Interview – Stefan Preston, Rose & Thorne
Is it possible to build a $2 million company without buying a single server or enterprise software license? Ask Stefan Preston, CEO of Rose & Thorne, a rapidly growing women’s lingerie producer and retailer. Stefan was the CEO of Bendon during the 2000’s, taking the company to new markets in Europe, North America and the Middle East. When ownership of the company shifted to Australia, the New Zealand design and development team became redundant. Stefan saw this as an opportunity to start with a fresh sheet, and teamed up with Bendon’s former Head of Design Sue Dunmore to create Rose & Thorne. Their vision was to create intimate women’s apparel that was ultra-comfortable, great looking, ridiculously affordable and easy to buy. By all indications, they’ve succeeded.
A Stanford MBA with an impressive background turning around several large companies, Stefan is a smart business person. He’s a strong believer in bootstrapping a new business by having an efficient start-up plan that mitigates risk quickly and uses minimal cash. He followed this strategy with Rose & Thorne by using free or low cost cloud services to bootstrap the business, avoiding the cost of in-house servers, enterprise software, and technical support. Not only did this approach conserve precious cash, but it also gave him the flexibility to mix and match services that could scale up as the business grew.
Stefan is a self-professed early adopter. “I’m a strong proponent of cloud computing, not because it’s new and shiny, but because it makes really good business sense. Small businesses don’t have in-house IT support, so PCs and servers are a huge distraction and annoyance. Cloud computing eliminates that cost an aggravation. Ditch the servers, PCs and expensive software. Invest in really great client devices instead.” Stefan outfits his staff with Macs and iPhones, claiming they are more reliable and easier to use.
He also points out that cloud computing eliminates geographic constraints. “Rose & Thorne has representatives throughout the country. By using cloud services, the company gets more value from its staff by having them better connected.” To that end, the company is using Facebook in an innovative way. Stefan set up a private group on Facebook to run an internal online bulletin board. “It works great, because everyone already uses Facebook so there was nothing new to learn. Staff members post pictures and reports from the field, and the home office posts news and announcements. Everyone stays in the loop.”
Starting in the cloud can be a great way to mitigate risk, conserve cash and keep your fledgling operation nimble. It worked well for Rose & Thorne!
Photos courtesy of Rose & Thorne