MY DEETS

Karl Rutterford,

Ralph & Co. HQ

Cambridgeshire

​email : karl@consultralphandco.co.uk

Mobile : 07468 496 293

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Consult Ralph & Co. is a trading style of Ralph & Co. vintage 

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 DECORATIVE ANTIQUES & INTERIORS 

THE STORY

Building a profitable business.

"This is my start-up story. Discover how I launched a business in the digital space. No training, no degrees, just an idea. I turned my dream into an established brand, which ultimately delivered six-figure profits"

Here is proof that with INTEGRITY, PASSION and HARD WORK, anyone can achieve their dreams

The journey started here.

It's mid 2015, and I'm at TESCO headquarters in Hertfordshire spending my last day with this global company...

Twenty two years have passed since I started my first role on the checkouts in Cambridgeshire. At 17, this was 'the cool' thing to do while studying for my A-Levels. All of my mates were working there, so it kinda felt like a second home. That said, I'm frequently asked as I walk towards the manager "Can you go and help with the trolleys please Karl". Yep you got it, this was not a cool look at this age...

I remember dreading those words on a Saturday morning, but I knew I had to keep my head down and get on with it. To be honest, I had to. At this stage I remember having no career aspirations, so instead I just concentrated on becoming as versatile as possible. Roles on the checkouts, coffee shop and shop floor passed, but little did I know the impression I was making. I remember having fun working in-store, and I'd like to think that I got on well with customers and colleagues alike

 

A promotion to shop floor manager was next. At 21, I was young and inexperienced, but I was given the opportunity by a wonderful lady. Today Jackie Kirby remains my idol. She was full of beans, hard working and was so appreciative of what I did. She would always say "hello" and always said "thank you". I think I loved her a little bit, she was so endearing. She taught me some morals that I hold firmly with me today. I respected her so much

Moving up the corporate ladder.

A few years have passed, and I'm now based in Welwyn Garden City. The headquarters for Tesco.com...

 

A speculative written letter and CV somehow lands me an interview at Tesco head office...

  • During my diverse career at Tesco, I was exposed to a wealth of established brands and companies. I was essentially being brainwashed into thinking like a marketeer. How they reach customers, what strategies they use, and how they evolve their business

  • I would eventually manage accounts for some of the world's finest brands; Coca Cola, Cadbury, Moet & Henessey and Nestle, to name just a few. Here, I became a strong negotiator. Selling advertising, managing strategies and discovering the world of marketing and customer experience

  • Becoming a senior leader was a natural progression. Managing large teams was challenging, but boy did I learn a lot. I was renowned as a 'people manager', I would always say 'hello' and thank you - it was important to me to put people first. Tesco was my education in business, and in life skills...

  • Having progressed naturally 'up the Tesco ladder', my 'people skills' were the main driver. After a variety of senior positions, 'Head of Partner Communications', for TESCO Direct Marketplace, would be my last  

I wonder if I could launch my own business one day? Maybe a toy shop?

Growing up, collecting.

I've always been a collector; toys, trainers, art and antiques - you name it. Anything colourful, vibrant or with good branding had me hooked...

On the hunt for the above, there was never an intention to use the items. I'd realised that I was hooked on the packaging and the design. Charity shops, car boot sales and even the local tip. I was hunting with intent, trying to find something cool and decorative to put in my bedroom

 

At 16, I was fortunate to be picked to play football in West Germany. I wanted to bring something home from my first trip abroad. All I could find that resonated with me was a glass Coca-Cola bottle. This one looked way cooler than the ones in the UK...

 

I bought it home, stood it in my bedroom and the world of branding and design had me intrigued. Anything with colour and a creative hook, made me crave the next thing to collect...

 

...Coke bottles are stacking up, sticker albums are flooding in from eBay, and the toys I had fond memories of as a kid are giving me a creative 'kick'. As bonkers as it sounds, I just wanted the boxes and the artwork, not the contents

At this stage, I started to stash stuff away in the loft. Years later, I would understand the true value of 'my car boot finds'. Was I already thinking like a business man? Or was this just pure luck...?

Inspired to start my own business.

Years later I stumble across two chaps on SKY TV, driving around the USA hunting for rusty stuff. Turns out they were called Mike and Frank. I'm blown away. "These dudes do this for a living!?" Wow, so envious right now...

Inspired by THE AMERICAN PICKERS, I decide to design some posters of my own - to hand out locally. The ultimate goal is to see if I could emulate Mike and Frank, and uncover some cool stuff for my collections. I've named myself 'Vintage Picks', swiped some images from Google and off I go. Check me out, I'm a business man over night!

 

Unfortunately 'my business plan' ended pretty quickly. I 'door dropped' 50 leaflets, waited for an email or two, but got no response. I mean, surely it is that simple right!? I guess I thought I'd failed with my poor marketing campaign, so I'm back, focused on my career at Tesco and collecting is just a hobby

 

Looking back now, I guess Ralph & Co. Vintage was the culmination of the above...

  • Voluntary redundancy came as a shock. 22 years with a global business, Tesco is all I know. I am so proud with what I've achieved in my career so far, but actually I am now excited to leave. I have a feeling that I want to start my own business...

  • I've got some A's in my GCSE's, but I've only scraped my A-Levels. I've not been to university, and I have no degrees or significant qualifications. I do have a dream however...

Can I really start my own business with the above in mind?

2015 - Year 1.

I've now left Tesco, and Ralph & Co. Vintage Ltd is born. My pen hit the paper and my strategy is in place. I know exactly what I want to do...

Within days, my business plan is in place. My son Ralph is a few months old, and we are playing in my storage container. I'm capturing the first pictures for my website and I place an old hat on his head. The next day, the logo for my business is born...

 

I've pulled together some stock. Items were normally of an eclectic nature, given my tastes for decorative things. I've also been studying what my competitors were buying for sometime, so I knew that I wanted to bring something different to the market. I wanted to put my own stamp and style on the antiques and interiors industry

I've set up a business account with £5,000 cash. I have a vision, but I have never run my own business before, so the path ahead is unclear. I am however full of confidence and self belief...

 

I've done my research, I know my target audience and I know exactly what I want to be renowned for. This is it, I'm off...

 

 

So proud and excited Ralph & Co., the website is LIVE!. I no longer have a pay packet coming at the end of the month. Shit literally just got real!

  • Great news. My website launches and gains traction immediately. I got a sale on day one!

  • My social media presence is building nicely and I'm getting some great support from my friends and family

  • I'm selling a lot of items and profits are already strong

  • I'm getting a good feeling. This business idea COULD ACTUALLY WORK

Year 1, I'm flying and growing fast. I need to expand ASAP...

2016 - Still Year 1.

I've invested in a larger space to trade from, and this is a game changer. Footfall is strong and profits continue to grow...

I've been told so many times 'he's got such a good eye' and 'he's so creative'. Given my career, I have become a good 'all rounder' in business. One could say a 'jack of all trades', who can turn his hand to anything in the 'digital space'

 

When running your own business, results are important. Profits and financial gain is what you strive for. For me, I have a certain precision in how I like to do things. Yes profits are important to me, but I like to make them the right way. Throw in a huge chunk of integrity, passion and pure grit - then this makes for a very successful business model

 

As Ralph & Co. continues to grow, customer loyalty is very apparent. Equally, I'm continuing to get an influx of positive messages (almost daily). "I love your website", "I love your branding" and "wish I could do what you are doing". Check this. People were already asking for my help and advice. Not just people like you and I, business owners! At such a young stage of being a business owner, I am literally buzzing...

At this stage, major retailers started to discover my items and even celebrities turned up for a look around my showroom. It was so overwhelming, and being honest, I was just trying to keep up with demand. I never could have predicted this!

 

As my Ralph & Co. brand continued to gain strength and traction, my learning curve goes up a notch...

  • What came with quick success was a frightening word called VAT. I've hit the VAT threshold already! (shit). This is a whole new world to me

  • By the end of year one, my business is growing faster than I could ever have imagined. Right now, life is good. I am an entrepreneur...

Year 1 ends. Six-figure revenues and five figure profits, Wow!

Meticulous Planning.

So after one year of trading as a start-up business, I've delivered six-figure sales and five-figure profits. So chuffed...

According to Google, 2019...

 "The majority of start-up businesses do not start turning a profit until as late as the third year". Generating a profit in your first year as a company, can't be expected

As a consultant today, I am asked to support business owners in the digital space. Getting the customer experience right from day one is vital. Meticulous planning is what enabled me to hit the ground running.

 

My strategy, USP, branding and website were important

BUT...

One has to have the right ingredients too; resilience, confidence and integrity. I got it right, BUT IT WAS HARD WORK

If you are reading this, and are thinking of taking the leap, please check out my suite of business workshops

 

These are designed to show you how to emulate my success, and how to build your own successful business

Website Builder.

Relevant | Responsive | Designed

" Would you like to build and manage your own website? Let me show you how "

Taking the leap.

Business Plan | Strategy | Launch

" A face-to-face business workshop, turning your big idea into a successful business "

Being Digital.

Customer Experience | Marketing | SEO

" Learn how to be relevant, responsive and optimised, to maximise your potential in the digital space"

2017 - Year 2.

Things are going great. Customer demand is strong, but my signature items are becoming harder to find. I decide to diversify my range and offering...

Google, 2019

I am renowned for selling unique pieces, but I also have competition. Now that I have a strong customer base, it's time to evolve into new areas. By adding a wider range, including furniture and lighting, it means I appeal to a wider audience
 
Great news. My new strategy worked. My website continues to be very busy. Chasing followers and likes, wasn't my strategy. That's why I concentrated on organic growth, allowing my website to do the talking for me... 

 

With over 300,000 page views, and a stunning 4% website bounce rate, the compliments continue to pour in. "Your website is second to none", "Your marketing is amazing" and "I love how sincere you are"

 

My website was my USP. Why? I made it easy for a customer to buy from me. Personal, handwritten content, good quality images and using 'models' to add scale to each piece. My website was 'sticky', and I made it a fun customer experience...

"How on earth did you build your website?" or "how did you gain traction in this industry so fast?". Questions I was asked so often

  • Items continue to sell as fast as I find them, and a post on social media guarantees sales. My showroom is busy and I'm acquiring new customers

  • Dealers in the antiques trade are contacting me to ask for advice, and value my opinion on their business strategy 

 

  • As my business evolves, I feel that I can tackle anything. I'm able to adapt and able to overcome challenges put before me. I manage to stay positive and focused, whilst protecting my profits at the same time

I'm loving running my own business, because I am making customers happy and inspiring others. The energy and 'mind games' that this takes however, is incredible. The cost? Family time and sleep time! I'm absolutely exhausted...

Year 2 ends. Six-figure sales and five-figure profits again. Strong year on year growth. Established...

Resilience, passion & pure grit.

Year two was about growth, and getting used to the impact of VAT. I would discover first hand the highs and lows of running a business...

Another great year financially. In two years, I have a profitable start-up business that continues to grow

 "What became very clear is how good I am as a business man. I may not be an antiques dealer, and I certainly do not know everything about the trade I am. But, I do know how to run a business in the digital space, effectively...

Broken parcels, stolen goods and exhaustion would test my resolve. The impact of VAT took some adjusting to, but strategic thinking enabled me to protect my profits...

Early starts and 'being vacant' at night would become the norm. Balancing being a family man and a business man was another stage of my learning curve. I didn't always get it right...

 

2018 - Year 3.

I remember looking at my watch, and pushing the snow away. It's 5.30am, I am in a field up North and I can't feel my feet. Something's up... 

I can now namedrop a huge list of customers and clients who purchase from Ralph & Co. Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty of London and Ralph Lauren, to name a few. I am so chuffed to be in this position in year 3, and more importantly being able to provide for my family doing something I love

Truth is though, I don't think I am enjoying it anymore...

Rather than make a snap decision, I try out some new ideas to drive my brand forward, which keep me interested in my current business. I create a complementary 'secret cinema' at my showroom, which is an instant success. This increases footfall to my showroom and again adds another stream to my revenues

 

Unfortunately it is just a distraction. It's back... Why am I doing this? This isn't what I want to do anymore. I've actually just had one of my busiest months ever and business is thriving. Why am I not feeling it?

It's finally hit me, and it's time to stop. I'VE LOST MY PASSION FOR BUYING AND SELLING ANTIQUES. As part of my ethos, I am a firm believer in walking into work with a smile. I wasn't.

Being a business man, you have to make big decisions. Fortunately, I have a habit of making good ones. This was another of many that I had to make. I am no longer passionate about the end product...

I've had many opportunities to support others during my tenure as an antiques trader, but never had the time. I've thought back to all those compliments and positivity towards my business, and now is the right time to capitalise on that interest

Year 3 ends. Six-figure sales and five-figure profits again. While my business is thriving, it's time to evolve...

Introducing Consult Ralph & Co.

After a successful corporate career, and now the owner of a profitable start-up, this is my natural progression. By consulting with facts, integrity and experience, I can help like minded individuals launch or develop their digital business...
"As a consultant, I provide effective strategies and solutions for business owners, to overcome challenges and develop opportunities. My work ensures their business is relevant, responsive and ready to thrive in the digital space. Ultimately driving success and profitability..."

Consultancy.

Discovery | Evaluation | Solution

"Discover what I do, and how my suite of services can help your business"

Workshops.

Taking the leap | Being Digital | Website Builder 

"My exclusive business workshops, designed to drive success in the digital space"

The Call.

Call me | I'll help you | For just £99

"For immediate 'actionable' steps. The call that could 'step change' your business"

Meticulous planning meant that I could gradually slow down my antiques business, while I was already starting consultancy contracts

My clients, were already waiting for me... 

"When the dust has settled, I'd love the opportunity to chat about building our media and digital presence, and store merchandising"

 

 - Nick Wells, Owner of Barnsbury Furniture 

Looking back now, running my own start-up business, was hard work. A steep learning curve, full of mixed emotions...

Any regrets? Absolutely not

Would I have changed anything? Yes, now I know what I know

The best thing is. I can now share my experience and knowledge with others. Especially the unexpected and the unknown

" You created a great brand and ethos. Loved watching the business grow "

- Simon, Cambridge

- Helen, Google

" The website caught my attention straight away, it was so different. It oozed fun "

              

Thank You.

I feel great. Ralph & Co. Vintage was the hardest three years of my life, but equally the most rewarding

There are so many people who enabled me to achieve my dreams. Customers, friends and family alike. Thank you, I am so grateful

A special thank you to these guys though.

For the part each of you played, it enabled me to achieve what I did. Thank you so much...

 

Jess, Ads, Abi, Booner, Katy, Liv, Kel, Ray, Danielle, The Butchers, Em, Hattie, Fletch, Leanne, Oliver, Anya, Kaisha, Anteras, Han, Ash, Kate, Dean, Rich, Kaz, Euge, Bobby, Rusty, Melv, Johnson, Ros, Dave & Type 2 Detectives

To Gem and Ralph. Thank you for inspiring me and allowing me to follow my dream x

" If you haven't visited, you're missing out on one of the finest retailers in the known vintage world "

- Oliver, Google

" Pleasure to buy from you, absolute pleasure to know you"

- Kevin, Burwell

Antiques & Interiors.

When I started Ralph & Co. Vintage, I had no experience in the antiques and interiors industry

I became established and highly regarded by many. My delivery of marketing and communications gained its plaudits too...

If you are thinking of turning your idea or hobby into a business, please check out my personally designed workshop...

This is everything you need to know, to be successful in this wonderful industry

Becoming a dealer.

Business Workshop.

Business Plan | Digital | Buying & Selling

" Discover how to build a successful business in the antiques & interiors trade "