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Alumni interview ' Malcolm Bell, Zaggora

Alumni interview ' Malcolm Bell, Zaggora

03 Dec 2013

Asking The Ultimate Question

NBA Programme Director Alex Evans talks to Founder & CEO Malcolm Bell about what makes his social commerce model exemplary.

A born entrepreneur, Zaggora Founder Malcolm Bell applied his dynamism and creativity to roles in commercial property and investment banking – working for the likes of Vincent Tchenguiz and Andreas Panayiotou - before launching his own business two years ago.

Based in London, Zaggora launched in July 2011 and has now sold over 500,000 products to women in 119 countries worldwide. Founded with its now-iconic HotPants design - a new type of workout legging that helps women maximise their calorie burn during activity – Zaggora has quickly established itself as a retail brand. Starting with an investment of $50,000, Zaggora is on track to achieve $25m in revenues in 2013 all thanks to a model that won it our Ecommerce Strategy of the Year award in 2012.

The inspiration for this model came while he was studying Economic History at the London School of Economics – which is also where he met his wife and co-founder Dessi Bell. A professor gave him a book that became the company bible – The Ultimate Question by Bain & Co’s Fred Reichheld, creator of the Net Promoter System.

“Reichheld says the only long term strategy for business growth is customer satisfaction and the ultimate question is would your customer recommend you to a friend? That’s the very essence of the Zaggora model,” Malcolm explains.

Realising it couldn’t compete with those spending half a million a day on PPC Malcolm devised a marketing strategy based on word-of-mouth recommendations and maximising all forms of social media - leveraging community testimonials, comments and likes into helping conversions at

“We realised we couldn’t compete with the Nike’s of the world on product marketing but we can offer an experience. Zaggora is inherently social; we offer the two week challenge that you can take with your friends, arranging meet ups at the local gym. These will soon be features on too.”

The Ultimate Model?

So why did Malcolm decide to pit his model against finalists including Groupon, and Screwfix?

“We wanted to compete with other businesses and models to see how we compared to a panel of independent experts; we wanted recognition of the success we had achieved but also validation of our model,” Malcolm explains.

“We chose the National Business Awards because it’s the biggest and most prestigious with the widest press reach and is supported by the government. What also sets it apart is that it gives you a chance to present to a panel of judges – which makes all the difference when you’re pitching a new model because you can respond to questions. Not all awards give you that opportunity.”

Extending his connecting culture to all aspects of life and business, Malcolm created additional value from the NBA programme. “An added bonus was the networking that came through the process,” he explains. “A finalist we met in the waiting room is now a supplier and one of the judges connected us to a couple of VCs after the ceremony. The quality of finalists at the ceremony was really high and because there was a mix of categories on each table you could root for each other and connect – which made the event much more enjoyable.”

The award has enhanced Zaggora’s growing profile and that of its founders – with Malcolm invited to speak at TEDx last year and Dessi interviewed at the Telegraph’s Festival of Business; but what other impacts has it had on the business?

“We use it in all our presentations to retail partners, VCs, and press because of the prestige value. ‘Award winner’ gives a business an extra dimension but it carries far more weight as a National Business Award. Dessi now has a blog in the Huffington Post and I am regularly invited to speak at events. Just yesterday I spoke at Google Campus for the New Entrepreneur Foundation and recently at the Ecommerce Summit.

“Being a winner has really validated our model and its success. We’ve proved you can do a lot with a little if you’re friends with your customer. We’ve structured our business – our site and content – to be inherently social and demonstrated that using social proof is a key mechanic to drive sales.”

The National Business Awards is now open for entries. If your model or success is worthy of national recognition we have awards for a range of achievements. To enter, or find out more, visit or call 020 7234 8755.



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