Sean Anderson (BSc Business Studies, 2014) started working with his clothing company, Good For Nothing, while still at Cass – and launched his next collection just days after his final exam. With suppliers including JD Sports, a showcase on MTV and celebrity endorsements, it turns out that Sean is definitely good at this! He popped back to Cass for a chat.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
Well it was split in to two parts, because I initially studied Investment and Financial Risk Management because I wanted to work in the City as a trader. However, I failed mathematical finance twice – it was like another language to me! So then I had some time out and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got a job trading oil futures in London and at the same time started working on Good For Nothing.
I’d always wanted to learn more about business and to create something from Good For Nothing. I was chatting with my mum about it and she said I should write a letter to the Dean of Cass asking to return. I was reluctant but she told me that the worst they could say was no. So I wrote a big long letter outlining what I’d been up to and my wish to come back and study more and I was accepted on to the second year of Business Studies.
Some of the modules have been really useful and applicable. I was really lucky at University to be in a close knit group of friends, and even though I live far away in Manchester and I don’t see them as much they are still friends for life. Actually, two of them are in the same industry, so when I go to trade shows I know they will always be there!
I was also part of the rugby team – which was amazing for the social life. Playing on a Wednesday really breaks the week up too. We won the league in my last year, which was a nice way to go out. I also worked at the SU bar, and of course I was working on my business too. In my third year I stopped working at the SU and just focussed on the business and my dissertation, which was pretty tiring! At weekends I would go up to Manchester to work on my business and I spent a lot of time in the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s fashion district, knocking on the doors of fashion agents asking if I could show them my products. I wasn’t very successful with that though!
What did you do next?
My last exam was on Friday 6th June 2014 and on the following Monday we launched the new summer collection. Rather than party and celebrate finishing my degree I had to get on the train to Manchester to get it all together. Throughout my exams I was working on the collection as well as a collaboration deal between a TV personality and the brand, and with the launch on that Monday I had to do a lot of work alongside my exams. It was incredibly successful, and we did a year’s turnover in the 30 days from the launch day. I didn’t have time to take a gap year, or even go on holiday, it was straight in to this full time job.
How did Good For Nothing get started?
Both me and my business partner had always been in to fashion and wanted to start our own business. Actually we were both designing and printing t-shirts separately, selling them through Facebook and then we decided to go ahead together, and Good For Nothing started to build momentum.
We got endorsed by TV stars quite early on. One of my friends went to school with some of the people on a reality TV show and through them I spoke to the manager of one of them. We met up and gave them some free samples, and a few of the guys on the show started to wear our clothes. Then I was in Glasgow airport and I saw another of the guys from the show who I knew would have a good pull, so I went over and said that some of your friends wear our brand, can I send some pieces for you?
So we kept in touch and then I proposed a collaboration deal and from there it really snowballed. That’s how we got to some of our stores, and when people saw the brand on TV that created a huge demand, like we saw our butterfly logo t-shirt on MTV and it went crazy! Through that we built a really big social following on Instagram and really helped the brand to flourish. Now we work with stores like ASOS, FootAsylum and JD sports, they have been really helpful for exposure and great partners.
One thing that really helped was the name of the brand. No matter where I am if I talk of the brand name e.g. checking in to a hotel or offices, if they ask the brand name, it always makes people laugh. The name is a big part of it, and the message behind the brand is that belief to pursue your dreams and goals despite what people say; you wear the criticism and do what you want. Through the years as the customer base has grown we have developed and expanded into new categories and now we do men’s, women’s, junior, denim, footwear and jackets, so we can reach more customers. We’re even launching a backpack range.
What’s the future looking like?
Future plans are to continue to grow with key clients and we hope to be able to bring on a couple of new key partners later in the year or early next year. We will continue to build our online and social following and continue to innovate products. We are always creating new aesthetics while keeping the core DNA of the brand.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been growth management! From when we did the launch after my final exam the business has taken off and continued since then. We doubled our size in the last financial year and we are on track to double again this year. So we’re always looking at warehouse staff, space, resources, and can we keep up with the demand?
One of the difficulties we faced was when we first received big orders and we had to get finance for it. We would go to a finance house, just out of University, and it was a hard task to convince people to support us. I had countless meetings with trade finance companies but finally managed to find one who was willing to work with us.
The other thing alongside this is the balance between work and personal life, those are the two challenges for me.
What advice can you share?
I think the team you build is really important. In your own business there is only so much you can do yourself. It’s important to have faith in the people who have faith in your business. Some of our staff who are vital to the business, they had no relevant experience when we hired them for the roles they are doing now, but they believed in the brand, learned and developed to be absolutely key to the business. The team is a huge thing.
The other advice I’d give to anyone, whether in business, your career or personal life, is don’t just have a goal. Once you have one, split it into activities that lead to that goal and pursue each activity until you get there.
Another thing I’d say to anyone, even to myself in past years, and I have to keep reminding myself now, is to maintain that balance between your career, business and personal life: your friends, your family and your loved ones. It’ so easy to get caught up and forget to focus on the simpler things that bring you the most happiness.
Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice. I would just ask people I hardly knew for advice, e.g. I didn’t understand wholesale mark-ups and so my sister introduced me to someone who could help, and then he ended up introducing us to the trade show where we got one of our key stores, and they are a big customer now.
Use your resources and just search for them if you don’t have any. People, strangers or friends of friends come to me and just ask for advice. I like to give advice and give them things to think about. I get a big kick out of helping people with their businesses and it’s definitely something I want to do more of in the future.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Royal Opera House
And since you’re located in Manchester, we’d love to know you favourite place there: My apartment!
Favourite holiday destination: New York City
Must-check every day website: Good For Nothing and Instagram
Dream travel destination: Maldives
Cheese or chocolate: Vegan chocolate