10 May 2019
“The lightbulb moment occurred when the two ideas about life at home and future forecasting collided. I knew this was to be my niche in the trend forecasting market.”
Speaking ahead of next week’s Newcastle Start Up conference, Joanna Feeley, CEO, shares her story on how she founded Trend Bible in the North East and has grown the business to be a leading global Futures Agency.
How did you end up in trend forecasting?
I studied Fashion Design at Kingston University, London, where I first discovered the trend forecasting industry. As soon as I knew about the industry I wanted a job as a forecaster, but a careers adviser warned me that there were only 200 jobs in forecasting worldwide at that time and it would be more realistic to stick to being a designer. It was probably sound advice but I didn’t let it put me off!
My first job was as a Menswear Design Assistant at American Eagle Outfitters in New York and there I was always busy looking for opportunities to create moodboards and colour palettes for the Design Team. One day my boss recognised this and unofficially gave me permission to work on the trend direction for the Design Team in my own time, which I loved and this ultimately resulted in me returning to London with two portfolios; one fashion design, one trend forecasting. I was able to leverage this to work in a couple of roles that required both design and trend forecasting, eventually landing a Head of Menswear trends role at a London agency.
It sounds a bit of a cliché but when I had the idea for Trend Bible I literally woke bolt upright in the middle of the night – it was a genuine “Eureka!” moment! I had been working previously as a trend forecaster for a design agency and as an independent trend consultant, but I had always specialised in menswear. I was really interested in home interiors and I could see there were some interesting attitudes and behaviours emerging with regards to peoples’ relationship with home. This was pre-recession, but there were weak signals coming through, such as people spending more time at home, curbing their spending on eating out in favour of cooking at home, the baking trend was starting to blossom (the first series of Great British Bake Off epitomised the peak of this trend in 2010), and some consumers were starting to think about actively consuming less – so I was naturally curious about what was happening. This was when the lightbulb moment occurred, the two ideas about life at home and future forecasting collided and I knew this was to be my niche in the trend forecasting market.
Once I started to research the potential growth in the market, I realised ‘home’ would be a good specialism to try and own, in what was a very fashion-heavy industry. I could see that other home interior trend forecasts were heavily reliant on catwalk and fashion trends and I’ve always believed this isn’t a good start point for interiors trends. What works for the body and for an industry with such fast-moving consumption doesn’t work so well for interiors where the end consumer has a completely different mindset and might be buying a kitchen where they are looking for more longevity in terms of style.
How did the first trend book come to life?
I created the first Home & Interior trend book in 2006 from my spare bedroom and it took 9 months to create. I had put all of my time into creating the product and none into how I would get the product to market! Following a development trip to New York with the support of The Department of International Trade, I managed to get representation from a trend agency in New York as well as an agent in the UK and I sold my first 2 trend books; the first to The Marmaxx Group, who are still clients of ours to this day. It was only two sales but I saw this as a really good indicator that large corporates saw something in the trend books they weren’t seeing elsewhere. By season 2 we had sold 36 trend books.
Whilst we started out focusing predominantly on home décor, we quickly began to gain clients who worked in industries such as home appliances and FMCG. I realised the broader context of home beyond décor was something we were building a huge knowledge base in.
We also began to learn a lot about family life and this meant companies who work in the world of baby and child came to us for our expertise at forecasting in the toys and children’s décor industries. Now we have clients all over the world, from China’s biggest textile manufacturer to global toy brands. We get asked about huge lifestyle shifts such as the future of sleep, or to predict how sustainability will impact specific demographics; the work is so varied and our team relish the challenge.
What does the future hold for Trend Bible?
We’ve built a solid reputation now as experts in the future of life at home, with our core team still based in Newcastle and a global network of freelancers contributing to our forecasts. We’ve grown over 20% year on year since inception and we plan to grow a further 26% in 2019. We’ve brought our growth targets forward by 12 months due to overseas expansion.
We have recently launched our Subscription service, The Edit, for the baby and kids industry which is an exciting new way for us to share our knowledge. Trend Bible has come a long way since the early days of selling a couple of trend books from my spare bedroom but in many ways it feels like we’re just at the beginning of what can be achieved. My role has changed massively in that time, from creative consultant to running a 20-person business and writing 3 year strategic plans. It’s really nice to get the opportunity to reflect on the company’s progress and share thoughts with start-ups at the beginning of their own journey.
You can hear more from Joanna about her experience of starting and scaling Trend Bible on Day 1 of Newcastle Start Up Week on Monday 13th May 2019. Be sure to follow our Twitter and Instagram feeds for coverage #NewcastleStartupWeek #TrendBible.
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