Awards?

We’re regular followers of GWG as it’s a great source for getting some insight to what other startups in the UK are doing.

December 2013