Entrepreneur Interview: with Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible
Posted on the 20 February 2019
Tell me about your background in business
Before I graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Fashion Design, I travelled to New York in the Easter before graduation to meet a recruitment consultant in the industry about a position in menswear design. So, literally, a week after I graduated, I was on a plane to New York for my first job in fashion!
I was in New York for about 18 months, and quickly found out the world of work and being a menswear designer wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it would be! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my work, but it didn’t quite mesh with my creativity and ideas I had. However, it did give me a lot of exposure.
I came into trend forecasting as I had studied it briefly at university, but the problem was that at the time there were probably only 200 jobs worldwide in trend forecasting. To build up my reputation and experience in this field, I developed a portfolio alongside my job in New York and actually built a reputation as a bit of a pest as I would always be asking questions and going above and beyond for extra work!
After 18 months in the US, I returned to the UK after securing a job with Top Man in London. I got homesick while in New York, but loved the city, I was just on the move a lot. It was through my designer background and self-generated trend portfolio that helped me secure my role at Top Man and progress with my career.
I spent two years at Top Man before the job of my dreams was advertised – a managerial trend forecasting position. Even though I only had about four years’ experience and was up against people who had more than 10 years under their belts, I got the job and was working for a small design studio in London.
It was a great role to have and I was travelling the world forecasting for brands such as Kangol and Calvin Klein, and even helped establish the menswear department at New Look.
How was Trend Bible formed?
It was in 2005 when I decided to move back to the North East and back to Northumberland, where I’m from.
I set up as an independent consultant but was without work for about six months before I started with Tesco to support its fashion and homeware ranges.
I soon realised that I needed to establish a product that would free up my time and which I could sell, so I got the idea to create a trend forecasting book. The inspiration for the business soon followed and my work as an independent consultant was almost like a lead into Trend Bible.
The fashion trend forecasting market was really saturated at that time, but I spotted a gap in the market, in-home interior trend forecasting. It was that Eureka moment one night when I woke in the middle of the night!
There were only a few companies in the world that offered such a service, in Amsterdam and Paris, so a lot of people thought I was crazy setting up in Newcastle!
In your own words, what is it that Trend Bible does?
We forecast the future of life at home, working with retailers and brands to help them predict what consumers want in two to five years’ time. These companies then go and design these products and bring them to market.
What is your proudest moment with the company?
Just last year actually. We moved into our new studio in May 2018, which was really the first-ever time I saw my vision when I started out in business become a reality. I had created a reasonably sized agency, with 20 staff, and saw a real buzz and excitement about the place when I first stepped into the premises. It was the feeling of all my hard work paying off. I had had great achievements when moving to new studios in the past to accommodate our growth, but this one gave me a real sense of accomplishment and exactly what I set out to achieve.
Another fulfilling moment was when we started work with a large paint company and had spoken to the client about emerging female DIY customers. It was two years later on the TV when I saw an advert by that company featuring a woman painting, which was the translation of the trends we’d spoken to the client about two years ago, and essentially opened up the brand to more of the population.
Is there a particular mistake you have made while in business? And how did you overcome/learn from it?
For quite a few years, I didn’t think big enough or believe it was possible to get where we are now.
After 10 years in business, when we moved into the latest studio, that was the first time I felt really proud of my achievements, despite there being no other business of this kind in the North East.
I suppose I didn’t see the writing on the wall in the early days, even though we were growing by more than 20 percent each year.
In hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, I’d have liked to have grown the company faster, but I enjoyed the piece of mind of growing organically at the time. We may have grown quicker had I implemented the ideas and growth strategies that we’re doing now, but you never know.
What is Trend Bible’s USP?
For our customers, it’s that we work in the world of home interiors when trend forecasters predominately work in fashion. We are able to understand the way that people live at home and adopt these into our forecasts and translate fashions on the catwalk into our practices.
Our industry is renowned for being highbrow and can be quite intimidating, so we try to be the reverse of that and are approachable, which our clients understand and like about us.
How has the firm grown and what do you attribute this to?
From the offset, I was open to receiving as much external feedback as possible and adopting this into my business. I tapped into the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and basically grilled people for as much information as possible! The best advice I received was to stop spending time doing things you’re not good at and outsource them, which allowed me to focus solely on being the best trend forecaster I could be.
Within two to three years I took on my first employee, which kept doubling each year. In all, we’ve gone through about six premises to supplement our continued growth, culminating in a 36% rise in turnover last year.
I am glad to have maintained a good work-life balance over the course of my business career, as I was determined to be able to do both. Trend Bible and the industry are really demanding, more so now than ever, so it is a constant struggle. My husband is also self-employed, and we work long hours, but we still make time for our children, while managing growing businesses.
Do you live by/do business by a certain motto?
Delegation and hiring great people. This has been key to a lot of our success as I like to give people a lot of control in their roles, which allows them to develop. It is also important to keep your staff happy and keep them, so I look to always support my team as best I can.
What are the future plans of Trend Bible?
We are currently working through our three-year plan, which takes us to the end of 2020. We expect within 5 years to be hitting the £3m turnover mark, as well as to double our current workforce.
I’ve also got big plans to work more in the US, and we’ve just won a contract with China’s biggest textile manufacturer. We have plenty of plans for expansion and it is set to be an exciting future for Trend Bible.