Topshop is one of the crown jewels in the British high-street. It has 500 stores around the world, 300 of which are in the UK. Partnering with Topshop or selling products through their stores has helped many small businesses scale to the next level. So how do you get your brand on their radar? Probably best to ask someone whose products are stocked in their stores. We spoke to Will Brightman, co-founder of sustainable skincare brand, Optiat.

If you're interested in finding out how to get your product stocked in UK retailers, come along to the Virgin StartUp Doing Business With Big Business event.

What is Optiat?

Along with my sister Anna, we are the co-founders of Optiat. We take ingredients that would otherwise be discarded and transform them into natural, sustainable skincare products. Our first range is a selection of exfoliating body scrubs created with used coffee grounds sourced from cafes, bars and restaurants across London. We’ve now increased our ranges into an organic hemp face mask, facial serum and balm from the oil extracted from used coffee grounds, and shortly a range of soap bars made with pre-brewed chai tea spices. Our products are vegan, cruelty-free and made in the UK.

How did you get in touch with the right person at Topshop?

We got in touch with the correct buyer from Top Shop by browsing the internet. I started with Google to discover who the relevant buyers were, searching for relevant news articles / interviews. Once I had a good idea of who the right person was, I then contacted them directly via LinkedIn.

How did you prepare for the pitch?

We never actually had an in-person pitch, so the product really had to do the talking for us. Once we had established the price point, the buyer asked for samples to review. At the start of the conversations, we didn’t actually have the final product ready – I was originally sending out prototypes which were pretty far from the final product – but presumably, they saw enough promise to wait for the actual version!

What did they want to know?

They wanted to know the RRP of the products; once this was established they asked for a brand presentation showing the final product designs along with costs. Following this, I was asked about plans for future scents and for the brand more generally (e.g. broader distribution, other products).

How long did it take from initial meeting to your products being in store?

It took 18 months from first contact to the products landing in store. It took this long partly as we didn’t have the final product ready when initiating contact. Even after this, it was still 16 months of conversations and negotiations.

Was it one store to begin with?

We’re currently listed in a relatively small number of stores on a trial basis and following this period, we will jointly review the relationship and hopefully expand into further stores.

What impact has it had on your business?

We are very proud to be able to say that we are listed in Topshop. It’s a multinational retailer with global recognition so we are thrilled to be working together. Being able to call Topshop a retail partner elevates the brand’s credibility and should help with future listings.

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