Project Description

As part of our series highlighting some of the amazing brands we support, we interviewed Start Up Loan alumni, Isabelle Ugochukwu, Founder & Creative Director of luxury handbag brand ISABELLA QUEEN.

We talked to Isabelle about her business journey, and how the Fashion Angel Start Up Loan has helped the brand, fresh from her success exhibiting at the Paris Spring/Summer 17 trade shows.

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Isabella Ugochukwu at Pure London

Why did you decide to start the business?
I launched ISABELLA QUEEN in August 2015. My background was in banking but I decided to set up the label after being increasingly frustrated at not being able to find a handbag I liked.
What’s the USP of the brand?
The label produces luxury hand crafted bags all made in the UK, using the finest Italian leathers.
How has the response been since launching?
Building a luxury brand takes time, but overall the response has been fantastic.
What’s your main route to market?
Our target market is international luxury retailers. We decided the best way to reach our customers and raise brand awareness is by exhibiting at trade shows both in the UK and Paris. So far showing in Paris has been far better for us, with particular interest from Far East retailers who appreciate the beautiful quality and highly value products that are Made in UK.

Isabella Queen
How did you hear about the Fashion Angel Start Up Loan scheme?
I found about the scheme online, and wanted to work with Fashion Angel as they had particular fashion industry knowledge.
What did you use the loan for?
The money was used mainly towards product development and the costs to show at the trade shows.
How did you find the loan application process?
The loan application process was pretty straightforward and made me really think through the business model.
Did you find the 1:1 pre-loan support useful?
The support and feedback was invaluable and helped me produce a focused business plan and realistic sales projections. Originally I was over optimistic, but my mentor Alison Lewy soon brought down to earth!
Have you taken advantage of the post-loan mentoring?
Absolutely – it’s been a vital part in the development of the business. As with every business, it can be a steep learning curve – but Alison  has always been there to offer support and guidance.

Isabella Queen
What so far has been the biggest set up challenge and in hindsight, your biggest mistake?
I initially underestimated how much finance would be needed to start the business, and how long it takes to build a brand. In hindsight I shouldn’t have spent so much on exhibiting iat UK trade shows as I now know that showing in Paris is a far better place to reach my target customers.
What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement was to launch the website and receive such positive feedback. We are now already stocked in international retailers have received considerable press attention from publications such as Collezioni Italy as well as a fast growing social media following. I was also shortlisted in the Vogue Talents competition for Vogue Italia.
What would be your advice to anyone starting out?
“Get industry relevant mentors and make sure you do everything they tell you to do”
You’re only at the start of your business journey, but what are your plans for the future?
I’m very ambitious. I want us to be stocked in luxury department stores and boutiques right across the globe and eventually sell the business, perhaps to a luxury conglomerate!
www.isabellaqueen.co.uk

Interviewed by Alison Lewy

Find out how a Fashion Angel Start Up Loan can help your business start up and grow.