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A Q&A With The Entrepreneurs Behind Vintage Cash Cow

Monday 1st April 2019

Vintage Cash Cow are a Leeds-based tech-enabled start-up, established in 2016 and offering people an easy way to sell their old stuff.  As pioneers in “Vintage Recommerce”, they’re using in-house built tech and a love for all things data to help people cash in these old items.

“Our hassle-free, haggle-free service really is the future of clearing out to cash in.”

They have ambitious growth goals for scaling up in the UK, some amazing investors behind them and are around the corner from launching in new countries. 

We sat down with the entrepreneurs behind the start-up, Antony Charman and David Weaver, to find out more about their story so far, why Leeds, and what 2019 has in store for them. 

 

Tell us about your journey so far... 

You can never be sure of what lies ahead and those words could not be truer for us. At the start, it all felt like a nice simple project, Antony has always bought vintage items as a trader and asked for my help in building a website for him so that he could cover more of the country. What we didn’t know is that within 3 years we’d be filling 34,000 sq ft building and launching in the Netherlands.

It’s fair to say the journey has been incredibly eye opening for us as founders. Along the way we’ve hit the usual milestones for start-ups, such as getting our first 1,000 customers, soon followed by 1,000 Trustpilot reviews, generating our first £100k in revenue, and then reaching our first million, but it hasn’t all been rosy! Hiring before focussing on efficiencies inflated our overheads and like a lot of start-ups we almost ran out of money, but we’ve learned invaluable lessons along the way, and being around the right people is where we’ve learned the most. 



You’ve been very fortunate to have secured funding from Dutch Founders Fund, which also includes VC Airbridge and some other very successful Dutch entrepreneurs. What have these partnerships enabled you to do?

We’re fortunate enough to have a team that includes the Co-founder of Just Eat and Founder of Treatwell, Laurens Groenendijk, the Founder of SpaceBuzz Foundation, Hidde Hoogcarspel, the Founder and CEO of SoConnect, Daan Donders, and the Founder of WeTransfer, Bas Beerens, as well as three others who all have a role in supporting us. Their motivation, enthusiasm and vision has been the real catalyst to our growth.

One of the biggest impacts has been for us to start seeing things bigger. They have instilled a far greater sense of what is possible with Vintage Cash Cow and we meet with the team regularly to discuss next steps, which helped us maintain focus on what will really make a difference. 

With their support, we’ve just launched a new B2C site in the Netherlands and our brand-new fundraising brand, VintageGiving.com, is now live. We’re also in talks with two of the top five Dutch charities to help build them white label versions of the VintageGiving platform.




Why have you chosen to grow your business here in Leeds? 

Antony has always lived here, just north of Chapel Allerton, and when deciding where to have the warehouse, it had to be in the city centre. Now that we’ve been hiring digital and tech roles, we’ve really seen the benefit to being located here and we’re looking forward to doing more to collaborate with the tech community here in Leeds, with the expectation of more growth team hires throughout the year.

With our growth into the Netherlands, another nice bonus is Leeds Bradford airport - we are door-to-door with our investors in Amsterdam in around three hours.

You mention that the tech community is an attractive aspect to being based in Leeds, how do you as a business engage with the tech community in Leeds?

Engaging with the tech community in Leeds is very important to us. In previous years, we’d used mostly Dutch freelancers as we were unable to commit to full time in-house positions, but we’re in a very different position now. We’re now focussed on creating more tech and digital jobs in Leeds this year, which will not only benefit the tech ecosystem here in Leeds but it will also be central to enabling our business to scale and grow as we progress with our roadmap of expansion into the Netherlands, Germany, and with the large charity deals that we have brewing.

We’re currently in talks with one of the coding competitions at Leeds Digital Festival for sponsorship, which will be a great opportunity to showcase our product, growth and hiring roadmap.

 

How do you use Technology to drive your business? And why is Technology important to your business?

The backbone of our operation is the CRM platform that we’ve built over the last 3 years. With a few adjustments, we’re now using it to manage a retail focussed service for 380 Age UK stores. Last week we replicated the platform, made a few more changes and it’s now ready for the Netherlands. 

We rely on technology to handle each lead, from cradle to grave, with triggered emails, SMS messages, phone calls and letters. Our appraisals tool allows us to store the customer journey of each box that gets sent it, its contents, and the appraised price. With our launch into the Netherlands, it means that the team will be able to easily get second opinions from our core team of senior experts in the UK on higher value boxes.

To sell in the volumes we do, we've built our own selling platform. Currently, it publishes the items onto eBay, but soon it will also list on other marketplaces too. eBay isn't designed for high volume sellers where every item is unique, so we built our own way of doing it.


While the team has grown from 7 to 12 in the last year, the revenue that the department produces each month has grown by over 300%, so internal communication and visibility over what’s happening is vital. We push data from various sources to create focussed dashboards for each team and ensure that everyone’s working together to reach targets. 


You are a champion for Tech4Good, what initiatives do you have planned for 2019 related to this?

We’re in talks with a number of big charities to white label our service - taking all our learnings from the last 3 years and creating for them, their very own version of what we do. We handle everything for them, the customer service, handling boxes, the buying and the selling. The charity has a new site to promote as a fundraising tool - especially helpful for ones that do not have retail outlets to accept goods and sell them on. 

Our "Vintech" approach to re-commerce is scooping up millions of pounds worth of old and unused vintage items. We don't target the people who sell on eBay; instead, our ads attract the people who are time-poor and want rid. The stuff we buy would have sat in homes for decades to come. Its next destination would likely be a landfill but instead, people are turning their old stuff into a few quid to spend, helping towards the bills or a treat for themselves, and ensuring there is zero waste.

We've received and sold on vast amounts of vintage items to fuel the second-hand marketplace. We give people far more second-hand buying options on eBay so they buy less brand new items.

In the last year, we've sold:
  • 2.8 tonnes of costume jewellery
  • 2,000 old clocks
  • 4,000 fountain pens
  • 40,000 watches
  • 7,000 cameras
  • 25 tonnes of scrap metal
  • and so much other stuff!

We provide a Circular economy; whilst 10 different peoples' broken pocket watches aren't much use on their own, we amalgamate these job lots and sell them on to worldwide traders, helping them with their needs for old spares and repairs parts. In the last year, we've sold to people in over 80 countries

We're providing charity shops with a new revenue stream - once they've tried to sell an item in their store, they then box it up to sell to us. Age UK uses us in all 380 shops, and we're working with 15 hospices and an additional 150 charity shops so far.  We collect boxes of items from their shops free of charges and within 48 hours, we've posted them out a cheque. 

We learned that some charity shop managers let local traders pay 5p per kilo for the non-precious scrap metals they receive such as brass, copper, pewter and silver plate.  We promise to pay them well in excess of £1 per kilo for most non-precious metals, a huge increase for them, helping them to make more money. We also help charities raise money from the "unsalables", which some shops aren’t allowed to sell. These include military weapons, furs, smoking pipes, razors, wine and champagne.  

We've now got the green light to start work on a white-label solution with one of the world's largest charities, currently operating in over 190 countries. We're building them their own branded version of our service, powered by our charity brand Vintage Giving. It would otherwise be far too costly for this charity to raise donations via supporters vintage items, but we've now made it possible and we're excited to see what 2019 will bring!



Vintage Cash Cow have been shortlisted at the 2019 Leeds Digital Festival Awards (taking place on 30th April at Headrow House) in the Growth Company of the Year category. Here is what they had to say about being shortlisted...

“We’re very proud - it’s a great testament to all the hard work we’ve put in since day one.

We apply a data-driven approach to everything we do. We’ve built everything from the ground up – we developed our own software package to handle all the items we’re sent, itemise what we’ve bought and help automate what we’re selling. 

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the outstanding work, drive and commitment we see from our talented team on a daily basis. Each and every one of us believes in a ‘pursuit of greatness’ - that is, we never stop at just good.

We’re also incredibly thankful to have the backing of some incredible investors - a true testament to our potential. Fingers crossed!”


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