In the summer of 2017 classmates Will Rowley, Alexander Bleeker,and Felix Martinez (MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management 2017) came to the Alumni Relations team for some support. The budding entrepreneurs had a business idea they wanted to take to the next stage and needed some extra advice and support.
Will, Alexander and Felix are behind Refundease, which began life as a project during their MSc programme at the Business School, where the 3 founders met. The simple idea behind the business is a way for consumers to return online clothes orders, without the hassle of Post Office queues or waiting hours for couriers to fetch their returns. Through the Refundease app, shoppers can order a pick-up at the touch of a button, which instantly dispatches a rider to the consumers’ location.
“After our pitch won an end-of-year university competition, we set out to build our vision into a reality: making the return and refund process easier and quicker for online shoppers,” said Felix.
Leveraging the alumni community
The Business School alumni community is over 16,000 strong across 125 countries and the founders quickly realised the potential of tapping into this wealth of knowledge. Keen to gain some insider knowledge of the clothing retail sector, the Alumni Relations team were able to put them in touch with Alice Rackley (Full-Time MBA 2010), Head of Customer Experience for M&S and alumni volunteer.
“Alice has simply been awesome for us. It’s been incredibly helpful having someone with her knowledge and experience in retail pointing us in the right direction from the start – especially seeing as we’re operating in a field that we didn’t know too much about when starting off.
She’s been a great mind to bounce things off and has helped us with a range of things from refining our market entry strategy with us, to subtly giving us a lot of confidence in what we’re building – not to mention also putting us in the room with many of her contacts in retail – some of whom are now prospective clients.
But the support went much further than a coffee chat and Alice has become a vital part of the success of the Refundease team: “She’s now really just our mentor and friend and we’re extremely grateful to have her behind us on this journey,” said Felix.
And as the business grows from strength to strength, currently undergoing a second round of fundraising, the benefits seem mutual: “Being ready and able to help out Imperial students is a two-way street – the stuff I’ve learnt, new ideas I’ve encountered, interesting concepts I’ve heard about – and only because I was prepared to drink coffee and spare half an hour of my time. I very rarely regret time spent with enthusiastic and engaging Imperial students: they have lots to teach me! And the encounters give me plenty of food for thought and make me a more interesting and in touch professional. And invariably grow my network too,” said Alice.
The founders were also lucky to receive support from Imperial Innovations and the Imperial White City Incubator in setting up their business and are excited to launch their app shortly. “We intend to launch the trial by the end of the year for the post-Christmas returns window. Based on the success of the trial, we’ll aim for a full launch in the first half of next year with more retailers.”
Reflecting on the support they have received, Felix said: "It goes without saying that the alumni network can open doors for you that wouldn’t have been opened otherwise and I would definitely encourage others to make the most of this brilliant network."