This week we sat down with Andy Fallshaw, Co-founder & CEO at Bellroy, to talk product, storytelling and expansion at his trend-setting leather goods e-retailer.

September 18, 2018

Can you tell us a little about your company and role?
We’re Bellroy. We help you carry your everyday things with greater simplicity and ease.

We’re also a certified B Corporation, using business as a force for good. So whether we’re helping you slim your wallet, show up more organised and focused to a meeting, or pioneering new approaches to animal welfare in the leather supply chain, we put everything we have into it. Personally, I’m a co-founder and the CEO. I spend a lot of time with the product teams, as well as helping nurture our brand evolution and growth.

 

What is your biggest priority right now?
My biggest priority is expanding our vision of ‘better carry’ beyond slim wallets. We helped pioneer the shift to smarter wallet design, and our remarkable global growth means that has become our major brand hook. But our vision has always been greater than just wallets, as you can see from Carryology.com, the world’s leading carry blog that we founded before Bellroy even launched.

So we’re working across product, storytelling and channels to make ‘carrying better’ something that more folks want to do, and help inspire them to do it.

 

And what’s your biggest challenge?
We know we can help inspire better ways to carry. When you have the right things on hand, you’re more able to focus, and more willing to seize opportunities. So we’re bringing our carry insights to more carry products. But, from a business sense, we made life hard for ourselves. Our wallets are used and loved for a long time, which means many happy customers won’t return for several years. While that meant we became really good at customer acquisition, we didn’t have the range to drive re-engagement. We now have that range, and we’re learning to tell stories about how it can work together seamlessly.

 

Can you tell us more about how you expanded the product range?
From designing just wallets, we then expanded our categories into other pocket carry – products like phone cases that hold your main cards, and key carry that doesn’t scratch your phone. Then we moved into folios to hold your meeting bits, bags to carry your day’s needs, and then recently bags you can live with 24/7. But the channels that work for selling tiny wallets are subtly different to those that work for selling versatile bags. We always want to show up were our customers will feel most at ease, so we work across direct .com, through marketplaces like Amazon and Tmall, and also through many of the world’s best retailers like Barneys, Huckberry, John Lewis and Patagonia. We have to understand the differences between countries, channels and categories, evolving messaging and offerings to feel compelling and relevant in each.

 

And what results have you seen from the expansion?
Mixed! As you’d expect when you’re trying to understand a diverse global market. Sometimes new projects get traction right out of the gate. But most times, you release a project and then the real learning begins. If you look back at the launch of the iPod, it wasn’t the instant success that most of us remember. It took a couple of years for the support ecosystem around it to grow, for customers to understand why it was better, and for the product to iron out some of the friction with real feedback from real users. And so our closest adjacent products tend to get fast traction. And then the more innovative products we make tend to take longer to finesse before we see the ramp up.

 

What have been your biggest obstacles on the journey so far?
Trying to innovate throws up constant unexpected hurdles. I guess this is why most companies choose to replicate instead. For us, one of the most frequent obstacle we meet is a reluctance to break from the status quo. When we share a new way to do something, it’s hard for people to know how well it will work. If you take our slim wallet comparison ads as an example, it’s really hard to believe that the same number of cards and bills in our wallet, versus a traditional wallet, can truly be that much slimmer. So it’s our responsibility to bring that to life in a transparent and believable way, using sliders and video to show that the benefits are genuine and real. Having a culture that knows innovation takes time and feedback to get right feels like a really important lesson.

 

What is the end goal here?
Our end goal is world flourishing. In the meantime, if we can build strong models of what resonates where and why, we should be able to stoke more customers in more places, and build the platform that can feed our world flourishing ambitions.

 

Finally, if you could start the business all over again, would you do anything differently?
I’d be hesitant to change much. So often our best learning comes from the things that didn’t work, and so I’d worry that eliminating our mistakes would eliminate how well we’ve learned those lessons. But that sounds a bit like a cop-out, so perhaps one of the things I wish we’d realised sooner is how important strategic alignment is across the whole company. When you’re small, alignment happens mostly through osmosis. But as a business grows, you need to prioritize more and more time and effort into communicating and coordinating the key projects, and getting everyone pulling in in the same direction. The more we grow, the more I need to keep learning that.

This week we sat down with Andy Fallshaw, Co-founder & CEO at Bellroy, to talk product, storytelling and expansion at his trend-setting leather goods e-retailer.

September 18, 2018

Can you tell us a little about your company and role?
We’re Bellroy. We help you carry your everyday things with greater simplicity and ease.

We’re also a certified B Corporation, using business as a force for good. So whether we’re helping you slim your wallet, show up more organised and focused to a meeting, or pioneering new approaches to animal welfare in the leather supply chain, we put everything we have into it. Personally, I’m a co-founder and the CEO. I spend a lot of time with the product teams, as well as helping nurture our brand evolution and growth.

 

What is your biggest priority right now?
My biggest priority is expanding our vision of ‘better carry’ beyond slim wallets. We helped pioneer the shift to smarter wallet design, and our remarkable global growth means that has become our major brand hook. But our vision has always been greater than just wallets, as you can see from Carryology.com, the world’s leading carry blog that we founded before Bellroy even launched.

So we’re working across product, storytelling and channels to make ‘carrying better’ something that more folks want to do, and help inspire them to do it.

 

And what’s your biggest challenge?
We know we can help inspire better ways to carry. When you have the right things on hand, you’re more able to focus, and more willing to seize opportunities. So we’re bringing our carry insights to more carry products. But, from a business sense, we made life hard for ourselves. Our wallets are used and loved for a long time, which means many happy customers won’t return for several years. While that meant we became really good at customer acquisition, we didn’t have the range to drive re-engagement. We now have that range, and we’re learning to tell stories about how it can work together seamlessly.

 

Can you tell us more about how you expanded the product range?
From designing just wallets, we then expanded our categories into other pocket carry – products like phone cases that hold your main cards, and key carry that doesn’t scratch your phone. Then we moved into folios to hold your meeting bits, bags to carry your day’s needs, and then recently bags you can live with 24/7. But the channels that work for selling tiny wallets are subtly different to those that work for selling versatile bags. We always want to show up were our customers will feel most at ease, so we work across direct .com, through marketplaces like Amazon and Tmall, and also through many of the world’s best retailers like Barneys, Huckberry, John Lewis and Patagonia. We have to understand the differences between countries, channels and categories, evolving messaging and offerings to feel compelling and relevant in each.

 

And what results have you seen from the expansion?
Mixed! As you’d expect when you’re trying to understand a diverse global market. Sometimes new projects get traction right out of the gate. But most times, you release a project and then the real learning begins. If you look back at the launch of the iPod, it wasn’t the instant success that most of us remember. It took a couple of years for the support ecosystem around it to grow, for customers to understand why it was better, and for the product to iron out some of the friction with real feedback from real users. And so our closest adjacent products tend to get fast traction. And then the more innovative products we make tend to take longer to finesse before we see the ramp up.

 

What have been your biggest obstacles on the journey so far?
Trying to innovate throws up constant unexpected hurdles. I guess this is why most companies choose to replicate instead. For us, one of the most frequent obstacle we meet is a reluctance to break from the status quo. When we share a new way to do something, it’s hard for people to know how well it will work. If you take our slim wallet comparison ads as an example, it’s really hard to believe that the same number of cards and bills in our wallet, versus a traditional wallet, can truly be that much slimmer. So it’s our responsibility to bring that to life in a transparent and believable way, using sliders and video to show that the benefits are genuine and real. Having a culture that knows innovation takes time and feedback to get right feels like a really important lesson.

 

What is the end goal here?
Our end goal is world flourishing. In the meantime, if we can build strong models of what resonates where and why, we should be able to stoke more customers in more places, and build the platform that can feed our world flourishing ambitions.

 

Finally, if you could start the business all over again, would you do anything differently?
I’d be hesitant to change much. So often our best learning comes from the things that didn’t work, and so I’d worry that eliminating our mistakes would eliminate how well we’ve learned those lessons. But that sounds a bit like a cop-out, so perhaps one of the things I wish we’d realised sooner is how important strategic alignment is across the whole company. When you’re small, alignment happens mostly through osmosis. But as a business grows, you need to prioritize more and more time and effort into communicating and coordinating the key projects, and getting everyone pulling in in the same direction. The more we grow, the more I need to keep learning that.

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