Five Minutes with the Founder | Liam Young, Harper

In this week’s ‘Five Minutes with the Founder’ profile we meet Liam Young, the CEO of luxury ‘last mile’ concierge service, a 2021 Brand of Tomorrow that enables luxury retailers to provide an elevated, try-before-you-buy shopping experience to customers at home. Click below to discover how Liam made the leap from systems engineering to fashion. and why he believes that ‘at-home’ will become as important as in-store or online within a decade. 

Tell us the story of how you built your brand
I started Harper very much as a consumer who was tired of dealing with returns and arguing with delivery companies about whether or not my items had been delivered. I knew online had a big part to play in the future of retail but couldn’t believe the future of the customer experience was in the hands of cost-driven, one-size-fits-all delivery companies.

My background was in systems engineering so I understood logistics, but fashion was new to me. I came up with the initial idea for a luxury last mile company and started working on it whilst working full time in my previous job. Serendipitously I met an investor at an event about 6 months after incorporating. My first investment was only small but it was enough for me to quit my job and put all of my efforts into Harper. The company looks totally different now but the key learning was to get started and evolve as you learn from your customers.

Why did you choose to set up your business in the luxury sector?
Quality service is fundamental to luxury. Yet when you’re in the hands of a one-size-fits-all delivery company, the service is lacklustre at best. It was the natural home for Harper’s luxury at-home shopping service.

What is your favourite thing about your job?
It’s cliché, but the people. The team at Harper, our clients, our customers and all the different personalities you come across in the industry. The best thing is working with passionate people on something you care about. Coming into the industry as an outsider, I’ve always thought its reputation was unjustified. Of course there are some difficult people, as with any industry, but 99% of the people I’ve met are passionate, caring and eager to help.

What is your source of inspiration and motivation?
I’ve always loved building things; having an idea and seeing it come to life. Even when there are challenges, I’ve always enjoyed working through it to find the solutions. It’s boring when nothing changes. I get motivated by improving things and that feeling you get after a job well done.

If you could have any other job in the world what would it be?
I’d love to be an inventor. You never see that job title on Linkedin, what happened to them? One of the things I’ve loved about the Brands of Tomorrow programme is seeing the inner workings of the businesses with physical products. We’re constantly asked by customers about whether they can buy our bespoke garment carriers, maybe one day we’ll make a Harper range!

If you could do something differently in your career what would it be?
I was a first time founder so there’s about a million different things I would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. I try not to regret them though. If I’ve put everything into it and it felt like the right decision at the time then any mistakes are only learnings.

Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years’ time?
Harper enables retailers to set up a new direct to consumer sales channel. In 10 years’ I see “at-home” as being as important as in-store or online. We’re seeing it already but in the future all retailers should have an at-home sales strategy as one of their bridges to customers.

What does success look like to you?
Having as few regrets as possible on my deathbed.

What advice do you have for any young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Do it. Get started, but don’t quit your job on day one. Do it 5 to 9 until you’re confident the idea has legs.

What is your greatest luxury under £10?
If subscriptions count then Spotify. It still amazes me that you can get almost any song in the world for £10 per month. That used to get you 10 songs. To be honest any subscription that stops you getting ads is a luxury in my eyes.
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