[Link to Part I]

The Apprentice

So we met, and we really hit it off,” Trible said of Emmett.  “We ended up meeting that Sunday for four hours, and met the following Sunday after that, and the following Sunday after that.”

Finally, Emmett had been won-over.  Emmett told Trible, “If you want to come in and start working with me, let’s do it.”

Trible worked with Emmett for about eight months learning the art of shirt making from start to finish.

“I’d work with Robert during the day, and then we’d meet in a pub on Ledbury Road and start crafting a business plan together,” he recalled.  “Ledbury was definitely a placeholder.   We had a lot of other creative names, but somehow this one just stuck.”

At the time, Watson was wrestling with the idea of pursuing employment at the Defense Department. 

“Somehow, I convinced him to give it a shot,” Trible said.  “He came in, and where I was focusing on the creative/strategy aspect of it, he focused on operations, the business model, and things along those lines.”

Trible said, “There had never been a better time to go out and try.  We were starting a luxury shirt business in the worst economic climate since The Great Depression. We were expected to fail.”

“We thought we could at least give it a shot, and if it did work, we really could be on to something.”

Not only was Emmett an important player in Ledbury’s inception, but he has also become a close friend of co-founders Watson and Trible.  Emmett has visited the Richmond store and some of Ledbury’s pop-up stores.  The pop-up stores are temporary spaces that Ledbury occupies for a short time to sell merchandise and increase overall brand awareness.

Enter: The Richmond MBA

Ledbury officially launched in December of 2009 and currently has seven in-house employees.  Bowditch, the board member who had graduated from The Richmond MBA program two years prior, saw an opportunity for Ledbury to grow as a business through the Capstone program.

“[Ledbury] had some specific challenges, particularly around inventory management,” Bowditch said.  “[The Richmond MBA Capstone project] seemed like a good fit, where a student could really learn from two great entrepreneurs, who would also be open and receptive to their input.”

Mike Mueller, GB’11, was the first MBA student that Ledbury partnered with for a Capstone project. 

“I had read an article about the company in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and was familiar with the company and the problem they were trying to solve,” Mueller recalled.  “After doing some research on Ledbury and meeting with Trible, we decided to move forward with a capstone project focused on customer retention and acquisition.”

Trible brought Mueller on to address both customer acquisition and supply chain management. He said, “Our two biggest issues that we face as a company, and still do, are customer acquisition (How do you continue to bring people to the site and then convert them once they come on?) and supply chain management.”

“We’re [a] very inventory-focused business, but how do you manage that inventory? How do you forecast for it, and how do you efficiently get it out to folks?”

Through Mueller’s Capstone project, a customer survey was created and conducted. 

“That is [still] one of the most useful things that we have done,” Trible said.  “It helped us define who our customer was and how best we could respond to them.” 

Through the customer survey, Mueller found that Ledbury customers were passionate about spreading the word about the company and its product. 

“In fact, most of Ledbury's new customers learned of Ledbury through a friend, co-worker or family member,” Mueller said.  “One recommendation that I provided in my final capstone presentation was to facilitate this phenomenon by launching a customer referral program.”

Trible was appreciative of the insights that Mueller provided through the customer survey and his Capstone project as a whole.

“Feedback on areas of growth is hugely important as a young company,” Trible said.  “That is, what people thought about our product, what they thought our strengths were with our product, and so on.”

“We were able to turn those into actionable events this year which is great.”

Capstone Project No. 2

Mueller referred fellow classmate Bob Coulter, MBA candidate, to Ledbury for his own Capstone project to step in and assist with supply chain management. 

“I leaped at the opportunity,” Coulter recalled.  “The goal of my project was to study Ledbury’s supply chain and identify opportunities to improve the supply reliability.”

Coulter’s analysis was immediately applicable and implemented.  “[Coulter] built a forecasting model for us, and he was really able to translate some hard data that we had into a pretty accurate forecasting tool.”

Coulter’s project concluded in November of 2011 and Trible placed an order for the first quarter of 2012 using his exact model. 

The Capstone program has proven to be invaluable for Ledbury. 

“What’s so great for us is that these really are problems that Paul and I talk about all of the time,” Trible said.  “We have a very small staff, and to have somebody come at it from a high-level in an outside perspective, can really give us some items that we’ll take into account and implement in the business.”

To learn more about The Richmond MBA Capstone program please visit our website or contact Debbie Fisher, Assistant Director.  For more information on Ledbury, visit their site.