Meet the founder of Hawthorn

Tom Lovelace - Just Entrepreneurs.png

Firstly, I’d like to find out more about you Tom, tell me about the man behind the brand.

Hawthorn actually came about as a result of my previous business and is really a development of an idea which started about 8 years ago! I used to be a Personal Trainer working in one of London's top gyms, training clients who were mostly from wealthy backgrounds or in highly paid jobs. I realised that there was a market for clothing which showed off a person's athletic physique so I, along with my business partner started a clothing brand.

We quickly realised that starting a clothing brand is very difficult if you're working with small quantities like we wanted to, and we went through a number of different manufacturers who couldn't meet the requirements we had. We then decided that rather than letting someone else make our products, we should start doing it for ourselves! Being in the industry I was in, I was around people who wanted to do similar things, and we quickly found ourselves creating clothing for others. We then realised that this was a very viable business, and that creating a clothing manufacturer specifically for start up brands who wanted low order quantity custom clothing is something that we should do. I ended up leaving the gym soon after, and have worked full time on Hawthorn ever since.

Competition must be quite high in the clothing manufacturing industry. How do you stay one step ahead of the rest?

Competition is fierce, that's very true! What distinguishes us as a business is our low minimum order quantities. Some manufacturers have minimum order quantities of 500pcs per design, whereas we can go as low as 50pcs in some cases. This means that for a lower investment, brands can get a larger range when starting out. We can do this because we have all of our processes in house, including fabric weaving, dyeing and pattern making.

What would be your top tip for startups working towards scaling their business - with the intention to raise funding?

One of the fastest ways to secure funding is with a start up loan – a loan which can be spread across a longer term and which has a low interest, along with benefits like mentoring and support whilst starting a business from the loan provider. Start up loans is a government backed scheme, and of course the government is always trying to incentivise economy building, making it a fast way to secure funding without having to give away any equity.

Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customer is one with a clear vision. We're always happy to help a brand to develop their ideas, but it's much easier when they approach us knowing exactly what they want so that we can easily meet their expectations.

With Hawthorn, I can imagine that there is a lot of focus on customer service and delivery. How do you ensure that you keep your current clients satisfied while maintaining a stream of new clients on a daily basis?

Indeed, customer service and the delivery of that service is something which we always strive for. The main way we do that is by ensuring we have great communication with our clients, making ourselves available by email outside of office hours and always being free to chat on the phone. When starting a clothing brand we feel it is very important to have a personal service with a manufacturer so that in the unlikely event that something becomes an issue, it can be resolved swiftly. Our processes have been finely tuned however, with sampling being our main focus. If a custom design is okay at a sample level, then it's just a process of replication when it comes to bulk production.

Could you walk me through a typical day at Hawthorn?

I'm contactable for clients most of the time so even when I'm travelling to or from the office I'm discussing new designs or confirming details. We're also in constant contact with our manufacturing facility which is based overseas, so it's very full on and I would be lost without my phone. We're based in Central London however we meet clients regularly so can be in and out of the office frequently. Our days are generally quite different, which is great.

Motivation is very important – what keeps you going on difficult days?

Being as we deal with start ups, we are always dealing with people who are going through the same struggles that we once did. We started Hawthorn not just to create our business, but to provide a service which didn't exist so that we can help more entrepreneurs realise their dream of starting a clothing brand. Knowing that we can help people as a part of building our business is a great feeling.

What is the best lesson you’ve learnt so far?

The best lesson we have learnt so far in our business journey is that if you have a time frame, triple it. Then, it might be realistic. Regardless of whether we're trying to implement a new aspect to our service, or if we're advising a client of a time frame, there can always be things which come along and slow the process. For example, designs on paper can look great, but when a client received them at a sample level they can change their mind about them or want to make adjustments. This isn't a problem of course – however if that client has booked in a photo shoot on the assumption that they'll love the design they had only previously seen on paper, it is a problem. We always advise clients to not book in anything until they've actually received the products, although telling a keen young entrepreneur that can be hard sometimes!

What plans do you have for Hawthorn over the next few months?

Over the next few months we will be delivered Spring/Summer collections for clients who have ordered previously, so we will be focusing on delivering them the best possible service whilst taking on new customers also. We have been doing a lot of work on sustainable clothing and the damages of fast fashion recently also, so we're looking to work to spread those messages some more and make a positive change to the industry.

What habit do you think has helped you to remain on course?

I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse, but perfectionism is something which has helped us to stay on course. We're always struggling for perfection, be it for a customer and their items, the processes which we go through to make them, or even our online presence. We're constantly changing and evolving the business to make it as perfect as possible for our clients, and I believe that's what has allowed us to stay on course.