When Wayne Spriggs’ company, Lusso, was chosen to kit out the bathroom of The Equinox Hotel’s penthouse suite on Manhattan’s West Side in 2019, he couldn’t help but smile. Flashing through his mind were vivid memories of the two-bedroom houses he used to fix up in his hometown of Middlesbrough. The Equinox was a world away. Yet without starting out on those humble houses in England’s Northeast, the glamorous New York hotel project would never have come about. Moreover, if Wayne hadn’t taken that first step, Lusso – on track to turn over £45m this year – would not exist.
“I began developing properties in 2000,” says Wayne. “Back then, you could buy a two-bed terrace in Middlesbrough for £10-15,000, so I was buying them, tidying them up, and renting them out or selling them on.” But this entrepreneur – who gets up each morning at 4.30am and still, even now, doesn’t see himself as successful (more on that later) – was never going to be content doing that forever.
“Next, we developed properties at the £250k mark,” he says. “The bank backed us – I’d find the houses and they’d fund them. It was important to me to put nice things in them. I’m fussy and hate plastic baths and basic fittings. But the nice products were expensive – really expensive – and I couldn’t justify spending £15,000 on a bathroom. So I started searching high and low for luxury bathroom products at reasonable prices.”
Lusso is the result of Wayne’s search. But the company is the product of a much bigger quest, too – that of Wayne’s lifelong entrepreneurial mission. He says: “I had a paper round at school and was doing stuff even before that – tinkering and fixing bikes for people, washing cars, anything to earn money. I had no interest in school and left early because I just wanted to get a job. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to make money.”
What underpins Lusso’s huge growth however is not a desire for profit. Instead, the company’s success is built on an obsession with perfection. Wayne says: “The key to Lusso is this: when we order products from a factory, we throw a thousand questions at them and give them a thousand things to do. It must frustrate them. They probably think: ‘We deal with companies all over the world and no one else asks us these questions.’ But we want everything finished to perfection – the best packaging, the finest materials, the best of the best. Lusso has grown because we’ve been so thorough with every product from day one. And that’s because I’m so fussy.”
This founder’s innate instinct to make a buck and walk his own path remains, but his motivations have evolved. What yanks him out of bed with the lark every morning these days is a passion for building a respected global brand. He says: “It’s not about the money for me now. I just want to grow Lusso to its full potential – turn it into an internationally successful household name. Money is not why I love doing this. What I absolutely love is bringing products to market; I get excited about finalising the 3-D renders, getting them out to the market and seeing them selling. I get a massive kick out of it.”
And that’s why Wayne’s excitement is tempered with a touch of trepidation. “To grow Lusso to the next level, I need to let go a bit more,” he says. “So my plan is to bring in some in-house product designers to replace me. It’ll kill me because I love being hands-on, doing the drawings and getting things done, but I’ve got to step back for the long-term health of the brand.”
Strategy-wise, Lusso has some big months ahead. Wayne says: “We started out as bathrooms only, but I’ve been inspired to branch out to other household areas – kitchen, sofas, rugs, everything for the home. Our US website is ready to go live. The UK is a small country, so why just supply our home market? Why, if you’ve got products with global appeal, would you do that? Currently, around 10% of our sales are international, so that’s where a lot of our future growth will be.”
More growth will come, but the success Lusso has already achieved is noteworthy. How has the company done it? Talking to Wayne reveals two main factors.
The first is a culture of efficiency and tight budgeting. The founder says: “We’ve got good technology and excellent automated systems. When a customer buys something from our website, the order goes straight to our logistics partner that picks, packs and delivers. We’ve invested a lot of money and time into a system called Lucid. It virtually runs our company and has made us very efficient.”
On the tight budgeting, Wayne says: “When Covid kicked in, I knew we’d be fine. It might have been a big challenge for companies with big debts and outgoings. But we own our own building, we don’t rent and have only 26 staff, which isn’t a lot considering our turnover. Anyone who works here has to wear ten hats – I don’t want four people doing one person’s job.”
But undoubtedly, the biggest factor in Lusso’s growth is the founder’s incredible personal hunger. In the second paragraph of this article, we said Wayne still doesn’t see himself as successful. That might sound crazy but there’s a good reason: “Success is a moving target,” says Wayne. “I used to think: ‘If I can get to a £10m turnover, I’ve cracked it. Then I got there and thought, no, we need to get to £20m. I won’t see myself as successful until I’ve got to where I want to be with the brand. That’s the next target and when I get there it will probably move again. That’s why I don’t take much money out of the business. I want to keep pumping it back in and keep on building.”
He concludes: “I’m never ever happy. I can’t grow the business as fast as I want to grow it. It’s weird. Entrepreneurs – I think probably all of us – are never happy with where they’ve taken the business.”
Despite Wayne’s chronic personal dissatisfaction – undoubtedly a vital ingredient in Lusso’s success – his story is, ironically, a hugely satisfying example of how passion, hard work and a strong entrepreneurial instinct lead to vigorous growth. This founder started from nothing and has built Lusso into a thriving brand that’s in a prime position to conquer the globe. The business has come a long way since it was forged in those Middlesbrough terraces and there’s still much more to come.