Do something new. If someone else is doing it, you’re already behind.
The Terrace started out as a social media hangout and ended up disrupting the usual sports retail model by becoming a growing name in sports fan merchandising. Co-founder Carl Sewell tells us how it started, how it’s changed and where he sees things going – and dispenses a bit of startup wisdom along the way.
Tell us about The Terrace. What do you do and who do you do it for?
The Terrace, in its current form, came to life around 3 years ago. Our idea was to disrupt sports retail, an industry that was very stale and stuck in old ways. We wanted to eradicate stock risk by taking advantage of printing on demand and at the same time, connect directly with fans as much as possible to generate collections of products we knew they wanted to see.
As the retail business has grown so have the direct connections with clubs which means our wholesale business, our license portfolio, has grown as well. The Terrace has really started to become a household name in the sports merchandising sector.
When did you start? Has your business turned out to be exactly as you initially envisioned it
We launched as a Facebook page originally with no intention of being a retailer. We were going to be just an online football community posting humour and sports news. That was around 4 years ago. The idea of the store only came into the picture around 3 years ago.
So, no it’s not exactly what we envisioned. But I think to be successful, you must be flexible. If you get too tied down to a specific idea, you’ll never go further than you originally planned and you’ll miss chances to grow. That said – it’s also important to not lose sight of what your goals and visions are. You need a healthy mix of both.
The key is always learning, adapting, and reacting to the industry around you. Our business has developed in numerous ways and we’ve ended up in areas we never planned to, doing things and working with partners we never imagined. Not only does this keep it exciting, it also means continued growth and that’s always a bonus.
Was there a moment you realised you’re really onto something?
Honestly, it has all happened so quickly, a lot quicker than we ever imagined, that moment has only happened recently – when I saw our logo on football club sleeves in the FA Cup. That’s when it really hit home – the size of brand we had become.
So you started online but things expanded and changed. What part does technology play in your business these days?
We wouldn’t be a business without it, from APIs in the backend of our store, to systems our developers built to automate manual tasks. The business thrives and runs on technology and lots of it – all day, every day. As a graphic designer myself, it starts from there and the technological reliance continues throughout every step of our business.
What applications or digital tools do you find most useful?
The Adobe package is what I rely on for creativity, ShipStation and Shopify have proven to be real assets to our business’ e-commerce side. Our most invaluable asset is our web developer. Never underestimate having a wizard!
Technology is clearly hard at work in lots of areas of The Terrace. How confident are you with keeping your technology optimised and up-to-date?
Myself, not so much. I rely on auto updates and our web developer to keep everything ship shape. As a business owner, you need to know when to step back and allow others to tackle these tasks so you can focus on the bigger picture.
If you were to go back and do it all again what would you do differently?
Absolutely nothing. Sure, we’ve had sleepless nights, worries, panics, nerves, and everything in between. But realistically, without them you cannot grow, learn, or succeed as a business. The real success comes from how you come out the other side.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?
Research, research, research. Knowing your market and your competition is vital. More importantly do something new. If someone else is doing it, you’re already behind. Find a gap, a niche and something exciting.
What do you want to learn in the next year?
I think it’s important to continue developing integration between customer orders and automation of print files. It’s something I’m really keen to develop within the business and get even more long-winded tasks automated.
We love finding out what motivates and inspires people to start their own businesses. It’s one of the reasons start-ups have always been a big part of our client list. If you’ve got an idea you want to develop, get in touch. Let’s see how we can help you startup your start-up.
For more advice on how to tackle start-up challenges, pop over to our blog where we dispense advice gained, not only by our own experience, but also by working with startups in a wide range of sectors.