New Chairmen, New Programme Partner | A New Era for Brands of Tomorrow
Tonight we will reveal the 12 exciting new luxury businesses chosen as the 2020 Brands of Tomorrow at Ennismore Sessions House in Clerkenwell. Ahead of the party, we are delighted to announce the appointment of two new programme chairmen to lead Brands of Tomorrow: Balthazar Fabricius, Founder and Chair of bespoke bookmakers Fitzdares (a Brands of Tomorrow alumnus from 2007) joins as Chairman and Chris Downham, Advisory Chief Financial Officer and former CEO of BOAT International, is Deputy.
Walpole sat down with Balthazar and Chris to discover why they have chosen to head up Brands of Tomorrow, their experiences of the programme so far, and their key piece of advice for launching a successful luxury brand.
Why did you want to get involved with Brands of Tomorrow?
Balth: Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow programme is a rare breed, completely unique in its determination to help founders of quality products and services to succeed. The positive economic impact these businesses have is profound. If we do not help and support those that dare to set up new products, to create wonderful businesses, we are not moving forward. The business I founded, Fitzdares, was chosen as an inaugural Brand of Tomorrow in 2007 so I know the programme well, and understand how those who get through the competitive selection process can maximise everything it has to offer.
Chris: I got involved in Walpole as CEO of a media brand which joined the membership in 2015, and have become more familiar with Brands of Tomorrow over the last 18 months or so. I’ve always enjoyed meeting founders, hearing their origin stories and trying to understand what makes businesses succeed. And the Brands of Tomorrow are a major success – on average they increase revenue threefold after joining the programme, generate almost 40% of their revenue in overseas sales, and employ more than 1,200 people. The chance to help both the alumni and the new brands do more of that was too good an opportunity to miss!
What will you bring to the programme?
Balth: A determination to support these heroic founders; to balance their passion with an unemotional objectivity to help them make the best decisions possible. Chris & I are keen to surround the brands with the excellent mentors, pastoral care, and encourage as much collaboration within the brilliant Walpole network as we can.
Chris: I’ve spent quite a lot of time working for founder-led companies, from pre-revenue to £100m+, and in consumer, media and in luxury environments. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and everything in between, and – while every situation is unique – I hope I can share some of that experience. I’ve also worked as a business leader, and understand how that can be difficult at times, I hope Balth and I can make the journey a little easier for the participants (or at least empathise when needed). I also think of myself as a networker and connector of people; it strikes me that one of the key aspects of Walpole are the links that businesses build, and I would look to help with this as much as possible.
What are your top tips for launching a luxury business – and ensuring its future success?
Balth: Exercise – keeping yourself sane, fit and healthy whilst working your socks off is tip number one! Trust your gut (which should have earned your trust if you have followed tip number one!). Hire great talent. Be long term. As Storm Thorgerson said, “the art comes first, the money comes later.”
Chris: One thing I’ve learnt from talking to founders is that there are as many reasons for starting a business as there are entrepreneurs, and that motivation can come from many places. Whatever the reasons, it’s important to define what you want from the business and what you’re prepared to put in – be that money, time, energy or stress. Whether it’s to be a lifetime of ‘craft and graft’, or a three-year build and exit, there will be sacrifices to make; if you can be clear about where you want to get to and what’s important to you, that’s a good grounding.
And finally, with my CFOs hat on – I’m going to be slightly more prosaic than Balth – the art does indeed come first, but businesses need to make sure that they can see where the money will come from (even if that is indeed later). All brands need to know how to make money – not for the sake of it, but because cash is the lifeblood of a growing business. My top tip would be to think about profit as soon as the product or service is proven. And if you aren’t profitable now, make sure you can see how to get there.
Balth and Chris take the reins from Jonathan Heilbron, Brands of Tomorrow’s outstanding outgoing Chair, who has been a key support to all the Brands over the past five years and has led the programme from strength to strength. Walpole would like to thank Jonathan for his tireless work, and will continue to work with him on other projects.