Vivienne Westwood’s show during the February 2019 London Fashion Week stunned audience members by using the catwalk as a political platform to denounce climate change and promote sustainability. In fact, models in repurposed fabrics strutted down the runway, megaphones in hand, critiquing consumerism. With that in mind, it may be the most opportune time for SupplyCompass, the first UK-based design-to-delivery sustainable, sourcing platform, to start making a name for itself in the global supply chain. SupplyCompass’ cloud-based platform matches brands with world-class suppliers and manufacturers, who are rigorously vetted and hand-picked to ensure responsible manufacturing practices. Numerous fashion and homeware brands that earn revenue between £500K and £10M count on SupplyCompass’s service, knowing that the team goes above-and-beyond (including frequent factory visits) to ensure all of its partnering manufacturers adhere to the highest level of responsible manufacturing practices.
London TechWatch spoke with cofounder Flora Davidson about revolutionising the global supply chain industry, the company’s future plans, and recent round of Seed funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
£1.5M seed funding. Led by Episode 1 alongside Mumbai and London-based Unicorn Ascension, Ascension Ventures, as well as Andy Chung and Philipp Moehring from AngelList.
The deal makes SupplyCompass the first UK-based sourcing company to receive funding of this level – a huge leap forward in supply chain innovation and sustainably-manufactured goods for consumers across the globe.
SupplyCompass is a design-to-delivery sourcing platform that provides an efficient and sustainable solution for global supply chains delivering products for fashion and interiors brands.
Based in London and Mumbai, SupplyCompass uniquely combines its strong supply chain partnerships, with its cloud-based platform technology and team of production experts, to make sustainable sourcing and ongoing manufacturing management easy, fast, and efficient.
Within one day, suitable fashion and interiors companies are matched with a manufacturer at no cost. Final pricing is based on a commission structure that depends on the order value and manufacturing costs. SupplyCompass then operates on a three-stage approach:
Intuitive product development: accelerates the design development process with simplified processes, digital tech packs, and sustainably-led designing
Trusted manufacturer selection: matches brands with world-class suppliers and manufacturers, using SupplyCompass’s visited, vetted, and hand-picked extensive network, who adhere to responsible manufacturing practices
Streamlined production management: creates fast and efficient global supply chains by helping brands operate via a single dashboard with structured processes and collaborative manufacturer relationships
What inspired you to start SupplyCompass?
For businesses that produce a product, setting up a reliable supply chain is often cited as their biggest challenge. Finding the right manufacturer that meets the time, cost, quality, and ethical requirements of a business is time consuming and costly. Even after you’ve found a suitable partner, building a trusted relationship and working efficiently together is full of challenges too. It really is hard to find good factories internationally, and the process is very old and informal. Additionally, there are very few online resources to find good factories.
My cofounder and I lived in India when we first started out. This allowed us to make our first relationships in person and experience all the challenges that manufacturers faced first hand. We soon realized that there needed to be a tool to not only connect brands and manufacturers but also enable the process to be simplified and more automated, which ultimately enables the production process to run more smoothly.
How is SupplyCompass different?
SupplyCompass is part vetted manufacturer marketplace and part production management platform for fashion and interiors brands. Unlike competitors that have focused their efforts on solving pain points purely for brands, SupplyCompass is equally weighted in providing a solution that works for international manufacturers and suppliers, as well as brands, by streamlining the whole design development and production process from start to finish.
How have the materials and process to produce garments changed in the past year?
Sustainability has undeniably become an even bigger buzz word within the fashion industry this year, and this February, London Fashion Week shone a direct light on sustainable fashion. Sustainability is so intrinsically linked to supply chains, design development, raw materials selection, manufacturer compliance / environmental impact, packaging and logistics. After many years of sustainability being an add-on and after-thought, or not considered commercially viable, it’s exciting to see the fashion industry reach a tipping point in 2019. Consumers, brands, and policymakers are suddenly aligned in their agendas and, for the first time, are working together to drive change. I believe in the next decade, sustainability will sit at the heart of, and impact, every decision made from design through to delivery for fashion brands.
What market is SupplyCompass targeting and how big is it?
On the brand side, we are focusing on working with fashion and homewares businesses that have between £500K and £10M in revenue. Predominantly they are European brands; however, we have increasingly had lots of interest from Australia and the U.S.
On the manufacturing side, we have manufacturers around the globe, but our main hot spots are the Indian Subcontinent and mainland Europe.
What’s your business model?
Brands pay a percentage of the order value they place with the manufacturer as a service charge. We always aim to beat brands target production prices inclusive of our fees, so it usually ends up being very affordable for the brands compared to what they currently pay – especially when you include the work we remove from their internal teams.
What was the funding process like?
London is a great place to be seeking funding with more and more VCs playing in the Seed space. We found it to be a very useful exercise to really reflect and question the what and the why of our product.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Funding can easily turn into a full-time job so finding the time to secure funding whilst also growing the business was a hard balance to strike.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our unique position in the market is equally weighted in providing a solution that works for international manufacturers, suppliers, and brands.
Adrian Lloyd (partner) from Episode 1 says: “The SupplyCompass team is exceptionally knowledgeable about the fashion supply chain and all evidence suggests they are execution machines. We are extremely excited to fund their growth and technology development, which we believe will help them develop into a very large and famous company whilst increasing the sustainability of a currently unsustainable industry.”
“The SupplyCompass team is exceptionally knowledgeable about the fashion supply chain and all evidence suggests they are execution machines. We are extremely excited to fund their growth and technology development, which we believe will help them develop into a very large and famous company whilst increasing the sustainability of a currently unsustainable industry.”
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We will focus on developing our technology and expanding our curated marketplace of best-in-class international manufacturers. Particular emphasis will be placed on the earlier stages of the sourcing process, where greater opportunities lie for establishing sustainable practices, including manufacturer matching, design development and sampling.
What advice can you offer companies in London that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Be savvy with how you spend the money you have. You can do a huge amount yourself in the beginning and make any capital that you do have stretch a very long way if you spend it wisely.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our focus is on rapidly improving our technology, growing out our team across the UK and India and helping an ever-increasing number of brands source product sustainably and efficiently.
Where is the best place in London to watch the sunset?