Decisions: Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker of

The co-founders of the online retailer on their best and worst business decisions.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013


... was to raise money at an early stage. Having an established VC backer forces you into disciplines. We had to knock everything into shape, from our legal and compliance requirements to monthly reporting and the overall business model. It gave us a great grounding and added a weight to the business.

A hard decision was to turn away applications from businesses wanting to join the site whose products weren't up to scratch. We were not paying ourselves a salary and we realised we had to raise money, as we were running out of cash; yet we had to maintain the quality of the goods and services on the site. In the first year, we turned away £1m of new business.

Another good decision was to be open and transparent with our team about how the business is doing. We've never tried to make things sound better than they are - although, fortunately, we've never had to. We share the good and the bad with staff - when it was tough at the beginning, we brought them into that hell too.


... was burying our heads in the sand when, a week before launch, we didn't even have a beta version of the site. We knew we were being promised the impossible, but we just ploughed ahead. We'd told every journalist we knew, and we even had a microsite counting down the days to launch.

We decided 24 hours before we were due to go live to say we weren't going to be transactional on time. We still launched, but we didn't have check-out. So we called it a 'preview' and asked the 16,000 visitors to the site to come back later when the e-commerce element was complete.

Another regret is that we said 'sorry' too much. We come from an advertising background, where good account management is about spending time with clients. But here, it isn't possible, so we had to unlearn all that. It was hard, because our partners' expectations were so high: they wanted to know why they weren't making sales on the first day. It would be lovely to transport ourselves back to that doom-and-gloom office and give them a piece of our minds.

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