SURF'S UP: Start-up seeks VC with vision

Surf apparel manufacturer Finisterre wants investment - but will stiff-collared VCs ever understand its philosophy?

by Tom Kay
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

‘If I was you, I’d get your brand on QVC, blow it up, take it far and wide. You’ll never grow a brand like this purely through online.’

Slight pause. (Inner dialogue, ‘Really? Have you seen our brand or even looked at our website?’)

‘OK’, I replied. ‘I understand the need for commerciality and wider brand reach – get that bit - but in your opinion, at what point does this come at the expense of brand longevity? Where is the trade off?’

His reply, ‘Make the money now with minimal regard for the brand. Get the stuff made cheaper (and worse?) in far off places, get it to people. In 4/5 years, you can then bring it in again and re-brand, re-focus, begin again’.

Not exactly what I had in mind when I started Finisterre five years ago from my attic with a view to challenging convention. I wanted to address the lack of innovation and environmental awareness in the surf industry; to make garments from unbelievable fabrics in places we had visited, made by people we knew; to build a brand with real longevity that was a great place to work. Above all, to look after and engage with our customers.

Don’t get me wrong; I always enjoy conversations with people like this. Brand vs commercial, the trade off, that kind of chat. Some would say we’ve been too precious with what we’ve created – but that comes from working with smart, creative and passionate people who have put it on the line for the wider sense of purpose what we can achieve through Finisterre.

Anyway, back to why I was there in the first place. Trying to raise some cash to help us grow. But it’s become clear that who we get involved with will have to get how Finisterre works. We want to make money but we don't want to make a fast buck and go under. A perfect VC is one that's obsessed with brands that have got it right – the ones that are still around and are still blazing trails, the really great ones. These people have to understand our brand rhythm – and work with us to make the business a financial success.

So we’re still out looking for cash, talking to as many VCs as we can. We have even thought about getting in touch with our customers on this. Maybe a co-operative style approach might work? We’ve challenged convention along the way, is there a new way to raise finance to help us grow?

Ideas please.

- www.finisterreuk.com

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