This is a follow up story for Bruder Watches. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Bruder Watches Ltd is a family-run business based in the vibrant city of Bristol in the South West of England, United Kingdom. Founded by myself and my two brothers back in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the three of us share a common passion for watches and wanted to leap into a business that would help us to escape the everyday rigor of our day jobs.
Fast forward to today and a lot has happened, we have introduced four new ranges into our portfolio, alongside our debut range the ‘Fortis’, with each watch being named after suburbs of our home city that it shares characteristics with.
Our customer base to date has been very much situated in the United Kingdom, as that is where the bulk of our advertising has been run with males making up 95% of purchasers, unfortunately, the age range is largely unknown.
With four new ranges compiling seventeen watch variations, we are so excited to see where the future is heading for Bruder Watches. With the introduction of the ‘Hampton’ range, we can also now offer to the market our first fully automatic, self-winding timepiece that is a real showstopper & have also introduced our first fully swiss-made range the ‘Clifton Sport’. So the future is looking bright, but now the hard work starts for us!
Take a look at one of our new products, the ‘Clifton Sport’ here!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
The business has been growing steadily over the past year, but it is the past 3 to 4 months where we have started to see an accelerated growth, which has been surprising given the time of year and all that is going on in the world at the moment.
It took us a little while to get to grips with online advertising using platforms like Google, Instagram, Facebook, etc. We spent about six months at the beginning of last year jumping in and out of ad campaigns, playing with budgets, and panicking about how much we were spending on ads in comparison to revenue. It's probably fair to say that we were wasting some advertising budget because of our lack of knowledge.
So about midway through 2021 we decided to spend some of that budget to work with a social media marketer from London to try to accelerate growth and gain a better understanding of how we were doing. Although it seemed an expensive invoice to swallow at the time, this proved to be the kickstart we needed to gain some confidence and build some traction with our ads.
In November 2021, we effectively increased our budget sixfold overnight on social media ads after tweaking imagery and content in what proved to be a leap of faith so to speak, this was the first time I would say that we began to advertise properly and start to analyze data and numbers that we were seeing off the back of the increased spend.
Sure enough, sales began to increase. We went from selling 10 watches a month to 60 watches a month with very little change in our advertising other than budget.
The increase in sales has presented issues in itself, something I will run on to shortly. But first I want to talk about a tool we found useful and something that influenced our decision to invest more capital and add new ranges to our offering early on in the business. It's called ‘Smartsupp’.
We have it integrated onto our website now, it is a live chat function where website visitors can ask questions to us as they are on the site to receive live customer support.
But it was another function they offer that proved useful, we paid $100 a year for the video recording function so we could watch what customers were doing when they were on the website. More often than not we would see people entering via a product, having a click around and showing an interest in the watch, then heading to the shop page to see more.
They would click around, scroll down, and very often try to find more material to view, but of course, were left disappointed that there were no other products available. After consideration, to build brand integrity, we felt it vital to have more product offerings to give the impression that we were a reputable, growing company, and also to be able to cater to different tastes. We are now thrilled that we offer a range of different models, case sizes, colors, and movement types to be able to appeal to the masses.
A real positive we can take from the last 12 months is that the return rate on purchases has been extremely low, we have seen just 4% of orders returned in the past 12 months from over 200 sales.
This has helped to build our confidence and belief in the products that we are selling, especially considering we are solely based online. It's great to know people see our product online, are captured by the imagery and then the product lives up to expectation. Long may that continue.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
Where do we start? I mentioned previously that we are living in unprecedented times. I will move on to that shortly. But easily the biggest challenge we have faced as a self-funded startup is cash flow.
The manufacturing process of our watches is up to 3 months given the craftsmanship that goes into a quality timepiece, which means we are having to order well in advance to ensure we do not run out of product to sell on the site. As a result, we have constantly been facing an uphill battle when it comes to cash flow.
Chuck in the mix that we have added 4 additional ranges in the past year, all with minimum order quantities, it's fair to say that we were running quite close to the bone on a couple of occasions.
The good news is it feels like the large startup costs are now nearly all transacted and absorbed within the business, meaning we are now in a stage where we can go full throttle on advertising without having to invest any more money from our day jobs.
Secondly, I would say that maintaining motivation has been a struggle throughout the past 12 months. Bruder Watches is a side hustle at the moment, we all have full-time jobs, I and my middle brother have young children, and we all have wives and girlfriends to keep happy and spend time with (one wife or girlfriend each I must add!). Trying to balance all those things and stay motivated in every aspect of life is difficult, especially when things don’t always go as planned.
When that happens, it is great that we can lean on each other for support, very often you will find when one is finding it tough, the other is on a high and pulls you back up. There's no doubt that if I was doing this on my own, I probably would have given up by now or stalled, so I certainly have a newfound respect for all those people out there running a business on their own!
Thirdly, I would say that the current instability in the world is an issue at the moment. Whether it is IOS changes that have made online advertising harder, the Covid-19 pandemic meaning we couldn’t catch up in person as regularly as we liked, or the new ‘cost of living crisis that is being plastered all over the news in the UK, it feels like it's been one thing after another since we first launched the business.
That might sound like we're looking for excuses if the business fails, but that's not the case. But we do feel we need to consider these things in our decision-making as we seek to grow and expand our business.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The thing that we have learned (still learning) this past year is that growing a brand from scratch is hard! We have found that customers who trust a small brand such as ourselves, particularly in a sector as prestigious as the watch market, have been hard to come by. This has meant that we have put extra emphasis on the customer service element of our business.
We have found that engaging with the customer in live chat & responding to their queries via email and phone as fast as possible has helped us to engage with the consumer and helped us to understand where we can improve our offering.
This has led to us making changes in our website content to offer a really clear, concise view of the products that we are selling, along with offering a streamlined route through the website to aid a seamless customer experience. We are now at a stage where we feel comfortable that we are offering a great, fair service to our customers.
You need to remain strong-willed. Some days are better than others and sometimes it can feel like all the work you are doing is not paying off, but what I have benefited from is taking a moment to reflect on how far we have already come.
I spoke a little bit previously about how forces outside of our control have had an impact on our business. As an eCommerce business, we rely very heavily on the data that is provided to us from the advertising platforms that we use. However, what has become more and more evident as we navigate through our advertising campaigns is that it is not always easy to trust the data that is being collected.
With the introduction of new privacy laws & increased difficulty in tracking potential customers, it feels like online advertising has become a little bit of a minefield. Nevertheless, we have seen some fantastic results with increased sales off the back of our advertising, so we must be doing something right!
As a small team, we need to get on top of maximizing sales opportunities throughout the year. Because we are all job-hopping between our day jobs and this side business, very often we are slow to react to upcoming events such as Valentine's Day, Black Friday, Christmas, etc.
That is certainly something we want to address this year. We have set aside time within our regular catch-ups to formulate a proper advertising plan, with set budgets and performance indicators that will allow us to get ahead of the game and hopefully start to push the business forward to the next level. Most importantly though, we have learned that we need to be patient, put in the work, and trust the process!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We haven’t put anything into a formal five-year plan, mainly because we don't want to put a limitation on what we can do. We are at the stage now where we have fully invested financially in stock, web development & training, so we are now in a position where accelerated growth is the next stage. So our focus is now moving toward our Marketing strategy.
In the short term, we want to make sure that we take advantage of major marketing opportunities such as Black Friday and the upcoming summer holiday season. This will provide us with a platform & hopefully an injection of cash for us to seek to add new product ranges to further enhance our offering to our customers.
For anyone thinking about starting a business - make sure you are not doing it half-heartedly, as that could be a slippery slope to failure.
It is really exciting to think that there are now people all over the world wearing a Bruder Watch, and with a continued focus on growing brand awareness, we are excited to ride the waves that come our way. The long-term goal is that in 3-4 years we will be in a position to be able to leave our current jobs and focus all of our efforts on Bruder Watches Ltd, having secured financial independence.
This journey will include the introduction of a sister brand to Bruder, which will bring to the market a range of watches that will be targeted toward females. Although this is very much in the early phase of development at present, watch this space. One thing we are banking on is the continued support of Bruder's fans out there.
We are nothing without our customers, which is why we want to be flexible enough to move with the demands of the requirements of the people. Please reach out to me at [email protected] where you can reach me personally, I want to know what you think the future should look like for Bruder!
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
I recently finished reading ex-SBS soldier Ant Middleton's book ‘Zero Negativity’. I found it to be a really useful tool to make sure that I take responsibility for my own life and the success/troubles that have arisen from it.
In November 2021, we effectively increased our budget sixfold overnight. We went from selling 10 watches a month to 60 watches a month with very little change in our advertising other than budget.
There are no great secrets in the book & nothing groundbreaking that he writes about, but he is a formidable man who shares a wealth of knowledge from his own experiences, so it makes it difficult not to respect the message he is trying to pass on, that we are in control of our destiny and it is up to us to be the best possible version of yourself.
Aside from reading, I have also found that Spotify has been a great tool to help me escape the rigors of everyday life. I recently listened to a graduation speech that Denzel Washington gave to some university students, during my gym session.
I find it inspiring listening to people who have risen to great success but have not forgotten their routes throughout their journey. Would recommend anyone sparing 20 minutes of their time to be inspired like I was by listening.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I don’t feel like we are in a great position to offer advice to people trying to grow their business just yet, but what I would say is that you need to remain strong-willed.
Some days are better than others and sometimes it can feel like all the work you are doing is not paying off, but what I have benefited from is taking a moment to reflect on how far we have already come. This has been important for us in giving ourselves a little pat on the back now and then which in turn has helped us to stay motivated.
I would also stress to anyone thinking about starting a business to make sure they are not doing it half-heartedly, that could be a slippery slope to failure and also expose yourself financially along the way.
One evident thing is that you cannot just throw money at something to expect success, of course, you need a level of finance to be able to move forward, but the real not-so-secret ingredient is hard work and perseverance!
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