Feature on: Ruth at Room 31 @room31fashion

Ruth of Room 31

Why did you start the business?

Room31 started life on Bury market in Lancashire 18 months ago. Ruth Thomas, owner, had always wanted to be her own boss and has always had a passion for fashion so decided to take the plunge and open a stall selling discounted ladies branded and unbranded fashion. The name Room31 came along after a few glasses of Sauvignon(!), the fact I was 31 at the time and my stall number was 31. I didn’t simply want to be called Ruth’s Clothes but to stand out from the other market stalls giving a boutique feel and look.

To supplement market takings Ruth opened an eBay shop and starting selling surplus stock. It quickly became obvious that selling online was the way forward and that you can literally ‘sell while you sleep’ waking up to orders from all over the world and without having to freeze to death on a market stall!

The eBay side of the business grew but Ruth’s passion and real dream was to open an online shop selling a blend of branded and own label ladies fashion at prices to suit every purse and so was born www.room31.co.uk
Key events in the success of the business

Ruth is a big believer in supporting local businesses and providing opportunities for young people and has been heavily involved with Wigan and Leigh college. The make-up students from the college have been involved in photography shoots and various other projects with Room31.co.uk

Room31.co.uk now employs a passionate team of 8 full time members of staff as well as a small team of interns who carry out different projects such as website design, competitions, blogging and social media, giving them the opportunity to gain hands on experience in a real working environment.

Our turnover in year one was £1M+

SBS Winner – Ruth met the retail mogul Theo Paphitis at a special event in Birmingham after Room31.co.uk won his famous #SBS business award. The Small Business Sunday competition is run by Theo each Sunday evening on Twitter. He invites small businesses to tweet him details of their business and he then picks the top 6 entries and retweets them to his 180,000 followers.
Room31.co.uk won the award in November 2011 giving them a golden ticket to the first SBS event. The event was held at Edgbaston Stadium on Friday and hosted by Theo himself and supported by Ryman. As well as joining in a group question and answer session and being presented with a Small Business Sunday certificate; Ruth was interviewed for a pilot TV programme focusing on the successes of small businesses.

Local Business Accelerator Finalist – LBA is an initiative from the regional and local press to boost local businesses backed by Dragons Den Deborah Meaden. Room31.co.uk applied for the initiative and got through to the finals in the Warrington area. Here Ruth had to do a presentation to local mentors explaining why her business should win free advertising. Although Room31.co.uk did not get to the next stage they were approached after the event by 2 of the panel of judges who were eager to be involved and provide free business advice and support.

Other achievements

  • Pop up shops – Using empty retail units to take Room31.co.uk fashion into town centres
  • Ladies nights – Taking fashion direct to our customers at various local charity events
  • Featured in local and national magazines – We have developed a fabulous reputation and a great relationship with newspapers and magazines.
  • Become a favourite with fashion bloggers – We recognise the influence that bloggers have on fashion and have worked hard to build up a network of blogger fans.
  • Internships – Room31 are proud to have a strong team of Interns from local universities and colleges.
  • Wigan & Leigh college – We regularly invite make-up and hair students from the local college to help out with our photoshoots.
  • Claire House – Room31 have decided to support Claire House Hospice and aim to raise enough funds to Pay for a Day at the amazing facility over the next year.
  • Liverpool Fashion LIVE- We are the headline sponsors for a groundbreaking new fashion event taking place in Liverpool in October.
  • Celebrity Friends – Room31.co.uk

What are your plans for the next 3 years?

We have signed for a much larger (10,000 SQ FT), new premises on Taylor Business Park that we move into in October. This will have the much needed space for a larger studio, reception area and comfortable office space.

The (adapted) line “I wanna be on the cover of More! Magazine, smiling next to ASOS & McQueen!” from the song I Wanna Be A Millionaire by Bruno Mars sums up where Room31.co.uk want to be.

Room31.co.uk want to add new and exciting brands to their portfolio as well as search out up and coming designers, they intend to do this by approaching local fashion colleges and universities and presenting to them the Room31 journey and the opportunities that are available. Meetings have already begun with JMU in Liverpool, UCLAN in Preston and Wigan and Leigh College.

Room31.co.uk would like to build the footwear and accessories categories on the website as well as introduce a plus range for their customers who do not fit their current size availability. There is a huge gap in the fashion market for on trend, fashion for plus sizes.

Plans are also underway to take Room31.co.uk on the road with pop up shops locally and in time nationally to increase brand awareness.

The future is looking very exciting for Room31.co.uk

Twitter @room31fashion