From rocks to frocks - entrepreneurial online retail - Business Works
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From rocks to frocks - entrepreneurial online retail

Rachel Oxburgh, CEO Casabu An Oxford-educated geochemist is behind the UK’s newest daily flash-sale website – the latest online phenomenon to arrive from the United States.

Rachel Oxburgh has left behind the world of climate science and is now appealing to UK mums to sign up to her Casabu site which provides up to 15 daily sales of stylish clothing, toys, nursery equipment and maternity gear at discounts of up to 80% off retail prices.

After leaving Oxford, mother-of-two Rachel continued to study geochemistry at the University of Wyoming and Columbia University in the City of New York. She was following in the footsteps of her father, the eminent geologist and geophysicist Lord Ronald Oxburgh, formerly Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence. Before launching Casabu, Rachel, 47, successfully ran her own London-based digital and design agency The Storm Creative with husband Matt Rowe.

Private flash-sale sites have proven hugely successful in the US where, as their name suggests, sales are carried out in a flash. With an air of exclusivity and top brand names, flash-sale websites host limited-time sales for their members. The model works for suppliers due to the targeted approach of reaching a wide, but focused customer for a limited period and being in control of the amount of stock they sell. And it appeals to members because they can make huge savings on the recommended retail prices.

The London-based company is backed by two leading entrepreneurs: John Heseltine, who is behind leading retail brands Cherrygood and Love Juice; and Christian Lindstrom, a highly experienced online marketing professional. Rachel, who lives in Hammersmith with Matt and two young boys, aged 5 and 7, said, "We have been delighted by the response to Casabu since we launched in April. Thousands of mums and dads have told us they love being able to access fantastic savings on big brands and the latest cool and up-and-coming products without having to trawl around the shops."

"We have been through a decade where internet retail was pretty much catalogue sales done online. This is changing rapidly and the flash sale model is disrupting the retail scene. Flash-sales allow brands and retailers to sell through their stock to targeted members and to give members very large discounts on high street products.

"Casabu sales support, rather than threaten, existing retail channels. Our brand partners tell us that traffic and sales at their own websites increase during and after Casabu events. This buzz creates just the uplift brands need in the current retail climate."

Rachel, who has also invested in Casabu, admits herself to being on a steep learning curve after having agreed to become CEO earlier this year. "My induction involved attending a children’s trade show in Amsterdam and I was nervous about how easy it would be to approach people and how receptive they would be to our business model. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. This business is probably 80% women and, on top of that, when you have children you are genuinely excited about the products you come across which really helps when making conversation with the people who make them!"

Rachel’s travels also took her to the Ukraine and the Kiev-based web agency chosen to build the Casabu website – an increasing number of UK businesses are looking to former Eastern European countries for their websites because of the abundance of talent and lower costs.

One of the other exciting challenges for Rachel is to build her team at Casabu, which also involves a novel approach. "Every time I mention Casabu to friends, they ask if I’m recruiting. There are so many competent and professional women with a huge amount to offer any business but are looking for flexible or part-time work or simply lack the confidence to get back into the workplace after a long time off. There is an almost bottomless pool of talented people with no notice period and with all the skills we are likely to need and who understand our target audience of mums, babies and kids. I am looking to tap into this forgotten market of women who would be sidelined or ignored by most businesses, but who can give our company a genuine edge."

Rachel herself practises what she preaches, "As a mum, I have always worked flexibly. After my first baby, I had six months off, but 11 days after the birth of my second boy – a Caesarean – I was sitting in a client meeting. More recently, my visit to the Ukraine to see our website team was fitted neatly around the school run! Casabu is all about breaking new ground, not just in terms of the business model, but also in the way we are looking to run our business."

For more information about Casabu, please visit:

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