Hash’s unique licensed merchandise business needed funds to produce everything from WWE gear to Star Wars tank tops and Superman Ts, so he chose iwoca to help his business succeed.
A self-professed pop culture geek, Hash is not your typical CCO. He runs Shoreditch based licensed merchandise company, Urban Species, and works remotely from his computer when he goes on tour with his band.
Hash’s mother, Sarah, started Urban Species in 2003 to celebrate London’s urban culture at a time when it was underrepresented in the media. Through a series of seized opportunities and lucky coincidences, the company took off and now prints a range of branded merchandise for big industry players like Ticket Master and O2.
The employees are all “pop culture geeks” – a “prerequisite” (as Hash puts it) for working there. The original store was generously decorated with comic books and action figures which Hash identifies as an essential part of Urban Species’ identity. This identity serendipitously caught a Marvel VP’s attention which brought them their largest licensing deal to date, just as comic book spin-offs were starting to pick up steam in Hollywood.
Urban Species licence and manufacture everything from WWE, to Metal Gear, to Star Wars VII designs and turns them into branded T-shirts, dresses, hoodies and even leather jackets. It now sells its products online rather than through a physical store.
Through corporate partnerships, they have also started printing to order for some of the UK’s biggest concerts and entertainment shows. Whilst successful, this expansion has strained their cash flow since wholesale orders tend to come with 30 – 90 day payment terms. Hash and Sarah needed help financing upfront printing costs and their business’ day-to-day operations while they waited for their invoices to be paid.
“The more we worked with bigger companies with longer payment terms, the more unpredictable our cash flow became. That unpredictability made financing day-to-day operations very difficult.”
Before 2008, they were able to raise funding from their bank but the recession hit Urban Species hard. They found it nearly impossible to get sufficient capital from banks and turned to private investors and government-backed social enterprise providers. However, as the company grew they needed the ability to draw down additional credit to fill occasional gaps when a customer paid late or the unpredictable struck.
Sarah and Hash first heard of iwoca through a recommendation from their financial advisers and quickly got approved. Since July they have borrowed over £20,000 over multiple small withdrawals, drawing down as and when they needed it. Hash says this funding has been invaluable in giving them the extra leg room they need to take on bigger and more innovative projects.
Looking forward, Urban Species is planning to increase its print-on-demand services and focus on building their brand awareness. With one of very few AEOON KYO digital printers in the world, they’re now equipped to tackle some of the most demanding custom printing projects around. This includes printing on denim and leather.
As he thinks about the future, Hash reflects, “Things are never going to go the way you plan. There will be gigantic holes in your plan. Thankfully, iwoca has been the perfect safety net.”