Successful entrepreneurs cite a variety of inspirations during their rise to the top, ranging from their favourite school teacher to Richard Branson.
However, one of the most commonly identified influences is that of the family. Samantha Hunter, founder of Forever Natural, has more reason than most to give thanks to her relatives.
Sam had the help of her mother, father and sister in building her cosmetics distribution business to the stage where, less than two years after its creation, her products sit proudly on the shelves of Harvey Nichols, Fenwicks, Selfridges and countless other health and gift shops.
Her father provided her with several serviced offices to support the home-based business, her sister helped with orders and her mother was Forever Natural’s first bookkeeper.
Sam admits her father, in particular, has been a driving force in her desire to forge an entrepreneurial career.
“My father is my rock – he’s patient, understanding and has confidence in me even at times when I don’t deserve it,” she says. “He’s an entrepreneur as many of the people I have grown up around.
“I liked the idea of being my own boss, being the decision maker and having a strong input on the direction of a company.
“Early on in my career I would be working for companies and find myself spending most of my time thinking about all the things I would do differently if I was running it.”
The opportunity to set up Forever Natural arose when Sam was working in Canada for a firm that distributed some of the brands she now sells to stores. She was approached by a US company who asked if she wanted to supply their products to the UK.
“At the time I had nothing to lose, so it was a journey I didn’t think twice about taking,” she explains.
After securing an initial £10,000 loan, Sam says she “outsourced a PR company to create pull and a distribution company to supply the push.” Then came the hard slog of cold calling stores to persuade them to stock her range.
“Retailing was a new industry for me and I knew very little about it,” she admits. “So I picked up the phone, sourced the buyers and introduced myself. I would then send a follow up kit and then proceed to arrange a meeting where I would sell the brands and company.
“There never seemed to be enough hours in the day and at the beginning I thought I could do it all myself so to save costs I employed part-time people and this was to the detriment of the company.
“I don’t think there is anything I would’ve done differently as I’m pleased where we are at the moment. Businesses need glitches to enable them to grow and move forward and luckily the ones we have experienced so far have been inevitable and manageable.”
A significant factor behind Forever Natural’s success is its online sales. Although Sam insists that customers like to touch and smell the products they are buying, ecommerce has helped fuel a sales growth of 180% over the past six months.
Sam is planning to launch new brands in the near future and sees the UK as an ideal place to base her business.
“I feel the UK is very entrepreneur friendly and there are many professional bodes that are available and support small businesses on their development,” she says. “My bank has been incredibly supportive, not just on financing issues.
“My advice to other entrepreneurs is to mind a mentor. They are invaluable in giving you advice, experiences and confidence in your decisions. As my father says, they ‘provide the grey hairs.’”