In Series 3, Episode 10 of Raw Talent we are back in London and diving into brand development, communications and investment with John Hoffman partner at the New Spirit Group and ex-Chairman of The Communications Store where during his 5-year tenure, he worked with the team in guiding the business paving the way for its transformation into Science Magic Inc. with the mission of building, partnering with and investing in the brands and people of tomorrow using Science, Magic and Experience.
John grew up in the UK, spent 11 years in the US, and had a flirtation with France. A strong work ethic, education and early career in finance, strategy and business on a broad basis led to a foray into the dynamic, fast-paced and fun world of retail with Selfridges and Le Printemps Paris discovering what worked well across fashion, beauty, home and food from high street to luxury in different markets.
In 2015, John was invited to join The Communications Store as Chairman in a role that took on many different initiatives. He encouraged the focus and formalisation of purpose and digital content steering the ship and encouraging owner/managers to make decisions. Science Magic Inc. emerged in September 2020 after long discussions and embodies a joined-up strategic vision informed by data, bringing new solutions to new and existing clients. It has achieved B-Corp status, awarded to businesses meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B-Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
Unmade is another success story enabling largescale businesses to produce bespoke product at scale through production driven by demand. Harnessing technology in digital printing and knitwear Unmade enables brands to offer customisable digital product linked up with manufacturing, which has been deployed by brands including Rapha, Farfetch and Ralph Lauren.
I ask John to share some of the key learnings and insights particularly in the last 5 years as business has evolved at a digitally enhanced pace. He acknowledges that being digitally native first is super important and if you have to retrofit, absolutely fine too. Be prepared to cannibalise your business. Niches and technology are the focus. Consistency in the appreciation of values also counts alongside delivering excellent product aligned with the expectations of your customer.
2020 was a topsy-turvy year for us all, John explains on a personal level that humility, balance, passion, family and exercise all came into sharp focus along with the observation that life is precious and short.
Reflecting back on an unexpected turn of events that delivered surprising results. John identifies talent as being a critical element and says it is the people that make it happen. They are the difference between success and failure. At the beginning of her meteoric rise, John sat down with Charlotte Tilbury at her kitchen table and collaborated on an early business plan. Her talent and drive were obvious. He didn't see how large the opportunity could be. He also recalls his work with Printemps came about from a chance encounter and passing conversation with a head hunter and believes that taking care to connect with people properly is important.
John is a founding partner in the New Spirit Group, an independent brand-oriented consulting, lending and investment group advising companies on strategic and operational issues and building blocks. They are flexible about how they help their clients and entrepreneurs to grow and develop their businesses. The goal is to seize opportunities for long term growth. He has worn many hats in different businesses including an equity investment with Nicholas Kirkwood helping them grow from an SME to being bought out by LVMH. One of his current projects is setting up affordable debt financing for early-stage fashion businesses to bridge the gap in working capital. Beneficiaries of the scheme so far include Rock and Wales Bonner.
I ask what advice John has for entrepreneurs and businesses as fashion raises its game to embrace and engage with its customers like never before? At the top of his list is the importance of a strong vision complemented by passion and effort. It is 90% execution, good information and good people, able to make judgements and demonstrate perseverance and realism. The spotlight is on creating a community and engaging with your customers, finding out what is right for both.
As for the future of the high street, John believes post-pandemic and over the next 20 years, there will still be a need for physical stores as one element of an omnichannel strategy. Our high streets may have fewer stores and more services. On the property side, upward only rent reviews and long leases have to change.
I am curious to know what he'd love to do that he hasn't yet done in business, John says to be a co-founder of a tech-enabled consumer business. Watch this space!
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