There are plenty of buyers and oodles of sellers in fashion, but fewer connections made — despite the diligent efforts of investment bankers. Colin Welch, who in his last gig played the role of connector as president and chief operating officer of Financo, is helping the $5 billion TSG scout for opportunities in the branded consumer sector.
You’ve just moved from investment banking to private equity. What’s the biggest change?
Putting oneself into the mind-set of an investor. The decision-making process, the interaction with the entrepreneur is just quite different as opposed to an intermediary. You’re looking to be a strategic equity partner, and as a result you think much more strategically and long-term about what value you can bring to the business and how you can stay involved beyond the closing of the deal.
What kind of deal are you looking for now?
What we’re looking for ideally is a great brand where we can add value and that value is oftentimes around distribution channel expansion, international expansion, online and social engagement.
How should a designer pitch their business to a private equity fund?
In the fashion realm, the way we like to talk about it is: Does a brand have brand heat…a feeling on our side around presence and customer engagement?
A lot of it is timing. Obviously, doing it when your back’s against the wall diminishes the likelihood of success.
We don’t need businesses that are perfectly packaged both in terms of organizational structure or financial controls and presentation, which I think are two areas people try to perfect before they get their money. I just don’t think if you’re a designer you need to be so conscious of that. We try to track toward having a nice balance of creative and business.