Off The Cuff
Paul has featured on the OFF THE CUFF website, where he took part in a Q&A to discuss Freedom To Exist. We have also taken part in a competition.
Further info and the full article can be found - HERE
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about Freedom to Exist and what the brand is striving to achieve?
We specialise in minimalist watches free from overt branding. We offer two sizes, a Small and a Large, with strap sizing catering for the petite, average or large wrist sizing catering for the petite, average or large wrist.
What inspired you to launch Freedom to Exist?
Kirsty (my girlfriend who I run Freedom To Exist with, she is our Creative Director) and I were out shopping one weekend when we had the idea for our business. Kirsty had her heart set on a new watch and we really struggled to find something she liked, at the right price, that would fit her wrist. Another customer in the shop was having the same issues and we wondered if this was the business we had been looking for. We had toyed with the idea of starting something together but had full time jobs that we weren’t about to leave. Kirsty and I had met while working for Habitat, and then both joined Made.com, moving to Shanghai together for a year to help the business expand over there. I now work as the head of furniture for Marks and Spencer, while Kirsty is the creative director for Soho House.
Both you and Kirsty work full time and still manage to successfully run a business, do you struggle to balance your time effectively between your full-time roles and Freedom to Exist?
We have found it’s made us better at our day jobs, as we have learnt skills and had experiences that we can feed back into our regular jobs. We have learnt a lot about marketing, social media, getting traffic to our site, packaging, finances, working with customers, all useful skills in business that we wouldn’t have necessarily been exposed to otherwise. It can be tricky balancing a full-time job, but it gives us a stability and foundation where we can grow organically, rather than rely on sales to hit rent payments.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Money. We are self-funded, all sales go back into the pot for marketing and more stock. We successfully used Kickstarter to fund our second watch design, which was a great learning experience. We have a lot of ideas, and designs for new products, but due to lack of funds, we have to grow gradually, rather than as fast as we would ideally like to.
You both have a wealth of experience working within product development, how much has this helped you in starting up and growing the brand?
We could not have done it without that experience. Our understanding of production, quality, shipping and finances allowed us to take an idea from sketch to mass production. Without that, we would have been paying a third party, which would take a large cash injection, and would also distil Kirsty’s design vision. As she can control the whole process, the end watch is true to her initial concept.
One of my favourite things about Freedom to Exist is that you and Kirsty provide 'a face' behind the brand, even down to listing your favourite watch. Do you feel this is important in today’s market, to provide a more transparent business to your customers?
Yes. We have realised that customers buy stories rather than products. In an era of product saturation (maybe one day there will just be Ikea, Amazon, Apple and McDonalds) telling customers our story would set us apart from the competition. A watch is a very personal product, it can signify a major event in someone’s life, and it’s something they will wear every day, so telling customers about us and our reasons behind fte, ensures the customer gets maximum satisfaction.
Freedom to Exist has ambassadors from a variety of creative industries; how do you go about selecting those that you feel represent the brand well?
Kirsty (our Co-Founder and my girlfriend) was very strict with the Ambassador selection, she made a shortlist and then contacted them. It was important that the Ambassadors worked with their hands – we have a range of photographers, carpenters, designers and writers – and that a Freedom To Exist watch would be their watch of choice. Its very common for other watch brands to send watches to every influencer they can – if you look on Instagram, most influencers are promoting upwards of 5 different watch brands at any one time – and with us being self-funded, and also with our brand value of doing things differently and honestly, we focussed on Ambassadors that would be customers, rather than a short term route to an artificial audience.
The absence of obvious branding on your products creates the ultimate minimalist feel. An innovative yet brave decision to take, was this always going to be the case when designing the watches?
Yes, from the offset we listed a range or requirements before we even started sketching, and the lack of visible logo was there from the beginning.
Finally, you now have nineteen watches stocked across the UK and Europe, what’s next for Freedom to Exist? What are your future plans for the brand?
More colours and more options in the short term for our current 30 & 40 Edition collections, with new designs in the future, perhaps a different shape or a higher specification or different features. Our aim is to be on the list of brands that people consider when they are looking for a watch for themselves or as a gift, as brand awareness is the thing that determines success for any new company. We would like more UK retailers, and we are current in talks with stockist in Asia and America.