A chance meeting eight years ago brought together Tom Hosking and James Want, who are the founders of men’s lifestyle website The Versatile Gent.
The website facilitates a bespoke view on current trends in men’s style. An ambition of the site is to “help mould young gentlemen of today into well-rounded, confident and aspirational people”.
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“TVG presents unique, male-focused content from which readers can draw inspiration, gain knowledge and develop opinions,” the website says.
In 18 months, Hosking and Want have built a strong online readership, allowing them to develop solid relationships with some leading brands.
Hosking talks to StartupSmart about spending just $200 to start the business, the brands TVG is working with, and why the website is a must-have resource for the modern man.
How did you and James meet?
We met about eight years ago through a group of mutual friends.
What inspired you to launch The Versatile Gent?
James and I were both working in different facets of media and online content creation.
I had recently been involved in an online lifestyle and music publication, as well as co-founding a separate online business with James.
James was looking for an outlet to apply his media background in a more interesting and palatable way, which meant working with brands and content that we are inherently interested in.
So we started TVG.
How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?
Funding the business was simple and only required purchasing the domain for the website and hosting fees – this totalled about $200.
The beauty of starting a website as an online business is the relatively small start-up costs.
How many staff do you have?
We have James and myself, and six writers/contributors working with us.
How do you promote the business?
We promote the business in two main ways – social media marketing and targeted brand associations. Through social media, we promote our content to help drive traffic to the site.
Social media marketing is a powerful service that allows us to create highly targeted advertisements and tailor them to particular demographics that we know engage with our site.
We have also developed a number of collaborative projects with well-recognised and respected brands that drive traffic to the site through positive associations with these partnered brands.
You said you’ve built good relationships with some excellent brands. Which ones?
TVG has worked with many brands, the most significant of which are Emporio Armani, M.J. Bale, IWC and, most recently, Crane Brothers.
Nurturing these relationships requires us to constantly deliver value for them – this is either through featured articles on the website, competitions via our social media or collaborative photo shoots and offline interaction.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
Our revenue projections for the first year were very modest; we wanted to fund the website through profits and be able to invest in various side projects related to TVG when we wanted to.
We’ve achieved that and moving into FY13/14 we’d be looking to increase this significantly. With a strong strategy and increasing readership, we hope to increase this by 300-400%.
How is the business different to other lifestyle websites?
We are offering Australian men a one-stop resource for current, interesting and topical online content.
I think we are filling a distinct void in the online men’s lifestyle market, and we can see that because of the huge uptake in the site since its establishment in June.
Page views and analytics aside, I believe that the brands and advertisers that show their support of the site see the value in marketing themselves to an engaged, interactive and very focused group of readers.
What can it give men that they can’t get elsewhere?
TVG is personable, informative and educational.
We don’t publish content unless we truly believe it will interest our audience, its highly tailored and thoughtful, and I think that’s what people are looking for now in blogs – something that sets them apart from the crowd.
And as a reader, it gives them credibility to say, “I read The Versatile Gent”.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Keeping up to date with the digital landscape is a constant struggle and I think it also poses as a risk – the online marketplace is so diverse and, at times, complicated.
There’s also the risk of competition – emerging websites offering a similar service/wp-content. This requires us to stay original, interesting and engaging with our audience.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Be patient – we only started this site in June last year and sometimes James and I have to sit back and look at how far it’s come, and not be impatient with its progress and success.
We’ve also learnt that it’s hard to change how well-established brands think about online marketing and advertising.