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#LadiesOfLondon : As Caroline Stanbury’s “Gift Library” Sales Peak-Investors Decline Further Financing Past Plateau. Stanbury Struggles With The Fall-Out in Emotional Episode, But Is Back In Business at www.carolinestanbury.com

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When you are trying to balance a multi-million dollar business, star in a Reality TV Show, raise 3 beautiful children, and maintain a healthy long-term marriage with a husband who travels half of every month something eventually has to give. Either your sanity ceases to function, or your British stiff upper lip sees you through the dark times. Caroline Stanbury is the latter.

British press loves to tear the posh darlings of society down with the stroke of a pen. They are constantly looking for blood in the water. When rumors of trouble began for Stanbury’s “Gift Library” several UK tabloids had a field day publishing damaging articles against the socialite CEO. Ladies Of London fans deserve to know the truth about Caroline Stanbury’s business, without biased press.

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The Gift Library of Caroline Stanbury was born in 2008 created by Caroline herself! Stanbury’s idea was to take the hard work out of finding the perfect gift. Gifts for exclusive celebrity and business clients costing thousands of dollars, or a great novelty item for $10 that anyone could afford, all housed at Gift-Library.com. At the time of its inception Stanbury was an in-demand London Fashion stylist and PR girl. The contacts and relationships she cultivated during those days gave Caroline an advantage when it came to sourcing exclusive merchandise for her website. Gift Library took off, and needed funding to meet customer demand from around the World. Caroline will agree that her strength lies in knowing what makes an amazing gift and choosing the right vendors to stock. She needed a strong business partner to set up her growing company’s management structure and to secure funding. Stanbury found exactly that in Goga Ashkenazi.

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In 2010 Goga Ashkenazi, then a 30 yr-old billionaire, thanks to her oil and gas engineering company and entrepreneurial exploits in her native Kazakhstan, became an equal partner in her friend Caroline Stanbury’s venture, Gift-Library.com. ‘Caroline loves picking the stock,’ Goga says, ‘while I know what business strategy we should be taking. I tell her, “We should go to America, translate the site into Russian…” and she replies, “Isn’t that vase great?”’ They have mixed in the same circles for a decade, but got to know each other properly about two and a half years ago, when they sat next to each other on a plane.

‘We’re very different. My character is very masculine and she’s very girlie. I come to her for girlie-time, which I never had before. All my friends used to be men, but now Caroline is my best friend.’

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Ashkenazi became Chairwoman of the Board  seeing it as a rare professional venture that would allow her to indulge her girly side. She pushed Stanbury to expand the product range, adding more accessible items to increase revenue. “With Goga, everything always has to be bigger and better,” Stanbury says. “She wants to take every business from zero to a zillion in three minutes.” Stanbury, who initially hadn’t expected Ashkenazi to be very hands-on, found herself with an eager companion at trade fairs in Tokyo and Paris. “Goga is hilarious, always there early, with her shopping trolley and her trainers on, ready to go.”  Caroline also added a team of very talented buyers, commenting to the press Stanbury had this to say about GL’s products.

“Everything is handpicked by myself and a core team of expert buyers – Gift-Library.com chairwoman Goga Ashkenazi, friend and fellow fashionista Tamara Beckwith, and British Vogue Fashion Features Editor Sarah Harris. We travel around the world visiting potential suppliers on regular buying trips to source new and unusual products to sell on the site, which has taken me everywhere from Paris, to the Middle East and Asia. People send me ideas all the time, even my friends, but everything on the site is picked by me, Goga, Tamara or Sarah only.”

In 2012 Gift Library continued its upward trajectory gaining additional funding from Artemis Investment Management.

Nov 28, 2012  Gift Library.com, Caroline Stanbury’s luxury Internet gift shopping company, announced that it has secured new funding which will allow her to grow the business internationally.
One of the funds run by Artemis Investment Management, and managed by Artemis co-founder John Dodd, has invested a substantial and undisclosed sum into the company to speed its expansion.
“Caroline Stanbury, founder of Gift Library, said, “I am delighted to have Artemis on board. They have a very good record of investing in growing businesses. Their expertise and support will help take Gift Library to where it should be – at the very top of the online luxury goods market.”
Caroline sat for an interview with “The Next Woman Business Magazine” in 2012 : During this period Gift Library was growing at a dramatic rate of 100% each year, and doing £ 2M annually which equals $ 3.0509 US. Excerpts below speak to the health of the business. By adding the investment from Artemis into the mix Gift Library was positioned to again double in size for fiscal 2013 and become a global brand. Caroline’s friend Gaukhar (Goga) Ashkenazi resigned as Chairwoman in November for undisclosed reasons. Neither Stanbury or Ashkenazi commented publicly.
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TNW:Briefly describe your history in raising investment for your company.

CS: I had some money from my styling business that I could invest when I first started, but I gained my first investments from a close friend and my Godfather. I did not want too much investment initially as I thought it was important to have control of the company in the early years—plus I partnered with people I could trust and knew very well.

I did, however, seek advice from a number of entrepreneurs about how to set up a business. Brent Hoberman the Founder of lastMinute.com, was particularly inspiring.  As one of the most successful internet entrepreneurs, he gave me a real insight into the ups and downs of setting up my own business.

TNW:Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?

CS: My best advice to anyone thinking about setting up a business is to speak to people who have already been there and who are ‘in the club’.  Mentors are key in the early stages of setting up any business, regardless of industry, as they can give you guidance as to how to get through the good and the bad.

I also think it’s vital to know your marketplace and your customer.  If you know and understand both the marketplace and who your customer is then you will always have the right product or service to grow your business.

TNW:What is the most challenging part of running your own business?

CS: I found the most challenging part of starting the business was learning about areas of the company in which I had no prior expertise. Google analytics felt like a foreign language to start with, but I knew that it was imperative to make sure that I understood every area of my business. I credit the staff we have hired and agencies we have worked with in helping educate me on some areas that perhaps I was not aware of before.

TNW:Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?

CS:  There’s always so much going on, it can be difficult to turn off at times.  This company is about fashion one minute, personnel another, and SEO and online marketing another. Your head spins with the different tasks you have to be involved in. So I really believe in quality time – alone time, that is – to wind down. I now run a business, a household, and have three young children. Juggling everything can seem challenging, but I love all of it.

TNW:What has been your greatest achievement since starting the Gift-Library?

My greatest achievement since founding the business was simply that. I started the business during the recession and it took considerable effort to raise the funds.  

However, I was lucky, as my backers were confident of the concept and knew that I had the expertise and understanding of the luxury market to source great products that would fit with the changing consumer spending habits.  The fact that we have grown at 100 per cent every year has been very rewarding.  – See more at: http://www.thenextwomen.com/2012/07/10/caroline-stanbury-queen-luxury-gifts-100-annual-growth-2m-rnover#sthash.oThm6jZq.dpuf

The UK economy between 2012 and 2014 was either recessive or flat-lining each quarter. It was a horrible time to be in a luxury retail business. Even the very rich put limits on personal spending. The Gift Library bravely forged ahead updating it’s technology and office space in anticipation of the 100% growth the business had shown consistently since 2008. Sales figures for 2013 could not be located, but Caroline Stanbury was still elevating her brand. In October 2013, Caroline became Director of  The Wedding Shop, the leading independent wedding list service in the UK and Ireland, and  re-branded the business as The Wedding Shop of Caroline Stanbury. Caroline felt passionately that with the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit she had acquired from Gift Library, she could bring together London’s top names from the world of weddings to create a full service ‘one-stop wedding shop’. Caroline’s work ethic is fierce, but trying to run 2 high-profile businesses at the same time was an impossible task. The Board Of Directors for Gift Library LTD and Wedding List Solutions LTD (The Wedding Shop) lost member Anthony Stanbury (Caroline’s Father) in July of 2014.

In fall of 2014, where similar retail businesses do 60-85% of annual sales, Caroline’s vendors could not ship products she ordered to satisfy high-end customers. Niche-artisans couldn’t afford to manufacture products or they weren’t able to produce on deadline, so Stanbury was unable to ship the specialty gifts needed for Christmas. Some orders were worth $200,000! Ladies Of London was quick to show Caroline’s business issues, and the inability for GL to meet its financial obligations to investors at the end of December. Gift-Library.com, which employed around 60 staff, hit the buffers when creditors called in administrators after bills were left unpaid. The business was liquidated and sold to Amara Living LTD. Amara chose to absorb the assets only, and not retain the name – directing future traffic from Gift-Library.com to the Amara.com website.

Caroline Stanbury resigned as Director of Wedding List Solutions LTD in March of 2015, just a few months after Gift Library was liquidated freeing herself to move forward into new business territory.

Gift Library was a huge win for 6 years with Caroline driving the bus. Having investors and a board to answer to made it difficult to maneuver in the creative fashion Stanbury was used to operating in. Pushing for too much growth too fast wasn’t Caroline’s decision and it ultimately killed the business. So what’s next for our favorite Brit?

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Her brand has changed, and it’s called “Caroline Stanbury.”

Caroline has a hit TV show in the US and a HUGE social media following. America is ready to embrace the sassy Brit’s next move and her signature #StanburyStyle by clicking on http://www.carolinestanbury.com

I’m ready to get into Caroline’s Closet and do a little shopping. Bet you are too! Tune into Ladies of London Monday nights on Bravo TV in the USA, and now on ITV in the UK.

~Bitch By Bravo

Follow me on Twitter @BitchByBravo

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4 Comments on #LadiesOfLondon : As Caroline Stanbury’s “Gift Library” Sales Peak-Investors Decline Further Financing Past Plateau. Stanbury Struggles With The Fall-Out in Emotional Episode, But Is Back In Business at www.carolinestanbury.com

  1. buckqjohnson // October 14, 2015 at 8:25 pm // Reply

    It was a lot worse than what she let on, her benefactor essentially the billionaire pulled out and she had no money. She lost her old business and started a new one with her name which really is a blog that tries to sell stuff.

    Also what does her husband do for a living being away from Caroline so long a month?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much Romo! xoxo

    Like

  3. Interesting post! It’s telling that Caroline didn’t expect that Goga would be so hands on. It also doesn’t surprise me that Goga pulled out when she did. She’s not a zillionaire for nothing. She saw that ship sinking and jumped. Her father probably told her the same thing. That he’ll support her little company until it starts failing then he’s out. It did well for a while but if you think about it 2 million is nothing to those rich ass people. They certainly don’t want their name linked to anything that is plummeting. You did an awesome job with this piece!

    Liked by 1 person

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