Our Start-up of the Week is Dublin-based Skmmp, creator of a virtual showroom and enterprise platform for the fashion business.
“Skmmp is an enterprise supply chain optimisation product for the wholesale fashion industry,” explained Skmmp CEO and founder Aileen Carville.
Skmmp is an Irish ‘fashtech’ start-up based at NDRC focused on helping designers, wholesalers and retailers. Ultimately, end users get more lines of clothing in stores and there is more ease of use throughout the whole channel.
‘Onsite at Fashion Week, we created holograms of our virtual “showroom model”. Buyers could see how the clothes looked and fitted using our augmented reality’
– AILEEN CARVILLE
“We have developed a digital showroom which hosts multiple designer fashion collection catalogues.
“The platform increases wholesaler revenue by extending the buying window from four weeks to 24/7 while allowing them to reach 10 times the number of retailers they can currently service each season.”
Skmmp is focused on the $275bn luxury wholesale fashion market. “We are targeting the medium-to-large global fashion wholesale agencies and showrooms who own 55pc of this market.”
Skmmp’s digital showrooms for designers means they can show their catalogues to wholesalers and retailers, complementing four Fashion Weeks in the year.
Carville has more than 20 years’ experience in the luxury fashion industry.
“I was the head of international wholesale at John Rocha for 12 years and have directed brand wholesale distribution for dozens of established and emerging international fashion brands during London and Paris Fashion Weeks.”
Skmmp builds proprietary digital showrooms for fashion wholesale agencies to work in tandem with their physical showrooms during Fashion Week and beyond. “The Skmmp platform digitally hosts multiple fashion brand collections.
“The collection catalogues, visual assets and product information are uploaded on to the system creating a B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce wholesale ordering tool for the department stores and fashion retail buyers. Orders are inputted by the sales rep on the platform during showroom appointments or completed remotely by the retailer if their buying schedule is too demanding.
“Onsite at Fashion Week, we created holograms of our virtual ‘showroom model’. Buyers could see how the clothes looked and fitted using our augmented reality. In fact, Skmmp is the first digital/physical showroom to create a holographic ‘showroom model’.”
Not only this but Skmmp’s automated order and inventory management system eliminates fulfilment delays that can add weeks to industry cycle times. Order confirmations, invoicing and dispatch documents are generated from a central source, reducing error while providing efficiency for the agency’s sales and accounts teams.
“The platform provides visibility on collection sell-through back to the wholesalers, improving future product design, offer and planning.”
Carville said that the goal for Skmmp is the be number-one digital showroom provider for the global fashion wholesale agency market, operating across all 20 Fashion Weeks, from New York to Tokyo.
“We see a future synergy with some of the bigger B2C (business-to-consumer) online fashion platforms such as Farfetch, Net-a-Porter or Matches.com, where their wholesale orders are generated exclusively from Skmmp.”
A stitch in time
Skmmp launched last season, representing a host of designers during London and Paris Fashion Week. “We processed over €100,000 of orders within eight weeks for the autumn/winter 2018 season.
“It is very rewarding seeing retailers embracing a new way of doing business and completing the wholesale orders online.”
Carvill said that more than 80pc of the orders taken were completed using the digital showroom. “At the moment, we are in the process of a pilot with agencies in London and Paris for the forthcoming Fashion Week. We are currently looking for investment of €600,000 to grow the direct sales team, pushing our customer acquisition forward for the next 18 months.”
Carville believes that meeting challenge after challenge means you are working hard towards something better. “Getting the first round of funding was hard as it is very competitive. However, being funded made the difference of going from a good idea into a real product.
“Decisions about who to take on to the team and finding talent was also tough. Thankfully, that has always worked out well for us.
“All of our business is outside of Ireland, so that is an obvious challenge. We have a strong network of wholesalers in Europe but we want to grow in to the US and Asian markets.”
Make sure you have a defensible value proposition
Carville believes the start-up scene in Ireland has strong supports. “We have availed of some of the start-up support networks and accelerators including New Frontiers, Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund, Dublin BIC and the NDRC.
“We have just completed the LaunchPad accelerator at NDRC. It has been pivotal to our business, enabling us to really challenge the value proposition, target market, and preparing us for our next round of funding. It is by far the best support we have had to date. We have a handful of excellent mentors and industry colleagues helping us.”
Her advice for fellow founders? “Getting initial early-stage funding boils down to having a defensible value proposition.
“Ask yourself, how long can you give your start-up? It takes longer to launch and acquire customers than expected.
“Ensure you have industry knowledge and experience on your team.”
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