For a product that we wear every day, it came as a shock to founders Katie Lopes and Nicola Piercy to learn that only 3 in every 100 pairs of underwear are sustainably sourced.
For a product that we wear every day, it came as a shock to founders Katie Lopes and Nicola Piercy to learn that only 3 in every 100 pairs of underwear are sustainably sourced. This shortfall led to 6 years of research and has formed the foundation of their successful start-up business. Founded in 2017, Stripe & Stare today sell nearly half a million pairs of knickers every year. And they’ve just branched out into boxers for men.
“We wanted to create the comfiest, most environmentally-friendly underwear in the world. There’s an overload of information on sustainability at the moment and we don’t want people to be overwhelmed - the small changes can add up to a big difference”
Typically, you need over 300 litres of water to grow enough cotton for a pair of pants. Add in the herbicides and pesticides to protect the crop, and the impact grows. But going commando doesn’t have to be the answer. Stripe & Stare uses TENCEL™ fabric spun out of wood pulp from sustainable tree farms which uses 95% less water than cotton and the water that’s used is recycled.
“Underwear is often overlooked in the quest for sustainability but once customers try Stripe & Stare, they rarely look back. We benefit from high retention rates and customer loyalty from women and men of all ages. Over the last 12 months our sales have increased 305%, and they’ve more than doubled since we started working with Forward Advances. This has also grown the value of our business, putting us in a stronger position if we need to get more equity finance.”
“What we absolutely didn’t want is to give up more equity, and therefore control, of our business to outside investors. What we liked about Forward Advances is that they are human, it’s not just a computer saying yes or no - they were able to tailor an offer that works for us. We’re a small team so we wanted flexibility and didn’t want a complex, time-consuming facility like invoice factoring.”
Forward Advances offer revenue-based finance for digital businesses such as ecommerce sites. Founders don’t have to provide collateral or personal guarantees. And they’re freed from the tyranny of a fixed repayment schedule.
“Our repayments are based on a percentage of our sales, depending on whether we have a really good or slightly slower month, so it never feels overwhelming. Being exclusively an online brand means they have benefitted from the surge in ecommerce during and post lockdown, so the insights that Forward can provide to us are also really helpful.
The team at Forward Advances plug into a start-up’s data stream to better understand what is driving their business, as Hasam Silva at Forward Advances explains. “By looking at, say, an ecommerce business’ Open Banking data, Shopify stats and Google ads, we get an incredibly detailed picture of how their business is performing, as well as customer insights and market trends. We can use this to feed back to a start-up and say: “you might want to think about targeting this market segment via these channels instead for the next few months”. We’ve seen how these actionable insights have helped some companies to double, even triple sales from month to month. You just won’t get this level of smart, dynamic lending from your traditional high street bank.”
Forward Advances customers also get access to the same Studio team of experts that Forward’s venture portfolio uses. That means ambitious founders like Katie and Nicola can get help with product development, recruitment, building a tech platform, or brand development and at no extra cost.
“What we really like is that at Forward Advances we can work with real humans and leverage our strong relationship to scale with their support”