Yes, you read that right! Nude Life is a life drawing class that brings the life to your party – literally. From bachelorette parties, to a girls’ night out, to even just a small class for art enthusiasts, Nude Life adds a unique creative element to any event. And with a name like that, it’s bound to get attention! For this installment of StartupStories, we caught up with Nude Life Co-Founder Charlie Howes to discover how this unconventional business idea came to life, and where the company is headed in the future.
Why were you inspired to start Nude Life?
I’d just finished university and my first full-time job didn’t pay so much, so I figured I needed to double up on my income. I started cocktail making for money on the weekends and the same company I worked for also offered life drawing classes. The events were far easier and you were paid 4x the amount, so for me, it was a no-brainer. I just had to get over the initial fear of being naked in front of a room full of women!
From this, I saw a gap in the market for a sole life drawing brand supplier and this was my primary inspiration. I launched an MVP in December of 2015 and it kind of went from there. I think having a knowledge of the target audience, the product/service being offered, and marketing, in general, helped me take the first steps.
One of the secondary reasons for starting Nude Life was to create a learning platform. The great thing about it is not just the company itself, but the learning process I have gone through creating a company (SEO, social, PPC, finances, liability, etc). Once you have that knowledge, a massive barrier is reduced in launching other startups.
How did your business get started? From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?
The Good? The launching of the MVP was easier than I thought. I used Squarespace as a template builder for the website, so I didn’t need any developers. I put a lot of emphasis around the name of the company. I knew this would help organic ranking, CTR’s, authority, and memorability in the future. Luckily, the URL I wanted was available for quite a generic keyword for the product/service.
Additionally, I had a relatively new product with little competition. So, gaining traction was easier.
The Good #2? Starting Nude Life actually led me to my new employer Chillisauce. Chillisauce is the largest hen & stag (bachelorette & bachelor) party supplier in Europe. Looking for new jobs at the turn of 2016, I’d verbally accepted another role at a startup and rejected the offer from Chillisauce. I then asked Mike, my director, if there was potential for Nude Life to become a supplier for Chillisauce.
I think this impressed him and as he has a way with words, he invited me in to take a look and meet some of his colleagues. I was sold, and I signed for Chillisauce at the beginning of 2016.
The Bad? I remember one time I had a life drawing class in the Cotswolds for Nude Life and one in Brighton for my life drawing boss. I had two hours to get from one to the other. I won’t tell you the speed I was going on the motorway!
The Ugly? The biggest obstacle by far was my own doubts. I was paid quite well by the company I was already modelling for, so, I didn’t want to disrupt that. I had to fly under the radar for the first year (2016) as I wanted to use the money I was earning from my two sources of income. I was my life drawing boss’ competition (or future competition) so that was pretty difficult at times! Another difficult part was life drawing for two companies (my own and my boss’).
What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Nude Life?
Hen & stag do’s have really gathered pace over the last two decades, with almost every bride having a party before their big day. Back in the 90’s, the typical hen party would involve a visit for a night to a nearby city and a stay in a cheap hotel.
Times have changed now. Hens are going further afield, spending a longer number of nights away, and searching for more fun and sophisticated activities and places to stay.
Nude Life really targets women who would like a more sophisticated alternative, and also the more creative hens. The beauty of the class is it can be completely tailored to the personalities within the group. I think this allows Nude Life to really open up to a wider audience and cater for one of the biggest pain points maid-of-honors face: “How can I make my best friend’s party unique?”
How much has your business changed from day one until now?
In the early days we were just operating in Brighton. Now we have extended that to involve all the major cities in the southern UK (London, Bristol and Bournemouth). The class format itself has changed too. We’ve realised that although drawing is the main event of the party, we can bring in games, surprises, and a competitive format to make it more exciting for the groups. We also now give a free personalised folder to enclose all the drawings for hen parties. This is going down really well as the girls seem to love having a memory of the event. Some of the drawings can be great, some hilarious!
What are your biggest challenges in marketing Nude Life?
The biggest challenge in marketing goes back to the models. Nude Life will only be as good as the models we have and growth will be down to the number of models we enroll.
We are selective on the models we choose. They are the main source of fun at the parties and when you find a good one everything runs smoothly. it’s hard finding suitable models and this has an impact on growth and marketing. This friction point has prevented Nude Life from growing quicker.
What types of marketing are most effective for your business?
I’m going to speak loosely here, as I wouldn’t want my competition stealing my ideas! Due to there being little competition there are some notable gaps for marketing. The first year’s aim was establishing an organic ranking for Nude Life. This year I will be focusing on PPC.
The most effective? Social advertising due to the granular targeting and PPC. SEO will form the foundation though and create a sustainable business, so this will run in the background.
What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Nude Life?
Don’t give a crap about what people think, especially your immediate social network.
If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?
I would hire a venue in our most popular city (Brighton) as this would save venue costs. As I would only need this venue on Saturdays, I would also operate a second business during the week, probably run by the ma! She has a good knack of growing things!
With the money left over? I would take my family away for a holiday due to them being rocks throughout this process (is that allowed?) 🙂
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
By far and going back to a point mentioned before, get over your own doubts and hesitations.
Buy a domain and get the wheels set in motion. This way, you can start learning from your target audience.
Anyone can start a business, honestly. I think three things have really helped me with my startup.
- Marketing and target audience knowledge
- Product/service knowledge
- Taking calculated risks
If you have a gap in knowledge in one of the above, either get out there and learn or pay someone to work that gap.
The good thing about #3 is that you can teach yourself this, just little by little, and it’s pretty exciting looking back on it!
What can we expect from Nude Life in the next year?
More personalisation. I know first hand how important hen parties are for groups of girls. We would really like to focus on the personalisation of events. So bringing in add-ons, like cocktails, x2 models (female and male model) life drawing, and more games. We would also like to focus on the growing LGBT market, and being based in Brighton, this could work really well.
The dream? Operating across cities in Europe, including the sunshine cities like Marbella and Ibiza, and reducing the taboo around nudity in the media.
To learn more about Nude Life, please visit nudelife.co.uk.
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