How We Grew Revenue To $125K/Month And Launched A New Collection

Elliot Bishton
Founder, Engravers Guild
$65K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
3
Employees
Engravers Guild
from London, England, United Kingdom
started September 2016
$65,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
3
Employees
3.2M
alexa rank
2.86K
followers
888
followers
market size
$20B
avg revenue (monthly)
$91.4K
starting costs
$32.3K
gross margin
22%
time to build
6 months
average product price
$235
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Instagram, Google Drive, WordPress
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
29 Pros & Cons
tips
9 Tips
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email
customer service
reviews
social media
accounting
productivity
analytics
blog
stock images
freelance
education
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Start A Personalized Gift Business

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hello, I’m Elliot, the founder of Engravers Guild of London, a personalized gift retailer.

The business launched in 2017 with six pairs of cufflinks, and today offers over 600 lines across multiple brands and categories. We stock global names such as Hugo Boss and Tom Ford alongside our in-house collections, all beautifully personalized by our expert engravers as we strive to deliver a truly best-in-class experience.

Everything we sell has been carefully curated, which is then made that extra bit more special with a touch of personalization. Whereas there are lots of players out there which have built businesses on their brand of gifts designed for personalization, we’re one of the few online retailers that stock others’ products in our seamless personalization experience.

Our ambition is to be an authoritative destination for beautiful gifts. However, ‘gifting’ is an enormous industry and so we’ve had to be quite disciplined in our route to market. We’ve had to develop on a category by category basis, identifying small niches in which we can compete, before moving onto larger opportunities.

The approach has been encouraging in its results to date. In our four years of business, we’ve managed to double turnover each year and we’re currently sitting at about $125,000 per month.

how-we-grew-revenue-to-125k-month-and-launched-a-new-collection

Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

One of the major challenges we’ve found in selling gifts is in our route to market.

Gifts are never sold to the recipient. We are always one step removed from the end-user. It may be that a young man who has a keen interest in watches is gifted a watch from Engravers Guild - however, the person who bought it could be his great aunt who has never owned a watch in her life.

With such a broad product mix, the challenge of targeting the right person with the right product has been challenging to say the least. Any attempts at demographic profiling have proved unfruitful and community-building has been tough.

Therefore, instead of spending our time promoting Engravers Guild as all things to all people (with limited results), we’re now trying to take a more strategic approach.

Earlier this year we launched Lovelox Lockets, a standalone proposition for - you guessed it - lockets. You’ll see that the collection is the same as our personalised lockets category on Engravers Guild.

how-we-grew-revenue-to-125k-month-and-launched-a-new-collection

Lovelox certainly wouldn’t exist without Engravers Guild, but the synergies between the two offers are so closely aligned that there are minimal costs for us to run the two alongside each other.

We can kill two birds with one stone with many activities. Blogger engagement, photography investment, packaging development, link building, product development, and much more can all be done for both propositions simultaneously. When we conduct an activity for one of the propositions, we can recycle it again for the other.

Drawing on the resources of Engravers Guild, we’ve been able to go from $0 sales for Lovelox in January to over $20,000 in June. This was done by:

  • Google Ads

  • Building on the campaigns already built around lockets for Engravers Guild

  • Social Media

  • Identifying a much tighter audience that may be interested in lockets and engaging with them on social media. We managed to gain 1,000 followers on Instagram in a matter of days after an initial push

  • SEO

  • Promoting the launch across our network of already-established trade contacts and receiving strong coverage across websites with high domain authority

  • Re-engaging with our database of bloggers to showcase the new brand and gain quality links

After four months, we’ve been able to achieve a domain authority (according to NeilPatel / Ahrefs) of 15. The traffic generated from this is still very low, but we’re pleased with the progress from a standing start.

how-we-grew-revenue-to-125k-month-and-launched-a-new-collection
Source: neilpatel

Our plan, therefore, is to identify further opportunities where we can spin out a new standalone proposition from Engravers Guild, and develop a portfolio business.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

I properly developed the idea for the Engravers Guild about five years ago. So, launching another online proposition this year for Lovelox, it was interesting to compare and contrast the two experiences.

Here are three anecdotal things I noted:

  • Shopify, Shopify, Shopify

  • Maybe I had my head in the sand five years ago, but I don’t remember clocking Shopify. Instead, I had to pay a lot of money to a developer to build a website. Not only was this expensive, but I was completely at the mercy of someone else to progress my vision. Shopify is a liberator for aspiring entrepreneurs. Use it, learn it, be your own master.

  • Time fucking flies:

  • This is a fairly routine observation in life, but the statement is supercharged in commerce. Most businesses are seasonal, so if you miss the boat on your buying cycle or product development or marketing material... then you’ve had a year flash by without much to show for it. Our key time is Christmas, and I’ve found that if I don’t start hammering my new ideas hard in January/February, then there is no way it’s going to happen for Christmas that year. Instead, I ended up landing the idea the following Christmas. So, what I thought was a neat little idea to activate becomes a two-year haul. When you’re starting in business, those timelines can kill you. Although it sounds like a long time to say I started my journey five years ago, I’ve only had three proper business cycles, and two of them flashed before me. So be astute when you have to make key decisions to make things happen.

  • It will be harder next year

  • When I look back five years ago and reflect on when I started, my overwhelming feeling is how much harder it is today than it was then. Pay per click has soared, Facebook costs have spiraled, Instagram users are more choosy, bloggers want to be paid, and the list goes on and on. I’m not sure that my business would be able to get off the ground if it launched today. Whether that would be the case or not, I don’t know. But I do know that whatever ideas I have for the business now, will be harder to realize next year if I wait till then. You can guarantee that everything will be harder. So if you’re thinking about putting a business initiative into action, then you better do it now because you cannot afford to wait till next year.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Our ambition is to be a creative-led, multi-channel business. And, to say that we are at the very start of the journey in that process would be an understatement. We currently have limited capability to even post Instagram photos, let alone develop videos for other mediums, seriously engage with online influencers, design and develop new products or have a self-sustaining production function.

It’s a reminder that, like them, we are all running marketing businesses and we shouldn’t make the mistake that we are doing something else.

While the last 12 months have been positive for us, I feel this is an important time to jostle for position in the ‘new normal’. Online operators have been fortunately placed recently, but I don’t expect these times to last as everything continues to get more competitive.

As such, we have a two-part approach to the business:

  1. Develop Engravers Guild into a fully rounded e-commerce operator
  • At the moment, we are heavily reliant on a few marketing channels. This would leave us highly exposed should something turn awry, and so we are looking at ways to grow our online footprint. We’re looking at content creation strategies to support new routes to markets such as physical literature and video browsing and - while I don’t expect these to return instant results - I feel they are important for the long-term positioning of Engravers Guild.
  1. Use Engravers Guild to support our pipeline of new brand launches
  • Having launched Lovelox earlier this year, we’re now keen to add to our portfolio with additional standalone brands. Our next proposition will be a dedicated offer called Avec St Christopher for St Christopher necklaces. We’ve also identified other niches which we feel could hold opportunities for us and we are trying to lay the groundwork for those ideas about two years down the line.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

It’s a cliche to cite the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, but I will.

It brilliantly illuminates the possibility of creation and entrepreneurship, as well as being an entertaining story of an iconic life.

Amongst the many things you learn about Steve Jobs (both good and bad), is that he made things happen which shouldn’t have been possible.

Somehow, he cut years off the development process for the iPhone, he got the entire music industry to capitulate for his gain, and he created an emotional attachment to technology which no one had even conceived of.

He possessed - what has been described by some as - a “reality distortion field”.

Normal rules of physics, logic, and reason didn’t seem to apply to him.

And, while most of us don’t seriously expect our creations to become the biggest businesses in the world, I feel that all entrepreneurs have to find their leaps of possibility.

I think that any business plan dreamed up which produces profitable figures requires a wild imagination. When rigorously tested, I’m skeptical that many business plans stack up.

But, somehow and in some way, businesses ‘become’. Businesses thrive, even when they shouldn’t. And there is no more vivid an account of that than this story.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

First and foremost, remember what type of business you are running. And that is - a marketing business.

You might be selling paperclips, hot air balloon rides, or goldfish. And, you might be the world’s leading expert in any of those things. But, being such an expert won’t deliver you a successful business.

If you want a raw view of online entrepreneurship, look at drop shipping.

For those who don’t know, this involves entrepreneurs selling products made in the East directly to consumers living in the West.

The fascinating bit, though, is that the entrepreneurs have often never even seen the products they’re selling.

The business is all about marketing, and people are making millions from it.

As someone who has spent hours, days, weeks, trying to refine a product, drop-shipping is something I would prefer to discredit.

But, I have to offer grudging respect for those entrepreneurs who have honed their skills and built brilliant businesses.

It’s a reminder that, like them, we are all running marketing businesses and we shouldn’t make the mistake that we are doing something else.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are looking to recruit for the following positions:

  • Office Manager (full time, on-site): someone to work on-site and be responsible for the administration of the business. Online customer service is an important part of the role, while also managing stock, developing relationships with suppliers, order processing, etc
  • Photographer/Art Director (flexible hours, mixture of on and off-site): someone to help develop our visual style and execute our content creation process
  • Copywriter (freelance, off-site): someone to continue the posting of new blogs and content across Engravers Guild and Lovelox
  • Jewellery designer (flexible): someone to work with the business in developing a new jewellery collection for current propositions and those in the conception phase

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Elliot Bishton   Founder of Engravers Guild

Engravers Guild has provided an update on their business!

Over 1 year ago, we followed up with Engravers Guild to see how they've been doing since we published this article.

Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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