This month, we’ve been catching up with Claire Harper, founder of the award-winning childrenswear brand, IndiaCoco.
A successful career working in high level positions for some of the UK’s biggest retailers has given mum of two, Claire Harper, a wealth of experience – and now she’s putting it to great use with her own new business, IndiaCoco.
Claire’s previous roles include Head of Advertising at Argos, Head of Marketing at Ocado, Head of Online Marketing at Sainsbury’s and, most recently, Marketing Director at Mamas & Papas.
But while her wealth of experience may be impressive, Claire walked away from the security of a corporate career to launch her own venture, fully aware that going solo would present her with lots of new challenges – not least taking full responsibility for any decisions she makes, good and bad...
1.Sum up your brand in no more than 10 words.
Uncompromising, Remarkable, Courageous, Original, Unbound
2.What was the initial inspiration for setting up IndiaCoco?
There were two catalysts behind Claire’s decision to go solo – the first was her five-year milestone at Mamas & Papas, “Five years in a job is always a bit of a turning point for me. I get slightly itchy feet. I have always been very driven and I am always looking for the next opportunity.”
The second was the birth of her second daughter, India, who along with her sister, Coco, provided inspiration for brand’s name.
3.What drives IndiaCoco forward?
While IndiaCoco may not be a radical departure from other childrenswear retailers, Claire strongly believes that a new company in a crowded market needs a differentiator, “For IndiaCoco it’s about doing things professionally and well, building a strong brand and offering great quality product and exceptional customer service. I am so passionate about the customer and I have worked for some fabulous customer-centric companies – some more so than others! Sometimes I would get so frustrated with colleagues at senior levels who just don’t understand the customer. We spend a lot of time working out what customers want and who they are – it is a process that never stops.”
4.What’s been the most exciting moment for you personally since you launched the brand?
"There have been many proud moments..." Since launching from the dining room in 2012, IndiaCoco has caught the eye of some of the UK’s most renowned entrepreneurs. "In June 2013 we won a WOW award from Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers and in the same month, we were shortlisted for the Wakefield Business Awards as New Business of the Year. In September of that year, we also won a Small Business Sunday award from businessman Theo Paphitis."
In May 2014, IndiaCoco won Online Retailer of the Year at the Wakefield Retail Awards and then in November we went on to win New Business of the Year at the Huddersfield Examiner Business Awards.
Another achievement has been the use of marketing to promote the IndiaCoco brand. Claire’s previous corporate experience has enabled her to promote IndiaCoco to a wide international and UK customer base through powerful joint marketing campaigns with other like-minded British brands, including Ocado, Neom Organics (luxury home fragrance and body care products), and award-winning family attraction Yorkshire Sculpture Park and luxury hotel Raithwaite Hall, based in Whitby.
Social media and PR have been key channels for growing the IndiaCoco brand, and have played a significant role in brand positioning and marketing communications. Widespread coverage has also been achieved with UK and international bloggers and national print press. Claire has also been involved in many high profile business speaker opportunities, launching new business community initiatives and was recently the lead judge for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards at Wakefield Girls’ High School. Claire is a key business speaker across the UK.
5.What’s the biggest challenge for your business?
“The understanding that it takes a long time to build a strong brand. It is incredibly tempting to accept every opportunity, even if you’re not ready.”
Claire takes the view now that it is better to crawl, and then walk, and then run, “Keep focused and keep it simple.”
Another valuable less that Claire has learnt is not be afraid of failure, “If you are really entrepreneurial and have the passion and self-belief to go forward, a few failures don’t count.”
6.What encouraged you to put more focus on IndiaCoco’s digital presence?
“This is a key area of focus for the brand and the need to keep moving forwards and evolve our online offer to ensure we keep innovating with some exciting web developments around mobile applications, embracing new technology and making it even easier for International customers to order with IndiaCoco.”
7.How did you first hear about Statement?
Dan, Statement's Director, followed IndiaCoco’s activity from the company’s launch and Claire always remembers the day he turned up as the only male at an event Claire was speaking at as part of International Women’s Day. Dan wanted to know more about the IndiaCoco brand and Claire was very intrigued by that!
“Statement are a very forward thinking agency working in true partnership with their clients and we are delighted to be sharing our journey with Statement and looking forward to working together in the next phase of our brand development.”
8.What’s next for IndiaCoco?
IndiaCoco is now a multi-channel retailer, and Claire is currently planning to roll out the brand across the UK in community-based locations. Claire is also look at expanding ranges and own-label product development within the baby category and is excited to be researching this area of product extension.
“We are very excited to be growing a strong brand,” enthuses Claire, “Our customers will always come first and we will continue to work extremely hard to really go that extra mile. Nearly two years in, our adventure is only just beginning and we are off to a great start – every day brings new reasons to feel inspired and excited about our future.
We love what we do, we will continue to understand our customer base, be passionate about our product and growing and developing a great team who all share the IndiaCoco values.
We are also very proud to be supporting our chosen charity The Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield”.