INTERVIEW: Caprice Bourret

By Caprice founder Caprice Bourret talks to Kat Slowe about new model Amy Childs and her plans to expand over the upcoming year.

Lingerie Insight’s editorial policy for any interview is to refer to the subject by their surname, but with By Caprice founder Caprice Bourret or ‘Cap,’ as she is known to her friends, this feels strangely wrong.

The supermodel turned lingerie, swimwear and – yes -bedding entrepreneur has for too long been referred to by the public by one, single moniker – Caprice. Much may have changed for Caprice in the past six years, but it still seems only right and respectful to use her chosen title.

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“The last few years, to be perfectly frank, were just about keeping the business going,” Caprice says. "With the economy, it was an awful time.

“But now we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel and now it is about expansion, and it’s about expansion not only with the brand internationally, but also expansion internally within my office, just hiring new people and just going for it."

It has been a scary few years for Caprice who started her company in her early thirties, using purely her own money. At the time, almost oblivious to the risk, Caprice invested £263,000 into her start up. Whilst this meant that she received 100 percent of the profits, it also meant any losses were taken entirely out of her own pocket. It took two years for the business to start turning a profit and to pay herself back.

“I didn’t know that you had to keep thrusting hundreds of thousands of pounds into the business to keep it afloat,” she says.

“The economy, that was really difficult for me. I came from the hay days of modelling and celebrity-ville to starting my own business and putting my ego in my back pocket to all of a sudden a crash. Not only did my ego take a hit, but financially I just thought ‘oh my goodness.’

“And I was a bit of a schmuck, because I put my own money into it. No loans from the bank, it was all me. I mean who does that? Caprice does. Like a dumb dumb.”

At the time, Caprice already had a license deal with Debenhams, which had been ongoing for around five years. She determined that the right progression would be to buy her license back and operate it herself.

“Especially because I saw what a fortune they were making – they were killing it,” she says. “I had to go in there and convince them to buy the lingerie from me, since they couldn’t have my name anymore. That was another little bit of a challenge. I got my top down a little bit and, I said, ‘I swear it will sell.’

“‘Ok, Cap, we will go with it.’

“It just seemed like the right progression and it has worked.”

With business now beginning to pick up, Caprice will be looking to break into new markets in 2011. Her primary objective is to return to Germany and look into Holland, where she had successful accounts before the recession took hold.

As a long term project, she also hopes to enter the US, a market that she considers is particularly tough but with huge potential for future growth.

“I want to grow by three times what I’m doing now, this year,” she says.

In pursuit of this, Caprice has plans to hit all the major trade shows and will be buying extra stock for replenishment. Already stocked heavily by online retails, she sees this market as an optimum medium to develop further in the upcoming year.

“It is just to bring on these last minute online accounts, because these online accounts – some of them are huge," she says.

“If you have even ten onlines throughout Europe, there’s huge money there… That’s where it is all going guys. It’s all online. Everything is online. Everything. So that’s what I am focusing in on.”

According to Caprice, it can be easier and more efficient to operate through online stockists. Not only is turn around far quicker, but reaction is also faster, potentially leading to greater profits for all parties.

“Reaction is fast, because visually – I mean, it sounds weird that I am talking about my own picture, but we’ve seen a change… let’s say ASOS chucks another one of their models up there and I look at my sales figures and I think what is going on here? I don’t get it. Sales are awful this week. Well, it’s because they’ve chucked another girl in there.”

Caprice took on Amy Childs, reality star of ITV show The Only Way is Essex, as her new face a few months ago and claims that the reaction was ‘interesting.’ Sales reportedly started to pick up due to the huge media hype surrounding the transition but, after the media hype died down, began to drop off.

“I am tempted to put my picture back up there again," Caprice says, laughing, “so it kinda creeps up a little but…”

Yet, despite the teething problems, Caprice believes that the step was the right thing to do for the label. Having placed her modelling days firmly behind her, she now wants to concentrate on the administration side of the business and let others take over the responsibility of modelling her products.

“I have moved on so much from when I was the FHM GQ babe of the century,” she says. “I’m an adult. I am almost 40 years old now. We have got to move on. It’s really sad when I look at people like Pamela Anderson… and she’s still living and trying to be like something she was in her twenties. I have moved on.”

Caprice picked Childs, 19, despite her lack of previous modelling experience, because she felt that the reality star would appeal to the brand’s youthful target market.

“She is the hot young thing,” Caprice says. “Everyone watches that stupid show. I don’t know if it is quality, but it is total entertainment. We took a gamble and we made the right gamble.”

However, Caprice isn’t prepared yet to completely eschew the limelight. She is currently in talks with TV bosses to feature in a programme, where she would provide ‘useful’ business advice to companies on topics such as cash flow and negotiating margins.

“I want to get back into entertainment a little bit, as well,” she says.”I want to have my own business TV show. Because I started this business, I think I could go into any business and turn it around or re-structure it or see what is wrong or not wrong.

“I think people are really interested these days, because it is all about small businesses. Most people don’t understand what a damn cash flow is. I mean, how could you not understand what a cash flow is if you want to start your own business? Or how to find funds, or customer service, or how to negotiate your margins?

The By Caprice founder recently proved her business savvy when she participated in a business charity initiative organised by City Index and financial magazine The Exchange. Each month, a pair of celebrities were given £5000 to trade on the real markets for a charity of their choice.

Caprice beat rugby star Ben Cohen and Westlife singer Kian Egan to top the profit leader board.

“That wasn’t too hard to do,” she says, laughing. “I mean, I do do this for a living as well. It wasn’t that difficult. I think I was trading gold and silver. I wasn’t even trading currency. Normally, I trade currency and, I thought, I do that all the time, so let’s try gold and silver.

“They had no chance – bless them. I may look like fluff…”

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