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Case study – UpCircle

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So I worked longer whilst William quit his job and began this sort of thorough research phase– and getting some of the initial things that you need in place, in place. And then during that period, I would come home on the weekends, and we booked as many consumer shows as we possibly could. To basically start, we use them as market research, to be honest. To test the idea, to test the products. It’s a relatively affordable way to talk to hundreds of people over the space of two days over a weekend and get an instant, honest, unfiltered, feedback. And um, we do very simple things, like getting loads of scents out on the table, and we would have ah safety pins.
And we would just ask people when they were chatting with us to put two safety pins in their top two favourite scents. And this was honestly the way we decided the ah scent variations of the initial products that we launched with. So um, we did that for a couple of months before I then also quit, and then we went in full time and sort of hoped for the best. But, fortunately, yeah, never never looked back. So manufacturing is one of the big decisions that you have to make as a brand that’s making a physical product, quite early on. We started making it ourselves. When we were going to these shows, um we were making them all in our kitchen.
Um we were doing that for a little while, but you have to make the choice. Okay, are we going to manufacture our own products? In which case you need to get staff in quite early because that takes a huge amount of time. Sourcing a manufacturer and deciding whether or not that’s going to be something that you do is a decision you have to make quite quickly. We decided that we weren’t going to do it. Um so we had to find a suitable manufacturing partner who– ethics, I think is the most important thing, were in alignment to ours. We wanted it to be a UK-based manufacturer. We wanted it to be made by hand.
We wanted them to value um ethical sourcing, fair trade, and all of these things to the same degree that we did. Um and they needed to really understand and be on board with our concept, because the journey of scaling up a a circular economy model is full of trial and error, and experimentation, and getting it wrong, and starting again, and just a willingness to try and fail, and try again. So we needed manufacturers who were going to be on board with that and kind of take the bumps of the road with us.
So I guess um another thing I would say was that we were very fortunate to be picked up by um some buyers that we didn’t even realise we were speaking to at one of the first shows that we did. So we– Oh, really? Yeah. That was Urban Outfitters, and we were faced very quickly with the decision of, OK, gosh, we don’t want to say no to this, but we didn’t even have proper branding at the time, or packaging, or anything. So those questions– those decisions, had to happen very, very quickly.

In this video, UpCircle Co-Founder, Anna Brightman, talks about her MVP strategy, including how she and her business partner Will, used market stalls at consumer shows to conduct market research, test products, and get critical feedback from customers.

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