Interview with Kara
What’s your name and where do you come from? I’m Charlie Benson, co-founder of Kara, a new online healthcare supplier that provides cutting-edge, stylish medical scrubs to practitioners across the UK. Kara is a new venture of John Horsfall & Sons, a West Yorkshire family-run textile business founded in 1863.
How did you spot a space in the market for your product or service? It’s always easier to spot a hole in the market when you’re closer to it. We have an existing business which supplies traditional medical textile products to predominantly the NHS and its laundries. We’d seen that there was a market for more premium products to target the wider (and more diverse) private health and wellness sector, and there were a lack of suppliers who really stood out. It’s also an expanding industry, with ever more sub-categories, which means there’s plenty of business to go around.
How long did you think about your business before bringing it to life? The idea for the company really came about in Feb-March 2016, in April it became the sole focus of my attention , having left my previous job and the company went live and started selling in November.
How did you raise the funds to start your business? We’re self-funded and with the growth rates we’re planning, shouldn’t need external investment, which I know is a really lucky situation to be able to be in!
How do you stay informed – networking, newspapers, social media? Best ways I’ve found to stay informed is through online news sites compiled by an RSS reader (I use Feedly) to streamline it all. You also pick up a lot of knowledge when you attend trade shows, taking a chance to wander round when you step away from the stand for a bit.
Tell us about one of your business low-points and what you learnt from it After the initial excitement of launching and the direct sales we made from our first trade show, it took quite a while for any sales at all to start coming into the website. Apparently, this is quite normal when you’re starting from a customer base of zero and you haven’t worked out the best ways to drive traffic, but at the time it’s really disconcerting and doubt starts to creep in. We also had a website issue which meant we had to go offline for a couple of weeks, causing even more disruption. At this type of moment, you really see the value in having friends, mentors and family that have been in similar sitautions, just to provide you with the reassurance that it’s a minor setback and the whole thing isn’t actually going to tumble down like a deck of cards!
Name five qualities people need to be successful in a job like yours Tenacity, Confidence, Curiosity, Optimism, and being a Generalist
Do you have a business mentor? Yes I do. It’s cringeworthy to admit, but it’s my dad Peter. He took on a family company which was really struggling in the 80s, and has patiently built it into a very financially strong and profitable business group. I think I might need a new mentor soon though, for fear of turning into him! I also have a lot of friends who are entrepreneurs who I can call on for advice.
What’s been your favourite piece of press coverage so far? Nothing stands out yet, but there’s still plenty of time!
Name one of your favourite start-ups Monzo is a new mobile bank I’ve been using. Great for tracking your spending in real time.
Quick fire round!
Apple or Android? Apple – they’ve locked me in and I’m stuck now.
Mac or PC – because Apple take enough of my money from the phones.
Apples for hand or melons for feet? Not a clue you’ve lost me! Bananas for arms
Name two chocolate bars you would put together to make a super bar Lindt salted Caramel and a Kinder Bueno – decadent and diabetes-inducing.
Kara is a new UK supplier specialising in premium textile products and medical uniforms to service the growing Health and Wellness sector. They focus on bringing products to the UK market that are not only made from high quality materials and highly functional, but that also bring elements of fashion, comfort & technology to their customers.