Inspirational Woman: Nicola McClafferty | CEO & Co-founder of Covetique

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Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I moved to London from Dublin straight after University and started working in Investment Banking in a US firm called Jefferies where I worked in the Internet and Digital media M&A team. From there I moved into Venture Capital and worked with Balderton Capital investing on starts-ups and high growth businesses across Europe and beyond. So throughout my career I have worked with exciting high growth technology businesses – either on the investment or the exit side. Eventually it was time to do it myself! Nearly 4 years I left that to set up Covetique.

The first thing to do is to hire well – building a team of smart, hungry, motivated people is so crucial. Your team and how you manage them will be the difference between success and failure.

What inspired you to start a business?

Working in VC gives you a really unique insight into building start-ups. After spending so much time around such inspiring entrepreneurs eventually I thought I could do it myself. Fashion and online retail is something I have always been passionate about. A few years ago, off the back of a challenging economic, it was clear that people were thinking more about making money from what they owned. Women were thinking differently and being more savvy about their fashion spend – they are selling on great items at the end of a season to recoup some of the value.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

When you run your own business the buck really does stop with you. While that can be liberating and motivating, there are times where that can be a lonely place. I am very lucky that I have a great co-founder and so there have always been two of us to share the load. Having someone to bounce ideas off and reign in any crazy ideas has been great. And I wouldn’t change anything. There is nothing more motivating than knowing you are working for yourself – all the wins are for what you own and you have built.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures

It is really important to have goals and know what you want to get out of running your own businesses. A lot of people think that running your own business gives you more flexibility and freedom. And while that certainly can be true, in the early days it is the hardest you will ever work. Working for yourself is in itself hugely motivating but it is 24/7 – you don’t leave your own business when you walk out the office door.

I always advise people to try to have realistic expectations and make sure that they are ready to take on what running a business means. It is hugely important not to be afraid of failure. So many of the best entrepreneurs I have worked with went through multiple failures – it’s part of building business. It was one of my biggest fears before starting. You get used to your career all going in one very positive direction and suddenly you are putting yourself on the line and taking a risk like no other. It’s scary. But without the risk there will be no reward!

Hearing similar stories from other entrepreneurs, the similar challenges they are facing and how they are dealing with things can be hugely beneficial – and make start up life a lot less lonely.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Where to start with the challenges! There are new ones every day. For us as a consumer business, one of our biggest challenges was how we build our brand in the early days. In retail in particular it is such a competitive market. Getting your brand out there, and when you have very limited marketing budgets, is a real challenge. We focused very early on on having the best service level in the market for our sellers. With that we had some incredible wardrobes being sold with us – and with right products on the site, at the right prices so long as you keep the customer at the core of what you do then your customers will find you.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I never had any real formal mentoring and coaching. However having worked in Venture Capital I was lucky enough to have worked with some amazing people – both entrepreneurs building world class businesses and the teams I worked with. Through that I built up a really strong network and that network has been invaluable to me since setting up the business. I have constantly been amazed at how willing people are to help when you ask.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is so important – whether that is maintaining relationships from your previous jobs or attending events and meeting new like-minded people. Hearing similar stories from other entrepreneurs, the similar challenges they are facing and how they are dealing with things can be hugely beneficial – and make start up life a lot less lonely. And you never know where you’ll meet your next customer or business partnership!

When you run your own business the buck really does stop with you. While that can be liberating and motivating, there are times where that can be a lonely place.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

Growth has to be managed well. The first thing to do is to hire well – building a team of smart, hungry, motivated people is so crucial. Your team and how you manage them will be the difference between success and failure. As your business scales it’s also important to know how to prioritise your pipeline – there will always be a million things you will want to change but knowing how to focus your resource on the key things that will make the difference to take you to the next stage is so important.

What does the future hold for you?

It’s onwards and upwards for Covetique. We have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. We are making some exciting changes to the site to improve things for our sellers. We are already the leading luxury fashion reseller in the UK and while we know we have a lot to do here we are definitely looking at International growth. Hopefully our future is the path to being the leading global luxury reseller 🙂

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www..covetique.com

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