A FORMER shop assistant who launched a fashion website loved by celebrities has revealed how she copes running a £40m business empire and looking after twins.
Emma Watkinson, 32, from London, co-founded clothing retailer SilkFred in 2011 – since then she’s basked in success, scooping countless fashion awards.
The women’s clothing site sells from 600 independent brands and has been hugely popular with celebrities and influencers, including the Made in Chelsea cast and past Love Islanders.
Louise Thompson, Ashley James, Binky Felstead and Cara De La Hoyde are just some of the stars spotted in SilkFred brands.
Born in Liverpool, Emma studied English at university, but in her heart, she had always dreamed of running her own shop.
She began her career working part-time at Whistles and went on to work for fashion magazines with various retailers.
But a chance meeting with Stephen Jackson, a financial trader, while she was working for a boutique company in Marbella, meant her dream was finally realised.
When the pair returned to London, they met to talk over a business idea. His friend had invested in an independent handbag brand, and he needed advice on how to make it grow.
For Emma, it was finally her opportunity to help all the independent brands she loved get to market, and show high street customers something new an exciting.
They co-founded SilkFred alongside Stephen’s sister Kate.
The trio secured investment from three investors, who Emma calls her ‘angels’, allowing them to build the technology needed to sign up brands and sell their fashionable clothes.
They began crowdfunding for the money they needed and after some time raised £145,000.
Emma told the Mail Online: “We had to work hard to keep the business funded, especially when we didn’t have much traction. Even when we started to grow, it was still a struggle.
“Traditional investors didn’t see our potential, we weren’t the next Facebook as far as they were concerned.
“Our angel investors were there from the beginning and the new ones we found along the way believed in us and backed us as we continued to bring them better and better results.”
Emma recalls the early days of business being ‘exciting’ but ‘tough’ and ‘lonely’, adding: “It was scary and fun all at the same time.”
“The first challenge was getting to buy into our dream,” she said. “No one had ever heard of the brands we wanted to work with, no one had heard of us. I had very few contacts.”
The businesswoman admits they struggled to find their audience at first, but after a steep learning curve, they got things up and running.
“We have a team of brand scouts who go to trade shows, markets and events,” she continued. “They always have their fingers on the pulse and always searching for new brands on social media.”
Emma, who is now married and the mother to 10-month-old twins, believes her struggles in business, however, have made her a ‘stronger and more resilient person’.
Her average day involves waking at 6am to feed her daughters, before sharing a coffee with husband Victor and heading to her office.
She then has meeting after meeting with team members, brands and investors before catching up on emails in the afternoon.
But Emma always tries to find time to get home to bath her daughters and put them to bed at 7pm, before having to tie up her day with phone calls.
The day ends by scrolling through emails before heading to bed – with Emma admitting she struggles to switch off as she constantly thinks about her brand.
“I enjoy thinking through how to solve problems or come up with new ideas to make life better for our brands and customers,” she explained.
SilkFred has been nominated for two Retail Week Awards, the best fashion retailer in 2019 and best emerging retail.