Retail

If there is one thing Manchester is famous for, it’s the weather (okay, Manchester United and Manchester City too).

When Rebecca Worsley needed to come up with a name for her business, it was a no-brainer. “Growing up in Manchester, I don’t think you realise how rainy it actually is here until you leave!” she tells TechBlast. 

“I’ve never been great at coming up with brand names, but when I thought of this one it really stuck.”

The Rainy City Agency, founded in 2017, specialises in providing creative, high performing websites in the health, beauty and lifestyle sector. “At first I was concerned about the negative connotations, but I love it now. It’s a great talking point when introducing us,” says Rebecca.

After graduating from Manchester Met University a decade ago with first class honours in international fashion marketing, she dreamed of becoming a fashion buyer. “I started my career working at a wholesalers, supplying cotton and jersey products to major high street brands, and my [now] fiancé Pete was just starting out in the dropshipping boom,” she says.

“While working full-time, I was trying my hardest to make more money. My first graduate job paid me the grand salary of £15k a year and I needed more! So I started launching mini businesses.”

Taste for entrepreneurship

Rebecca first learnt how to build an Amazon brand, which she says wasn’t successful but gave her the taste for entrepreneurship. “I started importing boho jewellery from China via AliExpress and selling at the Makers Markets every weekend around Manchester. 

“I stood out in all weathers, but had such a great time and was earning more money each weekend. I always knew I couldn’t be an employee, I needed to see scope and growth and if that wasn’t there I lost interest.”

Pete convinced her to hand in her notice and they moved to Barcelona to sell jewellery online and at local markets. “This proved a lot more difficult since I didn’t speak fluent Spanish – but I gave it my best shot,” she says. “We tried really hard to sell the jewellery online but didn’t know the importance of how to build a brand yet. 

“We sat down and searched for dropshipping suppliers in the US. We needed quality products that would arrive to the customers quickly: we found an all-American T-Shirt wholesaler and built a store, started running ads and by month two we were turning over $175k… but again, we didn’t know how to build a brand and used freelancers to help build the site and make any changes we needed. 

“Unfortunately, when Facebook’s algorithm changed, we lost our main revenue source and didn’t have a sustainable business model.”

‘With a crystal ball I’d have raised more funding’

The turning point was building her own skincare brand, La’Vive. “It was the first move away from dropshipping and very pricey to get started, so to pay for this I started building Shopify sites for other members in the group for $200 [apiece],” she reveals. 

“It got to the point where I had to make a decision on the route I wanted to go – Shopify design or brand building – and I chose Shopify.”

Shopify Plus Partner

Now approaching its fifth anniversary, Rainy City recently became one of only 20 Shopify Plus Partners in the UK. To date it has helped 500 brands ‘to succeed online’. Projects consist of full website redesigns or replatforming over to Shopify from other content management systems.

Last year, it turned over £630k, which was double that in 2020. It is on track to hit the £1m mark for 2022 and has never made a loss.

“Surprisingly, the majority of our business is US-based – around 80% of our clients are there,” says Rebecca. “We’ve always loved working in that market as they have a great understanding of Shopify and the importance of having a great website that converts. 

“We do have clients all over the world though – in the UK, France, Germany, Australia and UAE. That’s one of the things I love about eCommerce: you can reach and connect to people all over.”

Employing 18 people today, growth has been organic and self-funded. There are no immediate plans to raise external investment.

“Our Manchester office is currently undergoing a renovation which should be complete in the next month. We’re all looking forward to getting back to the office for 1-2 days a week to collaborate with each other,” the MD says.

“Our most recent launch was for Lee Stafford – we’ve actually just been shortlisted for the eCommerce website of the year award for this site.” 

Improving your email open rates