What next for Luxe Collective brothers from Formby who wowed Dragon’s Den?
1 month ago
Brothers Ben and Joe Gallagher feared they might walk away from the Dragon’s Den empty-handed after Sara Davies and Peter Jones pulled out of the bidding battle as they pitched their business on the first episode of the new BBC1 series.
When fellow judge Steven Bartlett starting speaking, Ben admits: “We thought he was out as well.”
But earlier this month the co-founders of pre-loved fashion brand Luxe Collective and chief operations officer Oliver Millar were seen securing the biggest deal of the last five years from Steven with a £100,000 investment for a 3% share of the Merseyside company.
Interestingly, both Sara and Peter felt there was nothing they could offer to the Formby lads who were already successful: “But it wasn’t for the money, or for confirmation or affirmation that our business was good,” says Ben, 23. “We wanted someone on board who could get us to that next level.”
He adds: “I was pleased we got Steven because he was really helpful when I was trying to find an identity for myself.
“When I was at school, I was always trying to fit in and not stand out from the crowd, and when I decided I wanted to do something new and start my own business, he was a real pioneer in storytelling, and getting the best out of ‘you’.
“I became addicted to his message, and it was working.”
After numerous entrepreneurial efforts, Luxe Collective was born in 2018 when Ben and Joe’s sister wanted a pair of £400 trainers for Christmas, and their mum found a second-hand pair on a French website for £100.
“They were Isabel Marant Beketts that Beyonce wore on her Love on Top video, and they were really popular. I knew they were expensive because all the rich girls at school had them so because my mum used to say we could pick out what we wanted for Christmas for £100, I asked how she had got those.
“When she told me I realised this was how I could afford a pair of luxury brand trainers … and if I didn’t know about this website, there might be other people who don’t.”
Ben reckoned that while it took weeks for its products to arrive in the UK – ‘and might not even be real’ – he could start his own small-scale version here.
“I asked my brother Joe to get involved because I had about £200 which would probably have bought a lace in this industry. He said yes, and put in £1,000 he had left over from a car loan.
“We had £1,200 and literally just bought off eBay and then sold it, and did that again, and again, and again.
“That first year, it was just for a bit of extra money so we could go partying at the weekends and not use our salaries; Joe was working for his friend’s mobile phone company after uni, and I worked for an insurance company but got asked to leave after six weeks for being disruptive.
“So I decided to do this full-time.” And Joe, 28, followed eight months later.
When lockdown hit, Ben considered abandoning the business and looked for delivery jobs, before deciding to use the time to make videos for Luxe Collective – like how to spot a fake from the real thing – in a bid to build the brand while everyone was on their phones.
“By the back end of lockdown, it was going so well we needed to hire someone to help.”
Luxe Collective is now a £5 million business, employs 31 staff, and has 523,000 followers on Instagram and 1.6million on TikTok.
Instead of buying on eBay they now only re-sell the high-name fashion items people no longer want. The profits on individual items aren’t that high, Ben says, but they have become the go to brand, known for their reliability and authenticity.
“We did things properly,” he says. “I am the creative one and Joe is the operations and finance man, and he made sure we didn’t cut corners from the beginning.
“We ordered from our competitors and luxury brands to see where there were flaws or what their packaging was like. We realised to succeed you had to be better, cheaper, or quicker, and we made sure we were all three. The barrier to entry in our business is low, the difficulty was building it to scale.”
He smiles: “We haven’t got lots of money because we reinvest everything – and we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we get to wake up and live life on our own terms. We still spend 12-14 hours a day in the office, but we’ll play pool with the team, have a walk, or stay and watch a film.
“And for two lads who come from a big family and have not been successful working for other people, that’s liberating.”
The relationship with Steven Bartlett is prized: “He’s the coolest, most hip, on-trend entrepreneur and to have him and his team, image and status, is worth millions. His team are so high-quality and being around them stops you becoming complacent, it makes you initiate ideas and makes you more motivated and inspired.
“It’s amazing, a massive motivator and enabler.
“We want to do a lot of out-of-home campaigns and instead of being social media led do more things in-person. We want to create a community whether that’s with community dog walks, pop-up shops, events, activations, or experiences.
“Traditionally, you don’t think the two link, we are building a luxury brand, but we are also trying to get a large number of people together to create an environment where people want to share things, and speak to others, and not by holding a Q&A or a conference.”
The big house and the millions in the bank can wait: “For now I’m obsessed with growing our business,” says Ben.
“It would be great to build a £100m business because that’s a nice round number. In about 10 years? That would be cool.”