Decisions: Neil Fennell, October House

The co-founder of the luxury tailoring brand October House explains his best and worst decisions in business.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

MY BEST DECISION ...

... Was to quit the motor industry and use my knowledge of custom-made Aston Martins to move into bespoke tailoring. I started making suits for friends and family. In 2009 I met my business partner, Dave Berry, and came to London.

We picked the name October House, because it has longevity. In a few years, we want to branch out to women's suits. A name like 'Smoking Gun' might be great but isn't really appropriate for women.

Location was crucial. We avoided Savile Row and based ourselves in Holborn. The cost of rent was a major reason, but there's also a mix of clients here. We dress City boys but we're also close to the West End. We'd like to open another store in central London, but we'll keep this location too.

Another good decision was to have shareholders. We expect to turn over £1m next year and Dave and I own 60% now. People are often nervous about giving part of the business away, but this was a new venture for us and we get a lot of support. I would recommend it every time.

MY WORST DECISION...

... Was buying too much stock when we started eight months ago. Each suit is made to measure so it's hard to sell suits off the peg and we don't have a frontage. We bought about 50 suits, most of which are still in stock, and that's tying up money.

I also regret not taking advice from Pretty Green, Liam Gallagher's fashion label. If we had, we may have approached things differently. For instance, we had a younger, inexperienced person running the store. While cheaper to employ, it wasn't quite right. Now we have someone with 15 years' experience on Savile Row. He's worked with some of the biggest brands, knows all about suits and has good contacts.

Another mistake was being overawed by data. In the first two months, we didn't keep notes of customers' email addresses, what they were buying and what kind of clients they were. But that's a business's bread and butter. If you let some of that information go, you don't know where you've come from or how you'll grow. (Continues below)


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