Ali Nowroozi, Founder of Manchester-based Masumi explains how the brand is putting ethical British fashion on the global map.
Ali Nowroozi is the founder of Masumi, an ethical and luxury headwear brand founded in Manchester back in 2016. Over the past five years, Masumi has secured headwear distributors in most European countries and has been listed as the number one headwear supplier to Simply Wigs, one of the biggest online retailers in the industry.
The business has won contracts with several primary care trusts to supply headwear to cancer patients and has become a supplier to Maggie’s Centre at Christie Hospital Manchester - one of the world’s most respected cancer research centres.
They’ve also forged a strong relationship with the University of Salford, taking on ten interns, three of which have since become permanent staff, helping to step up marketing and sales efforts in export markets.
We put a few questions to Ali to find out more about his business and shine a light on the support he’s received to date from GC Business Growth Hub.
Hi Ali. Please tell us a little about your business - what is it and how was it founded?
Masumi is a headwear brand with a difference. We design and distribute fashionable headwear, hats and turbans that are for women who are affected by hair loss, whether they’re undergoing chemotherapy as part of cancer treatments or for those who have a specific condition such as alopecia.
I founded Masumi for two core reasons. Firstly, I was inspired by my wife, Anna, who had been diagnosed with cancer as a teenager and later recovered.
Secondly, I’d gained more than 10 years of experience working as a manager for a retail company that specialised in wigs. During that time, I saw lots of women coming through the doors who were experiencing hair loss for various reasons. They were looking for headwear options at a pivotal moment in their lives and I wanted to make sure they could access products designed to the highest standards, instilling confidence and comfort at a time when it really matters.
When did you first make contact with GC Business Growth Hub?
We’ve worked with great help from the Hub’s team since our inception. Our parent company, Avakino limited, was registered in November 2015 and we joined GC Business Growth Hub soon after as a start-up to get support with setting up and developing the business.
Even the brand name, Masumi, has been established with branding and trademark guidance from the Hub, to help ensure our name is unique and works in overseas markets. My wife and I chose Masumi from a Japanese unisex name which means ‘beauty, true purity.
How else has support from the Hub helped you?
I was originally assigned a mentor, (GC Business Growth Hub Advisor) Isabelle Farquhar, back in 2016 and I continue to have regular 121 meetings with her, receiving support, guidance and resources to help progress our business development plans.
This has entailed everything from coaching, business planning, setting up operations, to help with product promotion, IP legal matters, export plans, pitching and strategy. It led to the development of a three-year strategy with KPIs, and the launch of new products.
I’ve had excellent support on enhancing our digital presence through eCommerce and digital marketing, focusing primarily on SEO and paid marketing and PR activity in non-UK territories. The support to accelerate our digital journey has been a particular blessing in our response to COVID-19.
Whilst via Access to Finance, we’ve been able to better understand what funding options are available and improve the financial management of the business.
In addition, Isabelle introduced us to the GC International Trade team which helped Masumi secure a grant to grow the business internationally. As result of this, we’ve been able to expand Masumi’s online presence in the US, using Amazon fulfilment, setting up an Etsy shop as well as setting up a new office resulting in £25,000 sales.
With support from contacts in Germany provided by the Hub team, we’ve also worked with Amazon to build our European presence and, set up an office in Germany last year to counteract the EU exit challenge.
How has working with the Hub made a difference to your business?
Working with the Hub has enabled us to win more contracts and increase Masumi’s brand awareness in the UK and abroad. This has led to increased ecommerce activities and export sales and we’ve reached new markets.
Without a doubt, the Hub has played a key role in the success of our business. Their services have been a solid backbone since we launched and in the nicest possible way, they’ve never left me alone.
We now have a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot and a Gold Star awarded by customer feedback experts, Feefo. Masumi is also on track to surpass its turnover target this year, which will be an increase to £250k turnover from £175k last year.
Of course it’s great to see the financial growth go from strength to strength but the main aim of our business is to empower and help people. The most important thing is that what we do both inspires and helps people, even if it is only in a small way. That’s what matters.
Based on your experience with the Hub, what advice can you offer to other entrepreneurs and business owners?
Being an entrepreneur can be a daunting, scary and mentally exhausting process. I can guarantee you, there is no entrepreneur out there who hasn’t gone through many sleepless nights.
GC Business Growth Hub is here for you to go and ask for help and support. Make sure you make most of the resources that are available.