Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off?
With more savings – although we are aiming to break even, and build the business slowly.
Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?
There is no financial pressure at the moment and I currently work part time on Big Fat Balloons – If things don’t go as expected we’ll have to think again and look at how we can move the business in the right direction.
Are you working from home or from premises?
I am currently working from home – which is great as getting to work takes seconds rather than hours, so it is very time efficient. However the stock of balloons, boxes and teddy bears for the business is taking up a lot of room, so we will need to move to an industrial unit at some stage.
How many hours are you working at the moment?
I’m currently working between 20 and 25 hours a week.
How are you managing your day and what steps have you taken to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?
We use an outside receptionist service – they take messages and place telephone orders for us. They are a great time saver and allow us to present a professional image at all times – evenings and weekends included.
What about staff, is it just you?
There are two of us – it would be great to have some staff to carry out some of the day-to-day tasks so we can focus more on strategy and business development.
Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you?
No, I will make sure I get appropriate guidance and advice.
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time?
Working full time on Big Fat Balloons and earning a decent income from it, having built a solid customer base to expand the business further.
What are the main obstacles to growth?
A limited marketing and advertising budget is the main hurdle.
How do you plan to overcome these?
By being creative – using my website design skills to bring in good search engine traffic and using PR as a more cost-effective alternative to advertising. Patience is also key; no one builds a business overnight.
Tell us about your website
The website is our shop window so it is essential to our business. We designed it ourselves but unless you are professional web designers like we are, I would recommend employing someone to do it. We wanted the website to project a fun, friendly image and be simple to use. I spent hours reading about how to build e-commerce websites, studying best practice and surfing through successful sites. Writing detailed product descriptions for over 200 products was hard work too, and we paid great attention to the wording throughout the site.
What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do?
Ideally, I want to enjoy what I do and earn a comfortable leaving in the process. I have two small children, so it’s important for me to spend plenty of time with them.
What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently?
It can be lonely at times, especially when things don’t go to plan, which inevitably happens. But I’d probably do the same again, making mistakes is normal and it’s part of the learning process.
What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business?
You need to be independent, like to take risks (within reason), be creative and determined to succeed. You also need to be curious and ready to learn quickly.