Meet Matt, the founder of Bunny.Style
We are proud to have a diverse member base and want to encourage greater diversity in entrepreneurship every day! Following our Pride Month 2021 blog articles (read posts one and two), we continue to feature Tide members from the LGBTQIA+ community to celebrate this year’s Pride. 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ Read about their stories and businesses in their Member Spotlights.
We were thrilled to introduce you to Matt, the founder of Bunny.Style last year! We met him again at the Mastercard UK Strive Thrive Street event and used the occasion to catch up. We spoke about how his business has been developing and how they work to continuously enhance diversity in their team and products! Read through to learn more about Bunny.Style and their latest update in questions 13 and 14.
Hi Matt, we’re thrilled to chat with you today! Can you tell us about your business and when you started?
Bunny.Style started as my side hustle/hobby project back in 2017 when I still worked in an office. Initially, I made some baseball caps and put a rainbow print under the visor in some and then realised they were very popular on Instagram. In April 2018, I opened the first proper online store. In the beginning, we targeted the UK and USA but saw a huge interest across the pond and soon opened a separate store for the USA.
Bunny.Style is a British online-only business and you currently have 3 online stores: USA, UK and Australia. Can you tell us more about your business model?
We work with local fulfilment partners in each region, which means they keep our stock, pick and pack our orders and ship to customers. They do that for us for a fee. This way, we do not need to invest in hiring our own workforce and storage space but can leave it to those who already are experts in this field.
Since we spoke to Matt they added a store in Germany and Canada! See Matt’s update below in questions 13 and 14!
What do you love most about your company and being a small business owner?
It must be the overall hype about the brand, customer stories, and seeing the happy faces once they get the products! It can be a lot of work, but it is very rewarding to see so much positivity out there.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about being an LGBTQIA+ business owner? Is there anything you find to be different for you from other people in business?
Because Bunny.Style is so deeply ingrained within the LGBTQIA+ community, it feels like I am living in this community bubble. For those outside of this bubble, it might be difficult to understand the connection with the community and see the brand’s potential. It has been a constant struggle to get interest from VC investment companies as our market can be externally perceived as quite small.
The reality is that the market is huge, growing and has amazing potential. Because of so much rejection from traditional funding sources, I had to navigate using different ways to sustain the growth. So, even though we have grown a lot since the beginning, I still own 100% of the brand and we have very little debt, unlike many fashion brands!
How can people who don’t identify as LGBTQIA+ be better allies?
No equality is achieved until everyone is an ally. Rejecting stereotypes is very important. Personally, I would be happy if my sexuality would not even be a subject of any conversations, as everyone would just understand there are people of different preferences and that is just as normal as the most popular ones. To be a good ally is to treat LGBTQIA+ people the same way as everyone else. For example, if I say that I am gay and in return somebody says, ‘OMG I love gays!’ I find it a bit derogatory, even though it likely is not intended. I would much more like to see no reaction or just an ‘OK’ like it means no different than any other preference.
What do you think Tide can do to amplify the voices of our LGBTQIA+ members? Why do you think it’s important?
Tide is a large business. Such businesses really have the power to educate. In my opinion, the economy benefits hugely from our society being connected and everyone feeling included. The same is true with companies. A company which is inclusive and respects their LGBTQIA+ employees will always be better off.
Educating non-LGBTQIA+ members is easy too! Think of celebrating Pride the same way as having for example an Italian day. The Italians gave us Pizza and Dolce Vita attitude, the LGBTQIA+ gave us Drag Queens!
Why is it important for corporations to amplify LGTBQIA+ voices, and why is it important to celebrate pride?
I mentioned that the economy benefits hugely from our society being open and welcoming to as many as possible. It is a scientific fact that people live happier lives and are richer in open societies. It is important to promote equality so that no talent is lost or misused because they do not feel welcome.
What’s your favourite Pride memory?
There are so many! I think it must be Copenhagen Pride a few years back, though! I had had the plane tickets booked with a friend for a month, but we had no clue there was a Pride festival on that weekend until we left the Metro station, and the city was covered in rainbows! It seemed that in Denmark, Pride has really become a festival for everyone, so you would have families of all kinds come out to street parties to dance with their kids and generally have fun. It really felt like a ‘job done’ when I was there!
That must have been such a great surprise! Bunny.Style donates to multiple charities. Can you tell us more?
We have a slightly different approach than many major brands if it comes to donating. As a business, we want to make sure we are not disadvantaged by giving a constant percentage of our sales. As you can imagine, major brands can literally afford to give 100% of their Pride Collection profits to charities as for them it is just one small line, usually once a year. For us, it is the only thing we do, so it would be unsustainable to commit to certain things.
What we do instead is donate our clothing to charity shops around Brighton, in the UK, which earn tens of thousands of Pounds in charity revenues every year. (So, if you want some inexpensive Bunny goods, come to Brighton, and have a browse through the shops!). In the US, we work with charities that donate to the homeless in California. In Australia, we let our warehouse decide which charities our not needed clothing goes to.
We also sponsor community sports teams, events, and student projects with our clothing! We have a swimming team dressed in our Polo Shirts in the UK, a rugby team in Australia wearing our socks, a rowing team, and an LGBTQIA+ HIIT workout group. We also sponsored Mr Gay Germany, a student fashion show at Durham University, countless drag bingos, raffles and so on with our clothing, vouchers and other prizes!
You started Bunny Style in 2017; what’s been your biggest challenge since?
Being able to sustain the brand at such a growth rate. We have been growing at an insane rate since the start, yet I did not have any experience in running a fashion brand! So, everything we have built so far, we have built our way. Perhaps that is why we are so modern and have been working remotely even before 2020! Our people have the most flexible working hours possible, and everyone gets lots of free stuff too!
We use very modern funding resources to keep up with the brand growth, we use modern banking and funding institutions rather than sticking with traditional banks, and Tide is part of this strategy. We still consider ourselves a cool modern start-up and we like to work with young tech companies that see the same in us as what we see in them.
Speaking about modern banking, how did you hear about Tide? Why did you choose us for your banking?
Initially, we wanted to open our bank account with one of the traditional UK banks. We already had a business going, with lots of revenue coming through, a website, thousands of customers, a UK company and so on. Yet, they would take ages due to their own bureaucracy. I saw Tide posters on one of London’s tube stations and applied when I got home.
Tide opened our accounts within a few hours and we were able to crack on with our operations.
Do you have any tips for fellow business owners or those just starting out?
It is a cliché: do not give up! Bunny.Style, no matter how amazing and smart the concept might seem today, was never that from the start! It was a matter of trying different things and seeing what really works. For some businesses like ours, social media advertising works like magic, for some it does not for instance. You will never know what your business might grow into if you do not try or give up if something does not work.
Do not be delusional though; you need to be able to change and adjust. It is the market that decides what your business does next. We have a great way of testing our designs with our followers and letting people decide what we make next. So far, it has worked well for us alongside following the trends.
What’s next for Bunny.Style?
As we opened our fifth online store in Canada this year, we came to the realisation that it’s high time to reassess our growth strategy. We’ve built the infrastructure we need to expand our European operations into France and the Netherlands – we’re currently only catering to the German-speaking markets. This expansion will still take place next year. Additionally, we have devised a plan to enter Latin America, starting with Brazil, as our current sales in the southern hemisphere are limited to Australia and New Zealand. Since our winter aligns with their summer, this will give us a significant boost during our quieter winter months.
However, we’ve realised there’s a substantial cost required to sustain this growth because we’d need extensive stock to fill all the online stores.
Our next big step will be to venture into wholesale, and construct a network of worldwide stores that stock and sell our products. We’ve already started this, and we’re adding new partner stores on a weekly basis.Our aim is to be stocked in at least 100 stores by this time next year. By partnering with local stores, we can create a recurring revenue stream – this will allow us to finally expand our product collections to include essentials, activewear, as well as a broader range of gender-neutral and women’s clothing. So, if you know of a local store that you believe would be a suitable match, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our social media channels – we’d love to reach out to them!
How are you building an inclusive environment and culture? What would you suggest to others?
In our business, we actively foster an inclusive environment and culture for both our team and our customers. We value the diverse mix of social groups and styles among our customer base, so we actively seek their product suggestions to cater to their needs. This includes providing more gender-neutral options and expanding our size range.
Originally catering to gay men, we’ve expanded our research to include input from our female and non-binary customers. Their feedback helps us to improve product fit
To enhance diversity at Bunny.Style, we’ve recently welcomed women to our team, ensuring a better understanding of our growing female customer base. As our brand evolved, we moved away from sexualised imagery and focused on the products our customers loved, incorporating their content into our brand promotions.
Our suggestion to others is to prioritise listening to customers over blindly following trends. For instance, you can use social media polls and newsletters to gather valuable feedback on product design and brand direction.