5 Minutes With Tara Button, CEO & Founder, Buy Me Once

Since its launch in January 2016, Buy Me Once has established itself as a leading curated ecommerce retailer for sustainable products that are long-lasting and only need to be bought once. Its mission is to be a consumer champion, helping customers save time and money while lowering their environmental footprint. In addition, Buy Me Once supports small independent businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs by offering them brand development and marketing support. Earlier this month, the retailer revealed a brand new website offering over 1000 products, so the Retail Gazette caught up with chief executive Tara Button for this week's '5 Minutes With' profile.

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Buy Me Once CEO Tara Button

Congratulations on the new website site for Buy Me Once. How was the idea of your business conceived?

I came up with the idea of a shop that only sold things to last when I was given an amazing heirloom cooking pot guaranteed for a lifetime. I thought, “I want everything in my life to be like this.” So I went looking for a shop which brought together all the longest-lasting things in the world and I didn‘t find one.

Many of us buy the same cheap, shoddy things again and again. I realised quickly that Buy Me Once should exist because not only would longer lasting products help the environment, but they would also save people money and stress. So despite having no experience, I started to build Buy Me Once in my spare time and then suddenly it went viral. I was able to quit my job in advertising and build a team to help me fulfill my mission to change the way we shop.

For the last few months, we have been working on this new powerful, professional website that can take Buy Me Once to the next level and it was so exciting to see that launch after much blood, sweat and swearing last week.

How is Buy Me Once different to other ecommerce retailers?

We are consumer champions helping people make good choices by finding great products that last. We see ourselves as a movement for change and try to discourage our throwaway culture. Our shop is just one of the tools that we have to create that change.

Unlike other retailers, we put in hours and hours of research to find the best products for durability and sustainability and we only pick the best in each category for our site. We do the research so that shoppers don’t have to. We are completely independent and don’t accept any money to be featured on our site so we can be trusted to judge products impartially.

In time we hope to find the best products in every product category, so we will be the Amazon or John Lewis of long-lasting products. We are also working with inventors to discover some amazing innovative products such as the light bulb that lasts a lifetime which we hope to bring to the public.

Describe your role and responsibilities as CEO and Founder?

My primary role is to develop and strengthen the vision and mission of Buy Me Once, to communicate what we are trying to do and to seek potential allies and partnerships. I also help to manage my excellent team alongside my two directors. Because Buy Me Once is a startup, I have my hand in most things from web design to social media to paying the bills.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career background.

My background is in advertising and copywriting, where I worked with big brands such as DFS, Nutella and Virgin. However, I was unhappy in a role that I didn’t feel was making the world a better place. Seeing an ad you’ve written being aired on TV is always a thrill and could be described as a career highlight, but for me, it was always touched with disappointment that I hadn’t done something more useful. Getting kids to eat more chocolate wasn’t something of which I felt I should be proud.

What got you into the retail sector in the first place?

I never thought “I want to be a shopkeeper”, but when I came up with the idea for Buy Me Once it compelled me to act. I thought this could be really useful to people and the environment and if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it forever. Even if it never made me a penny, I felt strongly that it should exist. So being in retail feels almost accidental. However, the idea lives or dies on how successful we can make the shop, so I’m now putting all my energy behind making it the best shop it can be.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I’ve brought with me an ability to communicate an idea in a compelling way. That is what advertising does. It’s just that now I believe in the idea and the products I am promoting.

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How is Buy Me Once adapting to the challenges that face retail at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges that retail faces at the moment is that people have fallen out of love with stuff for stuffs’ sake. They want things that are meaningful as well as good value. By curating products that can be kept as heirlooms and loved and repaired over time, we are letting people think differently about the products that they choose to bring into their lives.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?  

For someone new to retail, there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to the practicalities of shipping and distribution. Having a small team with such big aspirations makes prioritising essential, but also difficult as everything seems important. I’ve found focusing on one or two fundamental goals has helped us exceedingly. It may mean letting other opportunities pass, but you have to accept that you can’t do everything.

And the most rewarding?

Seeing something you’ve imagined being made is immensely gratifying. I love being with my team when we’re talking about plans and where we want to go. We have a great rapport and there’s so much passion and talent in our group, small as it is. Looking back on how far we’ve come is also amazing.

Can you talk about any upcoming projects you‘re working on?

We are busy expanding our inventory at the moment. We have 1200 more products waiting to be added and the long-awaited electronics and appliances section will be populated soon. We’re also going to be running a petition to try to get labels on all appliances expressing how long they are expected to last. From a personal point of view, I’ve been given the opportunity to write a book about the Buy Me Once philosophy which is very exciting. It will be published by Harper Collins and come out early next year.

What advice would you give someone who is embarking on a career in retail?

Ask yourself what you’re getting into retail for. What is the force that is driving you? If money is at the core of your retail dreams then I would consider getting another dream as it will not be enough to sustain you through the tough times. Look at your core values and think about how you can bring your individual talents and ideas to the world in a way that will make it a better place, not simply a place with another shop in it.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

Although I am an online business at the moment, we are planning in the future to have a physical shop. I was upset to see a harsh increase of business rates on small, independent shops in my area (Islington, London). I feel like the government must continue to support small businesses if we are to avoid total monopolies. I think smaller retailers such as myself will have to be clever and offer a real point of difference if they are to compete.

The biggest risk is probably uncertainty, which might make people spend less. However, I believe we should be encouraging people to spend money on experiences rather than products anyway. I encourage people to only buy the things they need, buy for the long term and spend the rest of their money on experiences as having experiences are proven to make you happier than owning “stuff”.

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