“We had a really tough time when some of those names began to disappear. We’d always done a bit of direct to consumer marketing, so 12-18 months ago we put a strategy together to build that side of the business up, and it’s going really well.”
Saving the world from tedious baby products is all in a day’s work for Cosatto. Driven by the desire to disrupt the lack-lustre baby products dominating the market, Andrew created this dynamic 50-strong company, which is thriving due to its direct to consumer pivot.
He explains that, “A frustration of working with big retailers is that out of the 100 products you might show them, they’ll often select one, so high street shoppers would get a very limited view of the Cosatto brand.
This, along with a financial need to drive sales, made us want to target consumers directly, but we didn’t think we’d do as well as we have in recent months. Partly it’s a result of shops closing, but it’s also because we’ve been improving our online business for a while and using specialists for things like SEO and PPC.”
Andrew has lived his working career both at the bottom and at the top, so he knows exactly what it’s like to both be succeeding and struggling — and how important it is to draw on collective strengths to get through the challenging times.
“The friendships built from tight working groups is one of the best things about Vistage. You get people with different businesses, operating on different scales but everyone has something useful and unique to share.
“Like many people, I was badly affected by the early 2000s recession. I had a bigger business connected to the nursery and baby equipment industry that expanded too quickly, and I ended up in a bit of a mess. It was a really tough time as I’d started the business when I was 17 and ran it for 28 years, so effectively it was my life. The only way forward was to put the business into administration and to keep Cosatto. It all happened the week of a Vistage meeting.
“At that meeting, having shared my fears with the group, I got a fantastic bit of advice. It came from a PR Consultant who said the best thing I could do was to manage my communications and to put out the story the way I wanted it to be told. On the way back from Hong Kong, having spoken to my suppliers, I prepared statements for the industry, our customers etc. so that when the news broke everyone got the same correct story and rumours didn’t emerge. It worked. In many ways, that’s one of the best things about Vistage.
“You get people with different businesses, operating on different scales, but everyone has something useful and unique to share. I’ve always said that while the speakers are phenomenal, the biggest benefit is the fantastic advice, guidance and experience you get from your peers at group sessions. That’s where the real nuggets of gold are – just being able to throw out a problem to others in your group.”
Andrew’s experiences are a perfect example of how quickly circumstances can change — and how people like him can help others going through similar situations.
On Cosatto’s changing business model, he notes, “There’s also a degree of luck, as it’s all come together just at the right time. Going through this process with my Vistage group has been interesting as quite a few members are just dipping their toes in the water in terms of taking their brand directly to consumers. One member had to turn his pre-COVID wholesale business into a retail business almost overnight. I’ve been able to give pointers as to what’s worked for us, and it’s been good sharing those experiences.’
“Whenever I’ve gone in with an issue, I’ll get as many as 15 different opinions or bits of advice thrown at me, which ultimately enables me to make a better-quality decision. Sometimes when I’m helping someone through a problem, it’ll also help me see what I should be doing myself! There’s a lot of commonality between businesses, even if they’re vastly different.
“We’ve all got staff and finance issues, and we all have customers and suppliers. COVID has been new territory for all of us, and our twice-weekly group Zoom calls have been a lifeline, enabling me to get advice on any issue. One of the members is an HR expert, so she’s been advising on the furlough scheme. Another guy had a counsellor friend whose services I was able to offer my team. In the 17 years I've been a member I’ve learnt so much from Vistage, and I’ve done things within the business I wouldn’t have done without that advice and support. The fact I’ve been a member for so long is, in itself, proof of its value. I certainly don’t think I’d be here today doing the things I’m doing to this degree of success without Vistage’s help.”
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