In 1999, a travelling tailor came to the London office of the recruitment consultant where Jimmy Hibbert was working. Hibbert wasn't impressed. "He had horrible breath, no personality and he measured me up for a suit," which cost £600. "I thought crikey, there has to be a better way than this." By the end of the year, Hibbert had left his job with a view to finding that better way.
With Shirley Biggs a former buying director for John Lewis, whom he met through a friend and who was to become his business partner he found a manufacturer willing to make bespoke suits at reasonable prices and roped in 15 friends to act as guinea pigs for the designs. The easy bit ended there. "The first two years were an absolute nightmare," says Hibbert. Biggs and Hibbert had backed the firm, Dress2kill, with their own money Hibbert ended up remortgaging his house twice in 2000, a year when the two lost £10,000 on sales of £85,000. So desperate was the company for cash that Hibbert sold his brother 10% of the firm for £1,000. It didn't help: by the end of 2001, they faced insolvency.
As a last resort, Hibbert "wrote an email to Richard Branson. It was very cheeky. I said it's about time you sorted yourself out, you scruffy bastard. I need some advice on how to take my business forward, you need to sharpen up I'll make you a free suit. In return, you give me half an hour of your time."
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Branson loved the idea. Virgin's 400,000 credit-card customers were given discounts for Dress2kill, while Hibbert moved a tailor into Virgin's Heathrow airport lounge. Sales hit £175,000 in 2003, then £280,000 in 2004. The firm moved to bigger offices near Waterloo, adding a barber shop and massage therapy rooms. This year, they're looking at turnover of £1.3m and regularly sell 250 suits a month. So what does he like best about entrepreneurship? "Not knowing what's going to happen next." Bet that's easier to say now than it was in 2001.
Jody studied at the University of Limerick and she has been a senior writer for MoneyWeek for more than 15 years. Jody is experienced in interviewing, for example in her time she has dug into the lives of an ex-M15 agent and quirky business owners who have made millions. Jody’s other areas of expertise include advice on funds, stocks and house prices.
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