Lara Chant wanted to create an easier way for time-poor consumers to purchase locally and sustainably, with an emphasis on redefining what it means to buy British. Having only launched in April 2021, the company currently represents over 80 independent British brands including Rollo London, SABINNA and RAIMES English Sparkling Wine.
BritYard couldn’t have been so timely as it’s forecast that £185bn is to be spent in the UK online this year, with 40% of total retail sales now coming by way of e-commerce. The impact of COVID-19 accelerated the growth of the e-commerce industry by 4 years; worldwide could reach $3.5 trillion by 2024.
We sat down with Lara to learn about her past career, why she is so passionate about representing independent British brands and her plans for BritYard.
Can you tell us about your career so far and what brought you to start your own business?
My background is in Publishing Strategy and Management with just under a decade of experience with a multimedia portfolio covering many different sectors from marketing to PR and even renewable energy. The core of my job was to identify opportunities within the market, spot gaps in our portfolio, then look at acquiring assets to fill those gaps, or create new assets i.e. whole new publishing brands.
Towards the end of my publishing career, I also took on P&L responsibility for a couple of digital brands with oversight of content, audience, events and sales teams and strategies. It was my responsibility to manage and improve the overall performance of those businesses and their respective teams.
With a wealth of experience, especially in digital, I felt that as I could drive revenue and growth for other businesses, I should take the plunge and do it for myself. Throughout my career, I would jot down business ideas, so when the time came to start my own business, I referred back to my little black book and fell upon BritYard – an idea that I could confidently evolve into a company and suit a need in the current market dynamic. Following a soft launch and online listing page to really understand the sector we were going into, the e-commerce site officially launched on 1st April 2021.
Why did you choose to only stock independent British Brands?
Large retail brands have something small British brands don’t have, visibility. All over the UK, there are amazing niche businesses with real people behind them. These people are passionate, they create beautiful products and they need help to get their business out there. Because they can’t do it themselves, BritYard provides these businesses with the attention they deserve and need to thrive.
A big part of our business, something which I developed my expertise in throughout my career, is content. BritYard is not just a go-to destination for consumers, or a marketplace for independent business owners, it’s also an educational platform to share stories of the people behind the brand. After all, people buy from people.
How is BritYard disrupting the e-commerce industry?
We no longer call ourselves an e-commerce company, we are a hybrid of retail and publishing. The industry right now is dominated by retailers who prioritise big, established and often internationally owned brands and – they focus on selling a product. BritYard focuses on selling a story with quality products to back it up.
We only focus on independent brands which is unusual in the traditional sense and we ensure that they are British-owned. Following the impact of COVID-19, it was these smaller brands who were hit the hardest because they didn’t have the resources, or the education, to push through. Now they won’t have to go through that again.
What is your competitive landscape like at the moment? How do you differentiate?
BritYard is an online department store, we function like the great luxury department stores (think John Lewis, Liberty and Selfridges) in a digital space. However, despite starting off online, we have plans to expand into brick and mortar – still keeping the focus on independent brands, with a heavy focus on in-store experiences.
In fact, we’re experimenting with our first pop-up shop in Oxford Street, London over the Black Friday weekend where we’ll be able to meet our customers face to face.
Our biggest competitor would be Wolf and Badger, they’ve had a very successful business journey. Likewise with Trouva. But where BritYard stands out is our mission to #BuyBritish and educate through our platform, eventually going into curated experiences.
What part of BritYard’s journey are you most proud of?
Just getting it off the ground is my proudest accomplishment so far. We had to park the Seed idea as I was pregnant at the time and became very poorly, in and out of hospital for three months. I then experienced a life-threatening complication during the birth of my daughter which was another unexpected setback. But restarting the work on BritYard gave me the opportunity to put my negative experiences into a positive pursuit. I’m not sure how I managed to do it, but when you believe in something, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
What have been some of your biggest challenges while building BritYard?
Getting people to listen to the idea. When you don’t come from a background with loads of particular connections, it’s harder to find the right people to bring on board. It took a year of knocking on doors for anyone to hear my husband and I pitch the business idea.
Through my experiences, I had to ask myself, “How do I put this across in a way that makes it easy for people to understand?” You need to be able to explain your business to investors, makers and consumers to get everyone on board. If it’s too complicated, they just won’t get it.
Not to mention, being a woman whilst pregnant. I almost often felt that I needed to include my husband in the front of the business so that we could be taken seriously.
What can we expect next in the way of new products or partnerships?
As mentioned before, we’ve got our first pop-up in Oxford Street from the 28th to 29th November 2021. We’re also creating a BritYard Discovery Collection which includes gift sets and hampers, bringing together a selection of wonderful products from homegrown brands. They introduce consumers to a range of fabulous new brands in just one, delivery product! They are easy for consumers to purchase and are exclusive to BritYard. At our pop-up, you’ll also be able to build your own hamper – the perfect Christmas gift!
Investment Perks for investors who contribute to the BritYard crowdfunding campaign:
When you’re not working, what do you do in your spare time?
Being a new mum, I’m enjoying spending time with my little daughter. It’s astonishing to see how quickly she changes and develops!
I definitely enjoy actively doing things, whether that’s going out with friends, my daughter or mum, travelling, shopping and getting inspired. The more I’m out, the better my business ideas.
What are some of your favourite British brands?
I gave a friend in need a little hamper because she had a difficult day. The hamper was filled with some of my favourite things from BritYard such as the Apothenie Crown of Flora candle, which my house is full of! I also gifted her the Five Dot Botanics Pure Rewind Restorative Face Mask which has done wonders for me.
My other favourite is Rollo London, they create beautiful British stationary and I live by my Racing Green desk jotter!
If you could give some advice to your younger self, what would it be?
- No matter who is trying to influence you, no matter what you’re told by whoever, the most important thing you can do is listen to your own instinct. Even if you get it wrong, you get it wrong on your own terms and you can own that.
- You have to have confidence to trust your own instincts and back yourself, always.
BritYard is at the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and has ambitious plans to become a mainstream online retail destination. Raising £220,000, visit their crowdfunding campaign here.