Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 430 65 mins

How Holme and Hadfield are Using Community to Power Up their Product Development Process → Phil Hadfield

About the guests

Phil Hadfield

Kunle Campbell

Phil is the Co-founder of Holme & Hadfield, a fast-growth, men's lifestyle brand. He is obsessed with product development and community building and has combined his strengths in both areas to build a highly engaged community that actively takes part in the Holme & Hadfield product development process. Without any previous entrepreneurial experience, Phil (along with his co-founder Ian) has scaled the brand from zero to $6 million in revenue as they push to become an 8-figure brand.

On today’s episode, we dive deep into the world of e-commerce, entrepreneurship, and building a brand that stands out in the crowded digital marketplace. Kunle speaks to Phil from Holme & Hadfield, a brand that has taken the e-commerce world by storm by focusing on creating meticulously designed organizers for watches, knives, and tech gear that cater to the modern consumer’s desire for both functionality and aesthetics.

Phil’s journey is nothing short of inspirational. Starting from a realization during a sabbatical that the traditional 9-to-5 wasn’t for him, to launching a brand that has now become synonymous with quality and innovation. Holme & Hadfield isn’t just a success story; it’s a testament to the power of understanding your audience and creating products that truly resonate with their needs and aspirations.

Today, Phil shares his insights on everything from the importance of product design and customer feedback to navigating the complexities of Amazon and DTC sales channels. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned business owner, or someone passionate about the e-commerce space, this episode is packed with valuable lessons, strategies, and a whole lot of inspiration.

So, grab your notebook, settle in, and let’s uncover the secrets behind building a brand that leads with innovation, quality, and a deep understanding of what the customer truly desires.

Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:

  • Phil’s experience with the hustle culture built his great work ethic but it took a toll on his health.
  • Holme & Hadfield is from the surnames of the two co-founders, Ian Holme and Phil Hadfield.
  • Influencers that work with Holme & Hadfield are chosen for their creativity, knowledge about watches and knives as well as being a voice in the community.
  • In 2024, Phil shares that they want to nail profitability and get their processes and systems operationally sound.
  • Holme & Hadfield listens to their community where they would even create a product if there’s enough demand.


Covered Topics:

In this episode, Kunle and Phil discuss:

  • Phil’s Backstory
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Marketing Criteria
  • Marketing Channels
  • Inventory and Growth Path
  • Self-education and Courses Taken
  • The Community
  • Conducting the Surveys
  • Content Marketing Strategy
  • Shopify vs. DTC vs. Amazon
  • Holme & Hadfield LTV
  • Lessons and What-Ifs
  • The Visionary
  • Lightning Round


  • 02:26 – Phil’s Backstory
    • Phil was raised by middle-class parents. He and his parents didn’t have a background in entrepreneurship.
    • He started having chronic issues at 31 years old and decided to take a sabbatical from his job. He started to travel with his partner.
    • He met up with an old friend who also realized he didn’t want the hustle culture in the corporate world. They met up in Brazil and talked and came up with ideas to try to start something together.
    • They found a course on how to sell on Amazon and it started their entrepreneurial journey.
    • They found a product to focus on (watches). They taught themselves how to start their business along the way.
  • 12:57 – Influencer Marketing
    • When a YouTube influencer, Pete McKinnon, featured their product in his channel, they received a lot of orders but they were already out-of-stock so Pete suggested to them to set up pre-orders.
    • Phil set up a Shopify website to accommodate pre-orders.
    • Holme & Hadfield are the surnames of the two co-founders, Ian Holme and Phil Hadfield.
    • “What that made us realize is that people were willing to work with us just to get our products, which is pretty unique.”
    • They already have an affiliate scheme and were featured in ten holiday gift guides in Christmas 2023.
  • 20:38 – Marketing Criteria
    • There are two different criteria in marketing.
    • “Do they create good content that can be used in Facebook or their own organic socials.
    • It’s important that the influencers are knowledgeable about watches and knives and that they’re a voice in the said community.
  • 23:02 – Marketing Channels
    • Holme & Hadfield launched as an Amazon brand.
    • When they expected that orders would flow all year because of the influencer collaboration and it didn’t happen was one of the lessons that Phil had to learn.
    • “For us to suddenly pivot after selling out on Amazon in three weeks to suddenly be a DTC brand when we hadn’t nailed Amazon was a little bit naive but understandable.”
    • In 2023, they were under $6 million in sales.
    • Phil had forecasted that in 2024, they will be up to $8.5 million in sales but it will still be dependent on a lot of things.
  • 31:30 – Inventory and Growth Path
    • “We had a lot of stock to sell through.”
    • Phil and Ian had to take money out of their own pockets to fund the new order for Amazon.
    • In their first year, they only launched one SKU and one color and from there, they were able to launch different colors and sizes of different products.
    • They had $1 million in sales in their first year on Amazon.
  • 33:28 – Self-education and Courses Taken
    • Reliable Education is one course that Phil and Ian took, although it is a bit different now.
    • “The course that everyone takes in the US, they tell you to find the cheapest possible product so it involves a lot lower barrier to entry and means that you can sell on Amazon quickly.”
    • They also joined Titan Network and eCommerceFuel where they met different kinds of people who are doing bigger things.
  • 36:13 – The Community
    • Instagram was one of the needle-movers for Holme & Hadfield.
    • They used Instagram to interact with the community and create polls.
    • “Every launch, we’d spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a subsection of the US population, 50 people. Every time, you could narrow it down, and get their opinion.”
    • They also built their Facebook community and already have around 3000 members.
    • They started customer surveys in 2023 regarding a product’s initial concept stage or even about things like them doing a podcast, etc.
  • 42:18 – Conducting the Surveys
    • They have post-purchase surveys.
    • They also have an email list where people can sign up to become a part of the survey community.
    • They also share the survey on their Facebook, but not on Instagram.
  • 44:14 – Content Marketing Strategy
    • “We get so much content from our audience and a lot of it is through using their content because they’re so talented.”
    • They also have a social media manager.
    • They are bringing the email, copywriting, and video-editing in-house this 2024.
  • 46:43 – Shopify vs. DTC vs. Amazon
    • “All in all, as a business, we’ve done $3.9 million in 2022 and of that, Amazon was about $3.2 million. The rest of it is made up of Etsy.”
    • They also do wholesale.
    • They started running Facebook ads in September 2023 and ended up having $1 million in sales in 2023, as compared to 2022 with $80,000.
    • “Amazon is tough right now, it has been for us.”
    • Holme & Hadfield is 35% DTC and 65% Amazon. By the end of 2024, it will be 50-50.
  • 51:51 – Holme & Hadfield LTV
    • DTC is something new to Holme & Hadfield.
    • Some customers own 8 or 9 of their cases and would upgrade whenever something new comes up.
  • 54:03 – Lessons and What-Ifs
    • “I don’t regret anything, they’re all lessons.”
    • Phil says that he would probably start an agency if he is in an eCommerce business that generates lots of cash.
    • Cashflow is something that Phil and Ian had never thought of before and had been a headache for them.
    • “If I’m starting another business now, I would still like to stay in eCommerce because I love the brand-building side of it.”
    • “The one thing that we’ve got going for us is that we don’t have a competitor.”
  • 58:28 – The Visionary
    • Phil is more of a visionary and Ian is more of the integrator.
    • Phil admits that they need a COO.
    • “At the moment, I do manage the operation side of things but it’s definitely not my strength.”
    • His strength lies in building visions, strategizing, and making partnerships.
  • Lightning Round

Q: Are you a morning person?
A: Yes.

Q: What does your morning routine look like?
A: I live in Bali right now so I’m quite lucky. I can go out and take a walk on the beach and hopefully get some sunlight. I do saunas, ice baths, hit the gym, and then get to work.

Q: Are you into sports?
A: Yes, for sure.

Q: Who’s your favorite athlete or your favorite team?
A: My favorite team is Tottenham Hotspur. My favorite is David Beckham, I love him.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you can give readers keen on doing what you’ve done?
A: Don’t think, just do it. We got here because we didn’t think too far ahead. You have to have a vision, which is super exciting for you and that motivates you but then just do the thing that gets you to the next day.

Q: Who’s been your most meaningful business contact in the last five years?
A: I’m going to say a guy that I’ve met called Mac. I met him at an event. He’s built and sold seven businesses and he has bought a football team in Spain. I like him and he’s been a great mentor to us.


  • Influencer marketing helped the growth of Holme & Hadfield.
  • “We work with a lot of micro-influencers or nano, whichever one they are, between 1,000 to 15,000 followers who are super talented in photography or videography.”
  • Influencers who are working with Holme & Hadfield are given a brief to follow but Holme & Hadfield lets them be creative with their photography and videography.
  • Don’t ignore the thing that got you success in the first place. Keep it simple.
  • Phil is grateful that they decided to diversify in terms of marketing channels as they have been seeing slightly declining business in the US.

Links & Resources:


🔔 Book Announcement:

📈 ‘E-Commerce Growth Strategy’ by Kunle Campbell

Exciting news for our listeners! Kunle Campbell, your host and e-commerce expert, has just released his new book: ‘E-Commercer Growth Strategy.’ This essential guide is packed with strategies for attracting shoppers, building community, and retaining customers in the e-comerce space. Drawing on insights from the 2X eCommerce podcast and Kunle’s extensive experience, this book is a must-read for anyone in the e-commerce industry. Elevate your e-commerce game today!

Available now on Amazon.

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Phil, welcome to the 2X eCommerce Podcast. 

Kunle, nice to meet you and nice to be on the show. Thanks for inviting me on.

I hear you’re a listener of the podcast so I’m honored to have you on.

I’m honored to be on. I’ve listened to a number of your podcasts and I’m so happy that you’re happy to have me on, share my story, and talk about the brand.

Let’s get into your back story. I love getting entrepreneurs on this podcast. You’ve built quite a substantial eCommerce website. You’re a Brit yourself. The primary market of your brand is United States. We’re not going to go too deep into that right now. Holme and Hadfield is your brand name. First of all, I want to speak about you. Could you tell the audience a bit about your story? Go as far back as you want but connect it to what you do now, which is Holme and Hadfield. It’d be lovely to hear your story. 

I certainly don’t have too much of an interesting childhood in the sense that I’m not your traditional entrepreneur that was selling lemonade from a lemonade stand and was constantly doing side deals at school. I had a normal upbringing. I was raised by middle-class parents who raised me to believe, in the nicest possible way, that the best I could hope for was to get a good job, earn as much money as possible, buy a property, get married, and slowly build up my savings.

Also, being an entrepreneur was for people who either came up with some crazy invention that would change the world or they wanted to buy a restaurant, a shop, or something like that. I was drummed into me, and this isn’t throwing any shade on my parents at all, it was how they were raised, “That life isn’t for you. This is the life for you.” I did the traditional going to university, did a degree that didn’t mean anything apart from the fact that I went and had a great time for three years. I didn’t know what to do with my life.

Like with a lot of people who don’t know what to do with their life, I moved to London and got a job in recruitment, which is the Dunn thing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Throughout my 20s, looking back on it now, it was a very hard environment to grow up in the working world. This wasn’t the current working world where people were talking about mental health and work-life balance and everything. If you’re not in the office at 6:00 AM and leaving at 10:00 PM, you’re doing things wrong.

It’s a proper hustle culture, which gave me a good work ethic but it also gave me a good idea of what I didn’t want to do with the rest of my life. You spend your 20s driven by money so that was what I was chasing. I then hit 30, I was completely burnt out, I’d started to develop a number of different chronic health issues, and I realized there was no way I wanted my boss’s job. If someone offered me my boss’s job, I would run a mile.

At that point, I was like, “This is stupid. Why am I continuing to do this?” I looked at the alternative option, which was to go and get a different job, and I was like, “I don’t want to do that either.” I took a sabbatical from my job and decided to go traveling with my partner. As luck would have it and as fate would have it, one of my best friends from school, we’ve known each other since we were 13, was going through his own, “I’ve just turned 31. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.” He was working at PwC as a tax advisor. Also, he realized he didn’t want his boss’s job.

We met up along the way with our partners. We were in Brazil when we met. We got talking one afternoon and we realized over the course of an afternoon of maybe having a few too many beers at the time that we didn’t want to go back to the life we’d been living before and that we wanted to go into business together. We didn’t know what that was and we came up with a number of stupid ideas but we made a commitment there and that we were going to try and start something together.

A lot of it, to be honest, the beginning was driven through not wanting to be part of a huge business and not wanting to go into an office every day. Bear in mind, this was the beginning of 2018 so I’d never worked a remote day in my life then. This was pre-COVID when working remotely was only for IT people so it was unheard of. We tried to start a few different businesses and didn’t go that well. We then came across this course on how to sell on Amazon.

Immediately, we were hooked on the opportunity. We realized, at that point, that we didn’t just want to sell products on Amazon. The classic example is setting up a spatula brand on Amazon and sticking a label on it and making as much money as possible. I felt that was swapping our previous life and translating it to this new entrepreneurial life where we were just chasing money. We wanted to create something that had value and that we were proud of.

These courses that you take, for anyone who’s taken an Amazon course, it’s all around finding a niche that has a lot of demand but it would also benefit from a lot of innovation. We came across this niche of watch organization, watch organizers, and watch displays for collectors. All we saw were old, tired, boring, and old-fashioned designs. We were like, “This hasn’t been updated in 20 or 30 years. Better still, they’re not catering to the current generation, they’re just catering to that guy in his suit that’s on his way to work and has got a $10,000 Rolex. They’re not appealing to every man.”

We came up with a design over the course of the next few months that was Completely unique, minimalist, and totally unique to what was already on the market. We set about it in, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, we’d never designed anything in our lives, we’d never found a factory, and we’d never done any of this before. We had to teach ourselves along with the courses that we were taking and the advice that we would get to find our factory and translate that idea in our head into a design using a designer that we found on Upwork.

Fast forward nine months, we’d found a factory after going to multiple factories and we put pretty much our life savings that we had at that point, the rest of our money that we’d already used up, on our first order that was for 500 units. We thought that would take us for three and a half months. We launched in October 2020 and it sold out within three weeks. It was at that point that we realized that we were onto something. It was also at that point that we realized there was a big opportunity off Amazon.

Because we’d started to build our Instagram at that point, we started to do some influencer collaborations. As luck would have it, we did a few micro-influencer collaborations. Through that, a YouTuber with 6 million subscribers bought our product and he happened to feature our product as a number one gift option on his gift guides for Christmas that year. We were already out of stock at that point but we just put it as a pre-order. Overnight, we did $10,000 in sales. It was honestly one of the best days of my life. I couldn’t believe that we’d done this.

Trying to speed up the story of our journey a little bit, at that point, we realized that this was one SKU but this represented a whole product range that we could design. We realized that people are super obsessed about their accessories, men in particular, they take real pride in them and they take real pride in organizing them as well, and yet there’s not good solutions out there and there certainly isn’t one brand who provides good solutions across every accessory.

We realized that there were other obsessions in addition to watches like pocket knives. In the UK, we were like, “Who collects pocket knives in the US and other places around the world?” It’s huge. We applied that same theory to the pocket knife category and we built products for that and then we did it in other niches.

That was super interesting. I like the box standard background and that story where you were set up to being in the matrix, box standard life. At 29, you had this almost midlife crisis. Late-20s crisis happens to the best of us. One thing I picked up was the chronic health issues. I also developed chronic health issues at 29 or 30, which changed my life forever. Brazil is a wonderful place. The key thing there was you started to think about your why, “Why do I have to go down that route? There has to be a better way of doing things.”

I get Holme and Hadfield. I thought you were an accessory seller but you’re a modern accessories organizer brand. You’re an organization for knives, sunglasses, and wristwatches. It opens up a plethora of customers because they’re luxury watches and people will collect watches. It’s super interesting in terms of what you’re doing. When the influencer made the recommendation to his 6 million audience, were you D2C at the time or did you just have a DTC website? Can you pre-order from Amazon? Can you set your Amazon store to pre-order? 

No. We’d set up a Shopify website but we weren’t running any ads or anything like that. He told us he was going to feature it. How it happened was that I was our customer service at that point. He had a problem with his order, I recognized his name, and I said, “Are you Pete McKinnon with a YouTube channel of 6 million subscribers?” He said, “Yeah.”

I thought it’d be cheeky, and I said, “Is there any way you’d be able to share a story or anything like that?” He said, “I’m thinking of featuring it in my gift guide.” We were like, “We’re out of stock.” He goes, “You could try a pre-order.” We were like, “Great idea.” I then said to my business partner, “How do we do a pre-order? How do we set that up?” We had to figure it out but we did a pre-order through Shopify.

That’s incredible, you got the tip from Pete himself. How old is the brand? Is it just your names? Your surname is Hadfield. Is your partner’s surname Holme?

Admit you're quite crap at something and ask people who are better than you for their advice. Click to Tweet

Correct. Incredibly innovative, we just used our last names. Luckily, I feel it just works. We were selling into a US market and it felt like a quintessentially British brand and that’s what we wanted to put across. I feel like it has a premium feel to it. Whilst we’re not at the top end of the market with thousands of dollars, it’s definitely more to the premium end and we feel like that name gave that impression.

Your first experience, selling $10,000 a night, did that trigger or set an influencer marketing strategy moving forward? Were you now looking for more influencers to promote Holme and Hadfield?

Absolutely. Whilst I’ll say we were lucky that he bought our product, he only bought our product because we did an initial influencer campaign with a lot of micro-influencers so it never would have happened had we not done that. what that made us realize is that people were willing to work with us just to get our products, which is pretty unique. To this day, we’ve never done a paid influencer campaign, we always just give them the product.

We now have an affiliate scheme so they do get that. We were featured in ten holiday gift guides in Christmas 2023 and every single YouTuber had a minimum of 100,000 subscribers andone of them had 3.5 million subscribers. With these guys, we produce products that they know their audience will like and are unique so it’s quite easy for us to get them to speak about it because they want to be one of the first people to try it.

It is quite lucky because we didn’t set out the brand and said, “Let’s create a brand that we know influencers are going to want this for free,” as in they’re not going to want to get paid. Sensing that opportunity and jumping on it and knowing our worth as well as knowing that we don’t have to pay influencers has been key. Long answer to your question, that made us truly jump on the fact that using influences to grow our name and our brand was huge and it’s been central to everything.

What are your selection criteria for influencers? Do the influencers you reach out to or who want the product speak about the accessories that go into your products?

There are a few different kinds of influencers that we work with. With all of them, we’re super lucky to work with them. The ones that have huge followings, we can’t demand much of them but it’s up to them what they do with it. Ultimately, even if they would post a story with our product, it’s pretty good. We don’t have much say on those guys.

We work with a lot of micro-influencers or nano, whichever one they are, between 1,000 to 15,000 followers who are super talented in photography or videography. We’re quite lucky in this niche that a lot of these guys are super creative. Because they want to have one of our products to create interesting and unique content, we’re able to give them a bit more of a brief. We’ll have a brief for them to follow, “Can you talk about this particular aspect? Can you talk about how it fits with your specific accessories?

For one of our businesses, we’re very much influencer-driven. Our approach there is we only look for influencers who are teachers. If you’re not an educator, we wouldn’t consider you. There are other categories. There are people who glamorize their lifestyle, like, “Look at my watch. Look at my nice dress. Look at me in this. Look at my nice car.” They’re different from people who are teaching a concept for their audience.

We then leverage that trust and reliability to plug in our products. I was wondering if you have a methodology, like, “These are the influencers we’ll work with because these influencers don’t work.” We tried reality TV people for that brand, we’ve even tried many celebs, and it just doesn’t work as much as like a teacher to the audience. I was wondering what your criteria is in regards to marketing.

There are two different criteria. The lower influencers in terms of their influence, do they create good content that we can use be it for Facebook ads or for our own organic socials? A lot of these guys are super creative, they’ll take very unique shots of our products, reels, of course. Crazily enough, our still shots are now outperforming our reels. Instagram changed the algorithm again.

It’s key that these guys are seen as collectors themselves. With all due respect to our customers and the influencers that we work with, they’re a bit nerdy about this stuff. They’re nerdy about knives and watches. They need to be that nerd themselves for their audience to trust them. It’s important they know about watches if they’re buying one of our watch cases. It’s important that they have a collection of watches. The same with knives, coins, and sunglasses, it’s important they’re a voice in that community.

It’s natural synergy. People speak about what goes in the box and they’re like, “By the way, this is how I collect my boxes.” There’s the affinity, which is quite important. Thanks for clarifying that. With DTC showing so much promise like with the pre-order thing, you had the Amazon store, how did you decide where to put your attention on which of the channels? Did you still split your attention or did you double down on one channel and say, “Let’s get it right here and then move on to the other channel.”

It’s a good question and I’m glad we did it this way. We launched as an Amazon brand and we sold out our first order on Amazon and then we did have this pre-order come in. We were very distracted by this pre-order. We weren’t running ads at this time. We didn’t know how to run Facebook ads. We assumed that because we’d done this collaboration, all of these orders were going to keep flowing all year. We placed this big order assuming that our DTC sales were going to keep rolling in.

When the order hit, that didn’t happen. We had all this stock. We worked with a new 3PL because we thought we’re going to be having all these DTC sales and it didn’t work out like that. It was a big lesson for us. At the time, it was just me, Ian, my business partner, and a part time VA, and we had a customer service who worked part-time as well. For us to suddenly pivot after selling out on Amazon in three weeks to suddenly be a DTC brand when we hadn’t nailed Amazon was a little bit naive but understandable. We’ve got this big preorder and we think that’s the opportunity.

We had a big conversation and we were like, “No. We need to nail one thing here. What do we know better than anything else? Amazon.” What we decided to do is go and double down on Amazon but at the same time, build a sizable presence off Amazon in terms of our Instagram community and Facebook group. When we do decide to go DTC, we have a solid business that we can fall back on. The same way if you start out DTC and then you think Amazon is going to be the next best thing and then you jump to Amazon, you’re ignoring the thing that got you the success in the first place. It’s just trying to keep it simple.

For some context, what’s the size of the business?

In 2023, we did under $6 million in sales.

What do you think 2024 would look like? 

We forecasted around $8.5 million in sales. It’s dependent on a lot of different things. We’ve been focusing a lot on growth up until this point. This 2024, we want to nail profitability in quite a big way. In previous years, we’re like, “Let’s double the business.” Now, it’s trying to focus on getting our processes and systems operationally and getting sound. We’d love to get to the eight-figure mark as quickly as possible but I feel like it’s a bit of a vanity metric at the moment and then having a strong foundation of a business to then potentially get to that eight-figure mark.

I agree with you. 2024, for most DTC-native brands, seems to be a time for consolidating a lot of profits for self-preservation. You build out that arsenal or war chest and then you use that to launch further for the next three years for your growth efforts. I 100% agree.  Let’s go back to the past. What was the size of the business then, particularly when you decided, “We’ve learnt our lesson by overstocking for DTC. It requires a lot more to put in. We’re going to have to focus on Amazon.” Did you have to shift inventory from 3PL to Amazon?  What happened? What was your growth path or trajectory from then on?

We had a lot of stock to sell through. Relative to the size we were then, now, it wouldn’t feel like a lot of stock but then, it felt like a lot. We did have to wait, we had to put in another order, and we had to take more money out of our own pockets to fund this new order for Amazon. We made this decision when we’d sold about 500 units. This was still a decision we made at the beginning. The first time we sold out our first product was just the first product, hero products, one SKU, and one color. All we did in that first year was launch the knife version of the same product and we launched different colors and then we would launch different sizes of different products.

We ended up doing over $1 million in sales in our first year on Amazon. Looking back on it, whilst it was great and we did well and I’m proud of it, it was definitely the COVID wave that we were riding at that point. Would we do that same $1 million if we launch now? No, we wouldn’t. It gave us the confidence and the sales to believe that we could scale it. That was our first year. That was pretty much predominantly Amazon. That was 2021 and it was only in 2022 that we started to diversify a bit.

The other thing I picked up earlier on was that you mentioned the fact that you’d seen what was in the market. It’s quite a significant point and you’re like, “It’s not serving the modern consumer. We could do it better.” You hired a product designer from Upwork, put together what you envisioned a modern accessory storage box should look like, you started out with watches, you designed your stuff yourself, and you put in those MOQs. On Amazon, what were you doing to get attention? Were you advertising within the platform or were you still using micro-influencers and directing everybody to the Amazon store? 

Now, more than ever, back then as well, you have to use PPC, pay-per-click advertising, and that’s super important. Back then, we were so unique compared to what was on the page. We stood out like a sore thumb in a very good way. We were the top seller pretty much immediately. In 2021, our Q4 sales were insane. By that point, we were using external traffic to drive a lot of our launches. It was in 2022 when we started to build our own Facebook community. Those launches ended up being pretty huge on Amazon and those would drive rankings and mean that we’d get a lot more reviews quicker than our competitors. That was how we were driving sales in addition to advertising.

What were the best educators, courses, people, or experts that changed the way you sold on Amazon in terms of success?

I don’t want to be negative about any of the courses that we took because they all had played a real part. We took a course called Reliable Education. They’re not about anymore. They’re different to the course that a lot of people take in the US. The course that everyone takes in the US, they tell you to find the cheapest possible product so it involves a lot lower barrier to entry and means that you can sell on Amazon quickly.

What that means is that you come across a lot of Chinese sellers or foreign sellers who can blow you out of the water when it comes to selling at low margins. What this course taught us to do from the beginning was to focus on brands but also focus on products that were a little bit more premium. That was probably the biggest thing that we got from that. The other biggest thing that we got from that and that I personally took from it and I’ve tried to lean into it was leaning into the seller community and that’s been the most important thing for us.

We joined another network called Titan Network. They’re an Amazon network and they were brilliant in terms of meeting new people who were doing bigger things than you and going to events so that was amazing. Since then, I’ve joined eCommerceFuel, a network as well. It’s more taking little bits from different courses but also not being afraid to be vulnerable and admit you’re quite crap at something and asking people who are better than you for their advice.

I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. Click to Tweet

Making a lot of online friends has been important. We’ve had some dark times that we’ve had to dig ourselves out from and what’s been nice at those times is that you’ve had someone go, “This is really crap for you but you’re going to get through it. This is normal. You have to go through this stuff to come out on the other side and experience the good stuff.”

What I picked up from it is that there is no single gospel. Pick and choose key points in your journey. They might come from courses, communities, or one-to-one relationships. Every interaction is an opportunity to enhance and strengthen yourself. Good points there. I wanted to figure that out because you’ve done the Amazon well and differently. Typically, in online courses, they tell you to get lightweight and cheap items to test and it’s commoditized and you slap a brand on it. For you, you are your own customer, you understood the pinpoints of a watch collector, and you saw what was in the market and you added value.

A lot of people don’t talk about the product development bits in their journeys. Particularly, within Amazon, there’s a lot of white labeling going on in the Amazon space. Arguably, does it last? I can’t say. For you building a brand both at the product level because you saw a gap is commendable. Great stuff there, Phil. Nice one. You started to grow the business. You created more size variations, color variations, and completely new SKUs to cater for new accessories. What did you start to do after that? In 2022 and 2023, did you start to focus a bit more on your direct-to-consumer sales or channel? How did that look like? 

One of the biggest needle-movers for us is we had an Instagram and that was great and we used to interact with our community through getting DMs, polls, and stuff like that. That was great but I feel like it was lacking more depth. Throughout our product development process, we would use a thing called PickFu. Have you used it before?

I have, yes.

Every launch, we’d spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a subsection of the US population, 50 people. Every time, you could narrow it down, and get their opinion. You’d be paying X amount more dollars. Why are we not creating this ourselves? We created our Facebook community that we have slowly but surely built up. We’ve got around 3,000 members.

You hear other people talk about maybe they’ve got 20,000 or 30,000. This is a highly-engaged community where we involve them at every step of the journey from getting ideas from them. If they want a product enough, we probably will create it if there’s enough demand for them to help us name the product, them helping us choose the best color, and them helping us choose the best size. We started doing that in 2022 and we knew we were onto something when one of our larger knife organizers did over $80,000 over our launch weekend off Amazon sales. We leaned into that and were like, “We need to be a lot more active on this and take this to another level.”

In 2023, what we started doing was customer surveys. We would show them designs at an initial concept stage but then we would also ask them questions about all kinds of different things about our business, “We’re thinking of doing a podcast. Would that be interesting to you? Would you listen to this? All kinds of different things.

Personally, I’m not the type of person who would bother with that as a customer. I always just thought, “Do people want to speak to us? Do people care?” These people really do. They love being part of it so much so that I’ve got a Zoom call with about twenty of our customers doing a focus group with them. I’m going to get real-time feedback on a number of key issues, customer service, and all kinds of different things. What this has done is it means that people feel like they truly know us. They feel like they know the face behind the brand.

When things maybe are less than ideal, they’re a little bit more okay to accept in some cases. Also, what it means is that whenever we launch a product, you can never be 100% confident, but we are as close to 100% confident that it’s going to be a winner as possible because they’ve been with us at every single stage of the journey. I wanted to touch upon that because that’s been a big part of our journey to this point.

Let’s stick with this community story because it ties very nicely with all you’re doing DTC, it’s even more intimate. The question I have is, with the surveys, are you sending the surveys directly to the Facebook group community? Are you doing post-purchase surveys using third-party Shopify tools? Are you using email? What does the call-to-action for the surveys look like and where does it emanate from?

Post-purchase surveys are a different thing. We have those but it’s not the same thing. We have an email list where people have signed up because they want to be part of the survey community. We send an email out every now and then to say, “Just so you know, we do these surveys where we get your opinion and it means you get to play a part in the product development process. You have a say over what we’re doing.” In general, we’ll probably send them out to our entire email list because we don’t get that many unsubscribes when we do it. We do have a specific subsection of our email list for that.

We do share it with our Facebook group. We don’t share it with our Instagram because I feel it’s a little bit less intimate. In general, our first one this 2024, we got almost 600 people take part. When you compare it to 50 people, we had to pay almost $1,000 when you narrowed that down. On PickFu, we get this for free and they’re also our customers. You’re priming them from the beginning of that product development process. By the time you launch it, they’re already bought anyway. I love being a part of it. They love vulnerability. They love knowing what’s going on behind it. It’s cool.

Phil, what you have special there is you have people double obsessed. They’re obsessed with what goes into the storage units and they’re obsessed about how they store their favorite accessories. If you were selling a blender or a coffee cup, it would be achievable but tougher because that double interest isn’t there. What’s your content marketing strategy? Both on social media and if you do blogs or newsletters, what does it look like? 

We have a social media manager. To be honest, we get so much content from our audience and a lot of it is through using their content because they’re so talented. If you look at our Instagram, it’s pretty much 95% content that people create for us, the influencers that we work with. We do have some other influencers who are photographers who work and create content for us. For blogs, we have an SEO copywriter and they do that for us. To be honest, I’m not too involved in that side of things, that’s more my business partner and our brand manager.

This is something we are completely refreshing. This 2024, we’ve brought our email, copywriting, and video editing all in-house. Previously, we were using agencies, but now we’re bringing on full-time talented people but are a little bit raw that we can train and it doesn’t cost as much. We found a lot of success in that rather than using external agencies who don’t really care. We’re getting people who care about the brand and are excited for the opportunity.

I’m on your Instagram and it’s interesting to see how they feel. There’s a certain feel. Maybe it’s the filter you’re using. The content seems consistent. The images are consistent to consume. They have a distinct look, it’s brownish. It’s well-curated, let me put it that way, even though it’s from different sources. With all that you’re doing from a content perspective, you’re investing so much from a content perspective as well as from a survey trying to build that community, it’s in parallel with your DTC strategy. Given the fact that you started Amazon, what is the split of Shopify to DTC versus Amazon now in 2024?

Taking a little bit of a step back. All in all, as a business, we’ve done $3.9 million in 2022 and of that, Amazon was about $3.2 million. The rest of it is made up of Etsy, which has been quite big for us, which has been great. Also, we’ve been doing wholesale without even inbounding inquiries, which is another part of our business that we’re going to grow. We thought that this was the year that we were going to try to DTC.

Our brand manager, who’s an incredibly talented guy, and we’re super lucky to have him, has been spearheading that. He spent the whole year alongside my business partner, Ian. It’s more on his side of the business, devising a strategy so that when it came to the point where we were going to start running Facebook ads, we didn’t just burn through a load of cash. You don’t just start running Facebook ads out of nowhere and if you do, you’re going to spend a lot of money.

We only started running our Facebook ads in September of 2023 but we ended up doing over $1 million in sales in 2023. The year before, we’d only done $80,000. Our Amazon US sales didn’t grow that much. It was the other parts of our business that had grown international wholesale. Right now, the split is probably about 35% percent DTC and 65% percent Amazon. By the end of 2024, we’d be close to 50% and DTC will be the biggest part of our business, for sure, as time goes on.

Without jeopardizing the Amazon sales from a real-numbers perspective. 

Amazon is tough right now, it has been for us. Margin erosion from all the fees that they’re bringing in, it’s difficult. Whilst that’s been difficult to swallow, we’re super grateful that we made the decision to diversify because if we hadn’t, we’d see a bit of a plateauing or slight declining business in the US whereas these other areas of growth are huge for us. Retail is huge for us as well.

Do you know a creator called Ultralinx? He’s a UK creator. 

He’s had one of our products before. He’s quite big. He’s a talented guy, @Oliurvisuals. We have like 4 or 5 different avatars, there are your watch guys, there’s your knife EDC, and then you have these desk setup guys, which are your tech Apple desk setup guys. They’re all different but yet we sell to each of them. He is very much of the latter, the tech Apple desk setup. These guys create huge Instagrams of doing sick desk setups. It sounds niche but some of these guys have millions of subscribers on YouTube showing their desk setups. It’s crazy.

You just got to learn by doing it. Click to Tweet

They’re such talented photographers, all of them. They know how to present it in the most exquisite settings ever and color. Our fifth episode this season was an interview with the founder of Urban EDC Yong-Soo Chung. He came on the pod. He’s my good friend. He’s based in LA. That ties in quite nicely with what you do. His products sit into your cabinets.

There’s also an opportunity for people who get entry-level stuff if they’re then bombarded with content that encourages them to buy more accessories. I’m looking at one of your watch display cases, which has a drawer and four watch holders. Let’s say I bought that case with just two watches and your content encourages me to buy or the content you create encourages me to buy more watches, I’ll be back looking for either another one of it or a bigger one. What does your retention look like? What’s the customer lifetime value look like?

It’s a good question. I wish I had my brand manager on here to tell you that because it’s all stats. Because DTC is new to us, we are figuring all this stuff out. What I will say is there are people in our Facebook group who own 8 or 9 of our cases, which you would never think that. You would think that maybe someone might buy one, they could buy two, but a lot of these guys get pretty obsessed. It all seems to be whenever we go bigger and we have a bigger product, people will upgrade. I don’t want to say stats that aren’t true. I should have been prepared with the LTV but it’s definitely more than you would expect, for sure.

Your point on members of the community, having multiple units is good to know. This is a shout out to the audience. To the readers, I’m going to share a link to the Amazon page, which is amazing, particularly the A-plus section. It has you and Ian on there. It’s so on-brand. You won a product design award in New York, it’s there. There’s a handwritten piece here, “Men are so hard to buy gifts for said no Holme & Hadfield customer ever.” I like this. Have a look at just the presentation. This is one of the best A-plus pages I’ve seen, not so much on brand. It’s good stuff.

Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Good plug.

If you were to start all over again now in 2024, what will be your first move? 

That’s a good question. If I’m going to do this, I’m starting, and doing the exact same business or are you asking if I’m just starting any business?

Any business, it could be this business but any eCommerce business or Amazon. Would you even start Amazon first? If you’d start a consumer brand, what routes would you take with what you know?

I don’t regret anything, they’re all lessons. I can’t ever say that I would do anything differently because what we’ve done has got us to the point that we get to. As cheesy as it sounds, I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I’m here because I’m meant to be in this position right now. That being said, if you’re in an eCommerce business that generates loads of cash and has a big salary, I’d probably say maybe start an agency.

One thing that I’d never thought of before and neither had my business partner and he’s a lot more finance-focused than I am is cashflow. Cashflow has been a huge headache for us and has been for a long time and has been a big obstacle for us. You can have the best product and best business ever but if you don’t have your cashflow sorted out, you could go out of business pretty quickly. If I’m starting another business now, I would still like to stay in eCommerce because I love the brand building side of it.

If I was going to do it again, I would start with DTC because I feel like you can be a lot more creative with the brand building side of things. I would like to create maybe a complimentary business that is a little bit easier on cashflow. I do like the thought of having a business that has a subscription model, that’s pretty cool if you can do that but I do feel like a lot of those areas are overly saturated. The one thing that we’ve got going for us is that we don’t have a competitor.

We have people who create knife cases, watch cases, and organization in all the different areas but we don’t have anyone who does what we do. There are a lot of blue-oceans where we are. In a lot of the areas, which I’ve just talked about, there’s a lot of choppy red ocean. The grass is always greener. I’m sure if I went and did those things, I’d be like, “I missed what I was doing there.” To be honest, my biggest advice to anyone who’s at the start or is thinking of getting involved is to just do it. I know it sounds simple but if I’d have thought about it, I never would have got started.

If I’d have thought about all the different things that could go wrong and all the things that have gone wrong, I probably wouldn’t have got started. You just got to learn by doing it. You asked the question earlier about they’re doing all the courses and stuff, we learned by just doing it, and that’s what you need to do. You need to make your mistakes. I’m sure you would say the same, your biggest lessons have come from doing the work.

Also, leaning on your fear. There’s always an excuse. The moment you shut your mouth, you know what you need to do and do it. The faster things get done or they don’t get done, no one cares. Good stuff. I could go on and on. One final question I have before we get into the rapid question section is how do you and Ian split your roles? Who’s the visionary and who’s the integrator? Do you use the visionary-integrator model? 

I’m definitely more of a visionary because I could not be the integrator, it’s not my skillset at all. He is more of an operator but he’s not a true operator in that sense of it. As we get towards eight figures, something we need to focus on is getting a COO, a true operator. At the moment, I do manage the operation side of things but it’s definitely not my strength. My strength is building visions, building strategy, getting in front of the brand, and making partnerships, that’s what excites me.

The operations, building systems, and processes don’t float my boat. He can do that stuff but it doesn’t lift him up. I’d say that’s the only thing about our partnership. We complement each other really well. If you’ve got someone who loves operations and loves that side of things and loves being an integrator, that’s super beneficial. I don’t think you’re always that lucky. You’re in partnership, right?

I’m a visionary and he’s the integrator, for sure.

He loves doing that.

He loves doing that but I would also say he gets along with people so well. From what I’ve heard from you, you’re a people’s person. You like to make deals, you like to be in front, you create relationships, you create opportunities there, and you see what’s next potentially. With myself, he is extremely good with people and he gets along with you really well.

With that, he’s able to then create systems even better because systems are all about people, processes, and systems in of itself. He’s got that all glued in. Before I let you go, Phil, I have a lightning round. I tend to ask entrepreneurs who come on this podcast. I want to get into your head through questions. I’ll be asking you about 5 to 7 questions. If you could use a single sentence to answer each of them, you’re a-okay. Are you ready?

Your experience of me so far has not been giving you one-sentence answers.

Fair enough. There’s always a change. Are you a morning person? 


What does your morning routine look like? 

I live in Bali right now so I’m quite lucky. I can go out and take a walk on the beach and hopefully get some sunlight. I do saunas, ice baths, hit the gym, and then get to work.

Is Ian also in Bali? 

No, he’s in gray, rainy London.

Are you into sports? 

Yes, for sure.

Who’s your favorite athlete or your favorite team? 

My favorite team is Tottenham Hotspur. My favorite is David Beckham, I love him.

What’s the one piece of advice you can give readers keen on doing what you’ve done? 

Don’t think, just do it. We got here because we didn’t think too far ahead. You have to have a vision, which is super exciting for you and that motivates you but then just do the thing that gets you to the next day.

Who’s been your most meaningful business contact in the last five years?

I’m going to say a guy that I’ve met called Mac. I met him at an event. He’s built and sold seven businesses and he has bought a football team in Spain. I like him and he’s been a great mentor to us.

Phil, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the 2X eCommerce Podcast show.  For those who want to find out more about you, are you active on any social platforms?

I need to be more active. On LinkedIn, I’m starting to be a little bit more active. If people want to reach out to me and ask me any questions, I’m more than happy to answer any questions. It’s probably best just to email me if possible, Phil@HolmeandHadfield.com.

Phil, thank you. 

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.


About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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