GEOCHEMISTRY is a far cry from the world of online shopping, but one Hammersmith resident’s decsion to turn her back on a life of academia is beginning to pay off.
Earlier this year Rachel Oxburgh launched Casabu, a daily flash-sale website offering parents great deals on big brands.
It offers exclusive sales for a limited time on items such as toys, clothes, nursery equipment and maternity gear. The first three months have shown considerable growth, both in customers and clients.
Already attracting thousands of unique users a day, Ms Oxburgh is expecting 300,000 to 400,000 customers by the end of the year, by which time she expects the company to break even.
The projection for the end of the second year is a turnover of about £1million.
Now on the path to business success, Ms Oxburgh’s life could have turned out very differently had she stayed in the world of climate science.
After following in her father’s footsteps – the eminent geologist and geophysicist Lord Ronald Oxburgh, a former chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence – she reached a stage where she questioned whether she wanted to continue in academia.
An Oxford graduate who continued studying in America at the University of Wyoming and New York’s Columbia University, there is little doubt that Ms Oxburgh would have had a successful career in her field, but at the turn of the century she decided it was no longer for her.
The Brackenbury Road resident said: “I had spent a lot of time in the States and when I came back I began a lectureship and that was the first real time that I thought about a life in academia.
“There are bits of my personality that don’t work well with it. I’m quite social and like interacting with people and it can be quite introspective work, based heavily on peer review. There are not that many jobs and when they come up there’s fierce competition. As a single woman in my 30s I wanted a bit more flexibility.”
After successfully turning her hand to the digital market, Rachel and her husband Matt Rowe ran digital and design agency The Storm Creative, until they decided to close it last year.
Seeking a new challenge, she launched Casabu.
While the daily flash-sale model is not new, having been popularised by firms such as Groupon and LivingSocial, Ms Oxburgh says Casabu is about trying to build a more personable brand that is as much for its clients as it is the customers.
“We want the customer to really trust us, so we’ll run sales of products that we think they’ll really want,” said the mum of two. “The idea is that they look at the site every day, because the deals are very good.
“There may not be something they want that day, but if they’re after a pushchair for example, it’s likely to come up in a sale within two weeks.
“It’s for the impulse buyer but also the savvy mum who wants to take advantage of these good deals. From the point of view of the clients, it’s a good way to promote their brand and move old stock. We had a swimwear sale earlier this year in April, selling costumes from 2010.
“Mothers couldn’t care less if it’s two years old, but the company could not keep it in their shop for two years and don’t want to keep paying to stock it.
“Our brand partners tell us that traffic and sales at their own websites increase during and after Casabu events.”
The company is backed by two entrepreneurs – retail specialist John Heseltine and online marketing expert Christian Lindstrom.
Earlier this year before Casabu’s official launch, Ms Oxburgh flew to Europe to promote Casabu at trade shows, a task which at first seemed daunting but helped her ease into the role of chief executive.
The 47-year-old said: “My induction involved attending a children’s trade show in Amsterdam and I was nervous about how easy it would be to approach people and how receptive they would be to our business model. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
“This business is probably 80 per cent women and, on top of that, when you have children you are genuinely excited about the products you come across, which really helps when making conversation with the people who make them.”
l For more information visit www.casabu.com.