Meet the Founder: Annette Lees
With over 20 years in the business, Annette Lees is no stranger to the industry. Like most entrepreneurs there is a story behind her success - both a professional and a personal one. For those who are yet to get to know the force behind the business, meet 2tech Founder, Annette Lees...
When did you launch 2tech?
January 2003 (almost 20 yrs ago, yikes!)
How and why did you come up with the idea? Before I started 2tech, I worked in sales for several travel magazines and an Indian Ocean hotel chain - it was hard work. I was very independent in my 20s, trusted to organise my own business trips and return with the “goods”. I gained a lot of business skills with the luxury of someone else paying the bills. I felt I could go it alone, so I did. I didn’t have a pot of cash - but I had a great idea and lots of drive. Maybe it was a little bit of naivety and enormous (dumb?) courage but it turned out to be a winning combination. It's never easy to launch a business, but a strong work ethic and resilience kept 2tech going even during recessions. A dedicated team who joined me on this journey, has enabled me to grow 2tech into the multi-million pound business it is today.
'A strong work ethic and resilience kept 2tech going even during recessions. A dedicated team who joined me on this journey has enabled me to grow 2tech into the multi-million pound business it is today.'
What barriers have you had to overcome and how did you do it?
Several recessions, massive inequality especially in the CE market, banks only being helpful when you don’t need the money and a previous lack of financial and legal skillset. That said, the business has grown exponentially - we now have a team of 20, a UK based Amazon Prime warehouse with top-rated supplier status and we represent some of the biggest brands in the US. I can't see us slowing down anytime soon!
'We now have a team of 20, a UK based Amazon Prime warehouse with top-rated supplier status and we represent some of the biggest brands in the US. I can't see us slowing down anytime soon!'
What is different about 2tech and how do you stand out in your industry / market?
We’re one of the first full-service distributors in the UK representing some of the biggest brands in the US. We provide a full stack service which allows brands to ‘hand over the keys’ for online and retail expansion. Unlike many other traditional distributors, we have an exceptional in-house marketing, digital and PR team - offering additional skills, tools and knowledge to take brands further. We are the experts in both B2B and D2C, offering a complete solution for brands and suppliers. There are lots of much larger box-shifters and latterly plenty of digital marketing and 'Amazon experts', however nothing that fully represents a brands’ interests in a new territory like we do.
What are your plans for the future?
To hone our portfolio into the strong category of educated, informed, health and wellness products. As always, to continue to source amazing brands whilst benefiting from our wonderful supplier relationships.
How would you describe your communication style?
Honest and direct - I don’t think I’m able to change this, as advantageous as it would be to have a poker face! However, I truly believe that my complete honesty is one of the reasons we have such strong supplier relationships and therefore is partially responsible for the success of the company.
'I truly believe that my complete honesty is one of the reasons we have such strong supplier relationships.'
What’s a day in your life like?
I exercise myself and my dog - sometimes my horse at the same time - before breakfast (2/3 birds – one stone!). I eat a healthy breakfast, work from home, take a walk at lunchtime and try to include reading, meditation, a workout class and/or yoga daily. I have a healthy relationship with food - I garden organically and grow veg, fruits and nuts and roots. I enjoy cooking and food prep with friends. I value socialising with friends enormously and spend time in Lewes and Brighton enjoying the company of humans – a past-time which I’ve recently realised is so important for mental health. I live in a Victorian fixer-upper, DIY and refurbishment features heavily on my list of things to do. That said, I enjoy restoration so this doesn’t feel like a chore. I settle for bed with a book and a cup of herbal tea...and probably a feline companion.
How do you wind down?
I relax via the medium of exercise - workouts, yoga or running. I reduce stress with adrenaline sports. I love surfing, snowboarding and horse riding (ODE, XC etc). When you run a business and have been subjected to enormous stress, you may need a bigger kick than most people...you’ll often find entrepreneurs in the line-up!
If you could have a dinner party with any 5 people, who would they be?
5 best friends and we’d have a great time! I know I’m supposed to say famous or influential people, but I can see and hear from them daily on Instagram if I wish. I would choose people I love to spend real time with over celebrities any day.
- Kiesha Meikle