Tell us a bit about your family?
There are three of us. Me, my husband Richard who works in public relations and my daughter Aurora, 20 months.
What’s your business called?
Can you describe it in one sentence?
In a nutshell, we source beautiful, educational, unusual toys, books and games.
When did you start it and what inspired you?
I launched my website last Autumn. I think having my daughter was a definite inspiration, I wouldn’t have thought of doing this before her. I remember walking into Toys-r-us for the first time in decades just before my daughter was born and looking at all the garish plastic, strip lighting and batteries not included signs thinking this place is depressing. Not what you want from a toy shop at all! So I started looking around and found lots of beautiful toys (that don’t need batteries), that children love just as much, if not more. I think traditional toys like dolls, puppets and board games have a enduring quality that lasts longer than a few bells and whistles on the latest branded must-have. And they can be passed down, brother to sister or mother to daughter.
How did you fund your start up?
I took redundancy when I was pregnant as I knew I couldn’t continue with the job I was doing, commuting into London, and travelling round the country. I used some of the redundancy money to buy stock and set up the website.
How do you manage working around your children?
I have a very supportive husband who takes my daughter as soon as he steps in the front door! While he is putting Aurora to sleep I can get on with things. I think you have to prioritise, no one can do it all! You can’t worry if the beds aren’t made and the floors haven’t been hoovered.
Can you describe a typical day, what tasks do you have to get done, how do you manage your time?
I put a to do list in my diary in the evening and try and get straight on with it the next day. The only thing I have to do during the day is phone calls with suppliers/customers and taking deliveries to the post office. I can’t always get back to everyone as quickly as I like but I try to make sure I am always available for customers.
What challenges have you faced in your business and how have you overcome them?
Lack of knowledge has probably been my biggest challenge as I knew nothing about building websites, advertising them etc. I wasn’t even on Facebook before. It is difficult because you don’t know what you don’t know. The internet is like a university and if you have got the drive and commitment I think you can learn anything you want. I have built my website myself using WordPress and at each stage it goes ‘how do I put my logo at the top of the page….Google: how do I put my logo at the top of the page?’ so it is pretty slow going but the more you do the more you learn. Some of the larger local libraries have large business sections and Wenta, a free business advisory service have also been very helpful in filling me in on the things I don’t know.
What’s the best thing about being self employed?
Flexibility has to be the best thing. You are your own boss and you can decide everything, which I like!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to build the brand and if it is successful enough my husband would like to join me. What advice would you give for someone just starting out? Go for it but have patience! You don’t know until you try but don’t be too hard on yourself if things aren’t an instant success. It takes time to build things up.