Today I start a series of Interviews with UK entrepreneurs or businesses that have just entered to the UK market and I have the pleasure to start with the most unique business in men’s fashion industry – ÔSingulier(S), a startup that offers men the opportunity to customise the shoes of their dreams.
Thomas De Toledo, one of the business’ founders, is taking you through his business journey. Find out more about ÔSingulier(S), his achievements so far and ambitious goals, what social media networks he is using and what motivates and inspires him. He also gives you some useful advices that he would have liked to receive when he started the business.
Who is Thomas and how did you come up with this business idea?
Thomas is a young entrepreneur. I am first of all and above all a passionate of shoes and especially dress shoes (Oxford, Derby, Loafers…).
But I am also a tech fan, always looking for the new trends and new technologies.
I always wanted to find the perfect shoes and for guys the choice is always limited. What if you can create your shoes online, combining colours and style and be really unique? This is the why for ÔSingulier(S). Bring unique style for guys.
Why ÔSingulier(S) and not any other name?
ÔSingulier(S) is a combination of the values of the company: high quality, singularity and uniqueness.
Singuliers in French is the equivalent of Singular in English: meaning being unique, being different and this is what ÔSinguliers is about. Being unique and distinctive.
The final S is a play on word since Singulier is also the contrary of plural and putting a S at the end we thought it was fun. A word meaning singular but put in plural, if that makes sense.
Lastly the Ô at the beginning is a French thing. It means Being Singular.
Where is the business based, where are the shoes produced and how long does it take to be delivered?
The business is based in France but we operate from UK too and deliver in both countries. We produce the shoes in Portugal because we really wanted to stay European based. Also we import the leathers from Italy where they produce the best quality.
For the delivery time it depends mostly on how much you customise the shoes. For instance, if you add an engraving it will take longer. But on average it will take 5 weeks to produce the shoes due to nature of our business (custom made shoes are all unique).
When did you start trading and how was the beginning? Take me through your First Year of Business.
We started lately actually. In France we launched the business in November 2015 and in the UK we started in January 2016. So we are still in our first year.
The first year of business is known to be the most difficult one. We have already changed multiple time the business model and pivoted to work also with Business to Business. For instance, we are trying to create partnerships with custom made suits company to offer package custom suits + custom shoes.
Did you have any remarkable success that you are very proud of?
I think the entire journey is something we are proud of. From having the idea to have our first customer wearing our shoes has not been easy.
If we talk more specifically, I think when we participated to the Wedding fair beginning of this year. It has been something hard to prepare and something we are proud of.
How far do you see your business growing?
ÔSingulier(S) is not just a shoe company. Our target is to offer different products to customise. For instance, I like belts too and I think this could be an amazing product to customise as well. So we want to diversify.
Also we would like to work with young shoe designers to put their design in 3D on our website. This way you will have a really unique pair of shoes.
What motivates you? Do you have any specific routine to keep you stay positive?
I think sometimes when we are working on our own business we forget that we also need to have some quality time with people we care about. So I would say don’t sacrifice this time and make sure that you see your friend, lover…
Also, I try to meditate every day, even though lately I have not done it enough but this is a good routine to re-centre on yourself.
Lastly, sport helps me release the pressure. So don’t hesitate to go to the gym, run… It is important to allocate time for other things than your business only.
How do you promote your business? What social networks do you use and how active you are?
This is an excellent question and probably the hardest part in the business especially when you work in Business to Consumer. Well, we work with bloggers and influencers.
We use also the social networks mostly Facebook and Instagram. Instagram is really powerful for businesses that sell products like ours. Facebook is used more to post updates about the company and if we run competition to win a free pair of shoes.
We try to publish regularly maybe three or four times a week Facebook and Instagram but we still have a lot to do on this side to improve our communication.
We also have a blog on which we try to publish twice a month at least. We give information about shoes and it is also useful for SEO.
What is your preferred social network and why?
I love Instagram because it is very visual and I myself use it for a personal shoe blog (dappersteps/tomdetoledo). It is powerful and you can really connect with people that love your product.
Do you have any business people as role models?
I have multiple. The entrepreneur I admire the most is Elon Musk. He and the products he created and the company he launched are amazing, and he really tries to make the world a better place.
Closer to me, I have been very lucky to meet the co-founder of Oliver Sweeney, the popular shoe brand. This individual has 35 years of experience in the shoe business and it has been one of the most inspiring meeting I had.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
I would give a few advices that I would have liked to receive when I started.
First of all, surround yourself with mentors, people that will support you on the entrepreneur journey. You can have several mentors for different areas, for instance a mentor more business oriented, a mentor more product oriented… They will be a great support for you and push you when you need it.
Secondly, only start a business in something you love and you have knowledge about. Best businesses though tend to provide a solution to a problem so if you can be in that situation you will have greater chances of succeeding.
Lastly, choose carefully your team and business partners. You need to find people that are ready to embrace your idea and support it. They need to be ready to make sacrifices for it. Entrepreneurship is not a comfort road and you need to be ready to face difficult times. Make sure you find people like this. That always go the extra mile.
Many people are not starting a business because they are afraid of uncertainty… Do you have any advice?
Well, it might sound a bit common to say that but you need to embrace uncertainty and accept it because this is all it is about in the startup world. Even if sometimes I feel down or want to give up, I always think about why I am doing it. Because I love shoes and I think we offer something unique and new.
But you need to be ready to go up and down. Sometimes you will be really happy and sometimes you feel down. You just need to make sure that you know why you doing all this.
What is your favourite quote?
Of course, it is from Elon Musk: “I could either watch it happen or be part of it”
I think for me it summaries everything. Many people have ideas but you need to take a step further to be part of it and make it happen.
I hope you enjoyed this interview. If you are a start-up or a small business willing to be featured on my blog please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you!