Having grown up on the South Coast, Jon Walker and his girlfriend Liz Raffles knew of all the quality retailers in Winchester providing men’s clothing. They both found that sourcing luxury accessories and gifts for men outside of London was very difficult, and saw a gap in the market.
As a result of this Jon and Liz decided to start their own business and, with help from the Start & Grow programme, opened up their shop The Mantique in Winchester in November 2015.
With a clear idea in mind they set out to make this business a reality but, with a background in the financial services industry for Jon, and 14 years as a professional yacht skipper for Liz, they had no retail knowledge whatsoever; this was where Start & Grow began to support them.
Through the programme Jon and Liz were matched with Sue Davitt, a knowledgeable and experienced business adviser from Enterprise First, who provided The Mantique with feedback on their business plan, one-to-one mentoring and access to various funding sources through Virgin StartUp.
Test trading began online in April 2015 but it was 7 months later that they began trading from their premises in Winchester, selling only 100% British products made by British designers ranging from exceptional quality leather bags, briefcases and laptop cases through to socks, underwear and grooming products. The Mantique now has a fantastic e-commerce site that allows customers to shop online and get their purchases delivered.
At present, Jon and Liz are the only members of staff, however they are looking to grow the business in 2016 by taking on one or two more employees and, within the next three years, plan to open up more shops.
They were hoping to receive support, through the Start & Grow programme, that would help them shape their business and a mentor that would see them grow as time progressed – and they haven’t been disappointed! When asked whether they could have achieved similar results without Start & Grow, Jon said; “Not at all. We are delighted with the support we have received and we look forward to having our meetings with our mentor.”