Virgin StartUp of the Week: Genevieve Sweeney
Small businesses are breathing new life into the UK economy in many ways - whether it's regenerating local areas, creating jobs, or, like our Virgin StartUp of the Week Genevieve Sweeney Ltd, reconnecting with traditional ways of manufacturing and supporting British crafts and industries. Genevieve designs and develops beautiful knitwear created from British and Italian wool, sourced carefully from individual mills, supporting other small businesses as well as utilising traditional knitwear techniques. Let's find out more!
We choose one Virgin StartUp company to be featured on Virginstartup.org each week. We ask our startups of the week to deliver the ultimate elevator pitch. What would they say if they had one minute in a lift with Sir Richard Branson? Please answer the questions below, keeping each answer to five sentences max.
Ground to floor 1 – Explain what your business does
Genevieve Sweeney Limited is a premium British knitwear label based in London that truly emphases the high level of skills and quality of knitwear manufacturing in the British Isles. Luxurious fibres are sourced from Italy, Yorkshire, and small UK mills that specialise in custom yarn blends. The label merges together innovative technical processes with heritage skills embraced in the Scottish Borders.
Floor 1 to 2 - Where are you based?
The design studio is based in London, where I design and develop the collections. Over the last 18 months I have been collecting and restoring old industrial knitting machines - this enables me to explore, and to create textured patterns and innovative stitch structures for knitted garments.
Floor 2 to 3 – What’s the business model?
Premium British Knitwear for menswear and womenswear, bringing together an exciting collaboration of contemporary silhouettes and key investment pieces; creating a consistent staple in the customer’s seasonal wardrobe. By setting the label in a premium market, it will attract both the middle market that aspires to buy and has the disposable income, as well as the luxury market that will buy because it is an affordable high-quality product.
Floor 3 to 4 – Who are your competitors?
By positioning myself in a premium market, my competitors are brands such as Whistles, ACNE and Paul Smith Jeans, who offer apparel to both menswear and womenswear.
Floor 4 to 5 – What’s your USP?
Premium British Knitwear for menswear and womenswear, bringing together an exciting collaboration of contemporary silhouettes and key investment pieces; creating a consistent staple in the customer’s seasonal wardrobe. By setting the label in a premium market, it will attract both the middle market as well as the luxury market because the garments are affordable and unique high-quality products.
Floor 5 to 6 – Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from personal and professional research and development within the knitwear industry. I have always wanted to start up my own knitwear label, but when I was a graduate straight out of University I realised it was too early to start my own business as I lacked the practical knowledge of how to run a business and understand bulk production processes. In order to gain that experience, I have worked for international design houses across the world, such as Rag & Bone, Hugo Boss and Burberry, designing and developing global knitwear collections. Now I have a strong and full understanding of design, development, planning and production processes.
Floor 6 to 7 – How much funding did you receive from Virgin StartUp?
I received £15,000 from Virgin Start-Up.
Floor 7 to 8 – How are you going to use it to grow your business?
The funding has enabled me to build a brand identity, place production for my first collection, and launch Genevieve Sweeney e-commerce. The funding has also given me the opportunity to develop the second season that will bring an exciting new approach to knitwear for a Spring season.
Floor 8 to 9 – Who’s your Virgin StartUp Mentor?
Lauren Stewart, Media and Communications.
Floor 9 to 10 – What’s your workspace like? Send us a photo from your phone
All my knitting machines are in the basement of my home, where I store all my yarn, books and yarn cards. I knit mainly in the basement but due to the light I tend to take over the kitchen table and walls with sketches, knit swatches and production plans.
Floor 10 to 11 – where will your business be in 12 month’s time?
In 12 months time, the brand will be further exploring the boundaries of heritage skills and innovation in the British knitwear industry. I aspire for the brand to be stocked in 5 major outlets in the UK, such as Libertys, Selfridges and Bluebird. We also aim to launch in NYC and develop our sales in the USA in 2016. There will be a large investment from profits into new machinery to aid in controlling as much of our production as possible. This will keep our production costs down and increase the long term assets of the business.