Music and wine; a timeless pairing loved by a huge audience. So imagine if a genre-defining vinyl record paired with an expertly selected wine was delivered straight to your door? That’s what husband and wife duo Russ and Lacey wanted to bring to the world. Their shared love of music drives the success of the brand, playing on the shifting desire of consumers who are moving away from the iTunes era, back to Vinyl. We spoke to the couple to find out how Stylus was born out of a passion for music, and how their story taps into the growing market for value.
How did your backgrounds influence the business idea and help the idea succeed?
First, we both come from musical backgrounds – I was brought up on classic rock, blues and soul, and Lacey was raised by a father who played leading roles in musical revues all around the American Midwest. A large part of the reason we’re together as a couple is because of our shared love of music, so it was a natural place to start a business.
I’ve been a semi-professional musician most of my life, chasing ‘the dream’ so to speak, and performing all over the UK and Europe. Until recently, when we launched Stylus, I was working as a full-time journalist, covering music, film, travel, events and lifestyle. Lacey spent large parts of her youth performing in hip-hop bands, choirs and, more recently, she worked as a tour manager for my previous band, Revere. Today, she’s also the product director for a software company and has more business ideas than we could ever possibly keep up with!
Stylus, then, came from a mix of our personal and professional lives. And while we’re very much still in the early days of the business, the positive signs, I think, are a result of that blend. We’re excited about it, and try to channel that excitement into the end product.
When did you realise that there was a gap in the market for Stylus?
There was no specific ‘eureka’ moment. But, several observations and experiences informed our decision to give Stylus a go. First, I think we’re living in a kind of post-IKEA world now. Maybe I’m imagining it? But it seems like people are, mostly, done with minimalism and bare-bones homes.
People want real things again – stuff they could hold and touch, like their parents and grandparents used to own. For me, vinyl, compared to the alternative of iTunes, feels like one of those things.
Another observation came from having lived through the period that saw vinyl sales decline to almost nothing, and disappearing from the shelves of HMV. It seemed like the death knell for the medium yet, here we are, 10+ years on and the growth rate for vinyl sales is higher than any other medium. I think this ties into my first point about the need for things again.
Finally, before taking the plunge with the business, we themed a couple of events around vinyl, just for fun. We hosted a Thanksgiving party for around 30 friends in an old village hall – everything had to be American: the music on vinyl, the food and the drinks – and even had a blues ‘n’ bourbon-themed wedding. These experiences were more proof, to us, that people loved interacting with real records in a fun and relaxed environment.
How do you choose which channels to promote your business through?
For the last five years, I’ve been working for a media company and have experienced many of the ways a recognisable brand promotes itself. Lacey, on the other hand, has spent the last four or so years directing product strategy for a business in a very challenging market.
However, with Stylus being a start-up business (relatively uncharted territory for us both), we opted for the organic option of experimentation and paying attention to who was subscribing and who was interacting with us. To that end, we work hard to create interesting content for sharing on our blog and key social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Some things work better than others, depending on the content and the platform used.
Another key part of how we promote our business is through email campaigns. However, we try to use this tool sparingly, so all content we share that way is either interesting or useful to the person opening it. We gather email addresses via our website and, occasionally, through events and the like.
Lastly, we try to utilise the media as much as possible by sending out press releases relating to new products, developments in our business and any other pertinent news. To date, this has yielded some good results, with coverage in Time Out before Christmas giving us a real spike in sales.
Your website really lets both of your stories shine through. Why do you think it is important for entrepreneurs to put themselves out there when promoting their Startup?
In a world saturated with major brands, personality is key for a start-up business. It’s the way entrepreneurs can shine through the noise of modern day, mass-marketed consumerism. We already face competition from other subscriptions and are aware of major players coming into our market very soon. The way we intend to stay interesting and relevant to our subscribers and to future consumers is by making ourselves known, through quality and engaging content, a solid and exciting product and by never staying still.
We know we’re not utterly unique – who is?! – but we also know we’re genuine about what we’re doing. We love music and, if it wasn’t Stylus we were working on, it’d be something else related to it. That’s why we decided to let our story come through as clearly as possible. We want people to know that, like them, we love nights in, at home, listening to music and drinking wine, and we love learning about music we’ve not heard before.
At its core, that’s what Stylus is: a celebration of great music, delivered by two people who are as excited about it as you.
Was your business born out of a passion for something? Could you use this love of your product or service to help strengthen your brand story? Let us know your story for a chance to win £1000!