We loved catching up with Dida from Dida Ritchie, a luxury espadrille brand bridging the gap between the high street and prestige designer labels. Dida only launched in April of this year, however she already has offered us a wealth of knowledge, sharing with us her top tips for finding a factory, the importance of getting an agent when your manufacturer is overseas and the loan she secured from Virgin Start Up. Dida is one savvy entrepreneur to watch and we look forward to seeing Dida Ritchie the brand being on our radar a lot more this year!
Name: Dida Ritchie
D.O.B: 7th June 1993
Where’s home? Dorset
Profession: Founder of Dida Ritchie
Company Name: Dida Ritchie
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
I didn’t go but there was no clear-cut path of what I was going to do. I fell into property and then just stayed until I finally realised it really was not for me.
What is Dida Ritchie and when did you launch?
Dida Ritchie is a luxury espadrille brand bridging the gap between the high street and prestige designer labels. We launched in April this year so it’s very early days!
How did the idea for Dida Ritchie come about?
The idea came about when I went on holiday a few years ago and I couldn’t find a nice pair of espadrilles (I was looking for wedges at the time) that were good quality, smarter than the canvas ones you find in European markets and didn’t completely break the bank!!
After a couple of years of thinking about it and doing some serious research, I felt there was a gap in the market and took the leap to give it a go.
Have you left full time employment to pursue Dida Ritchie full time?
Not quite…I left my full-time job in London to concentrate on the brand but still work part time. I am hoping it won’t be long before I am able to pursue it full time though.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for Dida Ritchie?
I think my biggest challenges were securing finance, I got a loan through Virgin Start Up Scheme, and finding a factory. Without those two I didn’t have a business. The process of getting the loan was pretty intense but really opened my eyes to a lot of aspects of the business I hadn’t really thought about so by the time I received the loan I felt a lot more prepared to launch the business.
How do you go about finding a manufacturer? Any tips you can offer…
It’s tricky but definitely persevere until you find one that you really feel comfortable working with and who truly understands what you are trying to create.
I was lucky in that I was able to immediately narrow my search as I knew that Spain was the place to get espadrilles made, but where in Spain was the question.
After a lot of research and struggling to find a factory that would take me on, I turned to LinkedIn. I signed up to their premium trial and just blasted out email after email until I eventually got some responses and that is how I found my agent.
My top tips for finding a factory though would be:
- Ask anyone and everyone you can think of who might be able to point you in the right direction.
- If you are dealing with a factory overseas, I would advise getting an agent. This does end up costing a bit more but if you can’t speak the language, you need someone to be able to translate properly and oversee the whole process if you can’t be there the whole time. Your agent is also more likely to be able to negotiate costs and payment terms. It could end up saving you money in the long term as well by avoiding mistakes through lack of communication!
- I would stay as local as possible so you are able to work closely with the factory on samples. E.g. stay within the UK/Europe so you are able to travel and develop your product with them before production begins. Once you have the product nailed, you can always move further afield.
How have you raised investment? Or equally how are you raising investment?
I haven’t raised any money and am not looking too at this stage. I just have my loan and am just re-investing any revenue straight back into the company.
Any advice you could give others looking for investment?
Raising investment is something that slightly terrifies me so I am probably not the best person to give advice but I would say you have got to make sure your business plan is solid and be really clear about what you are trying to achieve.
Have you got a mentor?
Yes, you get allocated a mentor through the Virgin Start Up scheme which was one of the main factors for me choosing to apply through them. She has been incredibly helpful and generous with her time and it is so helpful to have the support there when you need it.
Who do you seek out for support and advice (if not a mentor)?
Other than my mentor, it’s friends and family. They have all been so supportive, especially my family who I think I drive mad by talking about the business all the time but they really do help me with any advice – I really couldn’t do it without them!
Do you ever doubt yourselves?
Yes, I think it is only natural to have moments of doubt when you are first starting out. I think you put a lot of pressure on yourself and you have some big decisions to make from the outset. It’s always just a blip though and there is always so much to do that you just have to get on and remember why you are doing what you’re doing.
How are you marketing Dida Ritchie?
At the moment the main way I am marketing the brand is through social media. This year has really been trial and error but I think I have learnt quite a lot (although there is masses more to learn!!) and am currently working on a new marketing strategy which I will implement next year.
How do you think Dida Ritchie differs from the competition out there?
We offer designer quality without the price tag. The shoes are smart, stylish, comfortable and a staple that you can bring out year after year and unlike items you buy on the high street, if the shoes work for you, you will be able to come back and get them again whether that is the next year or three years later.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
It’s going to be a rollercoaster no matter when you start so you might as well hop on and enjoy the ride…
What’s a typical day for you working on Dida Ritchie?
There really isn’t a typical day and it changes all the time but on my day’s where I am able to work on Dida Ritchie full time, I usually wake up and check my emails first thing and post on Instagram. I then sort any orders that have come in, pack them up and take them to the post office. Then it is usually admin. In the afternoons I am either at meetings or liaising with stylists who borrow the shoes for shoots with their clients, working on the website and marketing.
What is the hardest thing about setting up a business alone?
I think although I am very lucky to have a lot of support around me, there is no-one to truly share the journey with and it all falls back to you. I think you end up putting yourself under a lot of pressure but it’s all worth it.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I think the fact that I can pick myself back up pretty quickly when things go wrong
Any fuck ups along the way?
Yes – all the time!
I think my main mistake was trusting an accountant who advised me really badly and not doing the proper research myself – it ended up costing me several thousand pounds and put the unit costs of my shoes up by quite a lot making wholesaling pretty much impossible.
I think it is so important to really understand all the elements of your business and if you don’t, find someone who can really explain it to you. It can be complicated but there is always a way to break it down. I am getting much better at understanding VAT!!
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Dida Ritchie?
Getting returning customers and the feedback I have received. You are always proud of the product you have created but I think when it is appreciated by your customers that is the best feeling.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Do it! There is never a right time and you just have to get started.
What do you think is next for Dida Ritchie in the next year?
We are looking to add in some new colour ways for next year so watch this space!
What’s the dream?
The dream is to be able to work full time on the brand and to be able to create all the ideas I have – there are SO many!!
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you be doing?
I have no idea but I’m glad I’m not doing it!
Finish the end of these sentences…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…food, bills and keeping in touch with friends.
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…I don’t – it doesn’t help the hangover so save it until the next day (or two!)
The Twenty Mile Club is….amazing! It’s reassuring to know we’re all in the same boat…
Find Dida Ritchie online here
Follow Dida Ritchie on instagram here at @didaritchie