Training with a master barber after leaving school in 1979, Iain Kane has seen many changes in men’s fashions and in his business since then. Now, the Langley Park-based entrepreneur is hoping to take his business further with the launch of his new, upscaled e-commerce website www.villagebarber.com, supported by Digital Drive County Durham.
With steady growth in the global male grooming market, estimated to be worth around £61.9bn by 2024, Iain has branched out from his barbershop to develop his own product range that can be sold around the world. The business is flourishing, with the new website already attracting enquiries from retailers in Europe.
Iain explains: “I wanted a brand new e-commerce website with an upscaled section for wholesalers and distributors to streamline their ordering process. Before, they would have to call to order and then we would invoice. Now they can have their own account, see brochures, price lists and all pertinent information immediately and do everything online. We’ve already had enquiries from retailers in Hungary and Romania, so it’s been a great start.”
This is a growth area for Iain, who plans to focus more on the B2B side of his business, increasing the number of retailers that stock his products worldwide and with a new shave cream in its final development stage.
“It’s been fortuitous timing with online shopping on the increase due to COVID-19”, says Iain. “It’s been a very good time to invest in a new website and we’ve seen online sales increase since March.”
Iain was introduced to Digital Drive by an advisor at the Department for International Trade (DIT). He has been put off from applying for funding in the past by the idea of having to meet a lot of criteria, but soon found that Digital Drive was a great fit to help him do more with his planned investment.
“While other programmes offered a maximum of 35% towards the costs of digital projects, Digital Drive offered 40%. That 5% extra when you’re investing thousands of pounds is a lot”, he explains.
He continues: “You still have to jump through some hoops, of course, but UMi’s Digital Drive advisor made it so easy. She is an absolute joy – professional and bubbly, endlessly helpful and she always gives you the impression she is with you all the way. I can’t praise her enough and I’d advise other County Durham business owners to get in touch to see if the team can help with your digital project.”
Digital Drive County Durham’s Digital Advisor, Helen Watson, added: “Village Barber is going from strength to strength and it’s great that the timing of Iain’s new website launch and increased online orders coincided with the lockdown that has impacted his physical barbershop business. With new products in development and a website that allows him to fully realise his ambitions, the world is his oyster.”
Sarah Slaven, Interim Managing Director at Business Durham, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support Village Barber through Digital Drive County Durham. The programme was in place before the coronavirus crisis hit but it fitted the moment perfectly, with businesses like Iain’s having to concentrate much more on what they can do online.
“We recently announced we have secured an additional £2.34m of funding for the programme, which will enable us to support more businesses from across the county to develop their digital capabilities in order to grow and remain competitive. This is particularly important as the economy moves into a recovery phase as it is vital we continue to support businesses to grow, thrive and create jobs and to build a stronger, more resilient economy.”
Digital Drive County Durham is a programme being delivered on behalf of Business Durham, the economic development arm for Durham County Council, to help small businesses make the most of digital technology. The project can help businesses access grant funding support of up to 40% towards the cost of:
- Digital consultancy projects
- Equipment that will help to improve your business through the use of digital technology
- Website, app or software build
- Broadband infrastructure and installation
In addition, the programme offers webinars and events in a range of digital topics with the support of advisors to make the most of digital opportunities available to business.
Digital Drive County Durham is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Business Durham, which works on behalf of Durham County Council and private investment and forms part of the wider Digital Durham initiative to transform broadband speeds for residents and businesses across the North East.
For more information visit: www.digitaldrivedurham.co.uk