Nancy Cruickshank is a business woman with an incredible story. The name behind Handbag.com and MyShowcase, Nancy is a giant in the digital market and we have been lucky enough to grab a few minutes with her to find out all about her success and what drives her!
You have over 15 years experience in the digital market and are an accomplished business woman. What do you think has been the most important factor in your success?
In launching a business, I believe that there is no substitute for passion, determination and giving something a go! One of my strengths is that I am high energy and my friends and colleagues will tell you that I am doggedly determined! I set myself a goal, however large or minor, and work hard to achieve this. Goals should be attainable, however ambitious, as I think about every goal achieved being a step towards reaching a more significant result. I also believe passionately in creating things, gaining as much customer feedback as is humanly possible and then adapting accordingly to make an even better product or experience. Customers are willing collaborators in my experience and I am always keen to listen carefully to what they have to say and to provide better solutions as a result.
You started the incredible Handbag.com and eventually sold it in 2006 for a staggering £22m. Did you imagine that the site would be such a huge hit when you started?
I was always hugely passionate about Handbag.com, making it the largest and most vibrant Women’s lifestyle website in the UK, but I never predicted the level of success it reached. Handbag.com became the no.1 Fashion & Beauty site in the UK in the noughties. 1.5m women visited the site every month and 400k of these chatted in our discussion areas – about all sorts of things.
Tell us about your program Women In Business and what prompted you to start it.
In 2000, I launched a Women n Business program at Handbag.com. It responded to dozens of discussions in our community areas about our readers’ desire to launch their own businesses or to find more flexible working opportunities. This program enabled thousands of our readers to send us their business plans each year and apply for incentivised small business loans to launch or develop their businesses, provided by Barclays bank, our sponsor. We held an annual awards event and generated a significant amount of vital PR for our winners. It highlighted the extraordinary female talent that exists in the UK and also some of the challenges that women face in launching businesses. Barclays had some proprietary research that revealed there are 100k businesses p/annum in the UK conceived by women that never get off the ground. This appeared to be largely due to challenges with accessing funding and overall appetite for taking a risk. I became fascinated by this opportunity, so much female talent under-utilised.
At the same time, I had been a member of the UK Beauty industry trade board, CEW, for many years. I also grew up with a father who worked for Revlon. Beauty is a £17bn industry in the UK with much innovation happening at a product level. However, I felt there was a lack of innovation at a beauty retail level and decided to try to make an impact on this with the launch of MyShowcase!
MyShowcase is your new venture, can you tell our readers more about it?
MyShowcase is a new concept in Beauty retail, with a passion for supporting female entrepreneurs in building or expanding their own Beauty businesses. MyShowcase sells 25+ different beauty brands via our network of female Stylists. These brands are not widely available on the UK high street but each has an amazing story to tell. Some of them are a little better known than others – Balance Me, Blink, T Le Clerc, Neom and others are lesser known today – Beatitude, Ruth Mastenbroek and Antonia Burrell – to name just a few. Our Stylists are women (most of them have no background whatsoever in Beauty) who want to work, but flexibly. They organise showcases (largely in homes, but occasionally in offices too) where they showcase our brands. Customers can buy at our events and also via our website – www.myshowcase.com.
What do you think MyShowcase brings to the market that was missing?
MyShowcase brings together customers who are keen to discover a new way of shopping for Beauty gems, hosts who open their homes to us, Stylists who are entrepreneurial women wanting to start their own flexible business and brand founders who have enormous passion for their products and brands.
The response to MyShowcase has been amazing. We are always thrilled to attend our events and to see and hear women enjoying a showcase. We are fortunate to receive lots of great testimonials about our concept, whether that’s a delighted customer who has just taken delivery of one of our specially packaged orders or a guest at a showcase who is enjoying trying out a new product or brand and gaining candid feedback from her girlfriend about whether that item suits her! Women appear to have fun at our events and that’s important to us
What hopes and indeed aims do you have for the future of MyShowcase?
We aim to make MyShowcase your first port of call to discover highly effective and gorgeous beauty products that are not widely available on the UK high street. This is largely done via showcases in our customers’ homes, creating very social shopping opportunities with your girlfriends. What’s better than happening upon a beauty gem and having a trusted friend on hand to ask her unbiased opinion? For repeat purchases, it’s easy to contact your local Stylist via phone or email or to shop via our website, MyShowcase.com. We have aspirations to take the business into every community in the UK and potentially beyond our shores too, creating hundreds of successful female-led businesses along the way.
Who typically do you envisage benefiting most from MyShowcase?
There are so many incredibly talented women who would like to launch their own business, but perhaps desire some additional support and mentoring to get a business off the ground. MyShowcase takes the administrative part of setting-up a business away from women who want to launch their own MyShowcase business and allows them to focus on building the business and seeing it thrive. We also place enormous emphasis on training and mentoring with our Stylist community, providing our Stylists with the tools that they require to succeed, as well as being members of a thriving community of like-minded female entrepreneurs.
Women become Stylists for a variety of reasons – to earn some extra money, work towards a larger goal such as a fab family holiday, indulge their passion for Beauty and socialising & many other things too. We are so lucky to receive wonderful feedback every day from our Stylists, this is one of the great pleasures of this job!