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E-commerce start-up shortlisted in retail competition

By Retail Technology | Wednesday April 2 2014

Founder of Ipswich-based online retail start-up, - in line to win £150,000 investment - reveals the technology decisions behind its early success, a retail firm from Ipswich, is one of 10 businesses shortlisted in the crowdfunded Worth Foundation competition. Its founder and former retail technology analyst, Christine Bardwell, shared the secrets of her success.

Bardwell came to the attention of the Worth Foundation fund as its experts and a panel comprised of some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs scoured the nation to find a retail start-up with a big idea that will get people up and down the UK reaching for their wallets. Online retailer, was selected for the shortlist out of the nearly 1,000 firms who applied. 

Great investment opportunity

The only retail specific competition of its kind, the competition used the equity crowdfunding website Seedrs to secure a record-breaking £300,000 investment pot, with funding from 259 investors from 11 countries around the world. 

£150,000 is available for the winner and £75,000 for two runners up, as well as expert mentoring from Alex Johns and Paul Soanes, the founders and managing partners of Worth Retail, which has previously worked with brands such as Maybelline and the BBC., which sells handbags, kids bags and luggage online, was founded by online retail expert Christine Bardwell. Running her business – with a little help from her mum and her sister – between bases in Ipswich and London, she aims to make the largest online seller of bags in the UK, and ultimately the world. 

Bardwell spoke exclusively to about the technology secrets to her early success. Having launched the business on the Magento e-commerce platform in November 2013, the entrepreneur believes it was the right choice to scale with her business. 

Scaling technology for growth 

“I believe Magento will allow my business to scale significantly,” she said. “ turned over £62.7 million last year on the platform. Of course, it has limitations (don't all e-commerce platforms?). But for free open source software, it's amazing what can actually be achieved. I'm a huge advocate now.”

She added: “I looked at osCommerce, BigCommerce and Zen Cart, which are often compared to Magento in terms of their features and functionality.” 

But she explained that she chose Magento for a number of reasons: “It's more established and it has such a great community – it's always easy to find a plug for extra functionality in or a pre-integration with other suppliers (such as couriers and accounting software for example). It's also easier to find front-end developers with Magento experience, which makes the whole process much more cost-effective.”

Huge business potential

Bardwell will attend a pitching day at London’s Hospital Club on 4 April and present their ideas to the expert judging panel, which is comprised of top UK entrepreneurs: Roger Wade of Boxpark, Jeff Lynn of Seedrs and Michael Acton Smith of Mind Candy, along with Jayne Atherton, business editor and Kenny Campbell, editor of the Metro.  

Discussing the competition, she commented: “I was over the moon to hear that I’d won a place in the Worth Foundation final. I’m excited about the judging day, and look forward to getting the panel as excited about as I am!”

Alex Johns, managing partner of Worth Retail, added: “ was up against some very stiff competition, but we were really impressed by Christine’s ideas. We’re confident that the business has huge potential, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about it on the judging day.” 

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