Are We Nearly There Yet? A reflection on our 1st year.
As it's coming up to a year since I set up Little Nutkins. (Where the hell has the time gone?) I thought it was time for a bit more personal and honest post about us, what we've achieved and the rollercoaster ride it's been!
It's easy to look back at accounts to see if we've made a success of this or not, but what means the most to me is whether I've achieved the goals I originally set. Why did I start this in the first place?
Little Nutkins was born out of a frustration with trying to work and be a good mum. I felt like I was failing at both - constantly running late and being distracted at work. Always asking my children to 'wait 1 more minute' while I finished something off, or having to explain I couldn't come to their concert as I had an important meeting to go to.
It was implied that I had to leave my home-life at home and being a professional was more important. I feared talking about being a mum at work in case they thought I wasn't committed enough. Constantly hearing colleagues moaning about how Suzy (not real name) was 'slacking off' because she had to look after her sick child. Or that Lucy was 'taking the p*ss' by getting pregnant again so soon!
That kind of environment was toxic and not good for my mental health or career progression. I was constantly being looked over for opportunities and being turned down for jobs I could easily do just because I had kids. Unfortunately so many mums suffer the same fate........I had to get out.
A year down the line I feel liberated! I don't have to answer to anybody in terms of my hours, my commitment or my passion. I work SO many hours, but I can also go to the gym, do the school run, take kids to classes or watch a school play. All things that were impossible before.
The juggling task is still there, but I've found so many allies and useful resources thanks to various friends, former colleagues, Facebook groups and 'virtual friend' to help me learn how to manage it all. I don't have to feel guilty about what I do. I work harder and longer than I ever have before, but my family and I get the rewards, not my bosses.
Setting up your own business is hard, and it takes a lot of effort and money, but the rewards can be huge (and I don't mean money). My dream is to build a legacy, somewhere where my children can work when they are older, something I can look back on and be truly proud. Something to challenge and test my knowledge and skills to the limit.
I earn less doing this than I did working for other people, but I'm happier, my kids see me more and I'm proud of my achievements - what more could I ask for?
I'm so excited to see what year 2 brings for us!
For anybody else thinking of taking the plunge to and setting up their own retail business here is my quick summary of what I've learn! It's so rewarding, but there are of course risks.
- It's personal - if somebody complains or something goes wrong, then it's my fault! And that can hurt. You have to be thick skinned sometimes. But try your best, be nice to people and they'll be nice back. Luckily we don't get many complaints but when we do I try so hard to fix them - and I like to think our customers appreciate it.
- Profit and cash-flow are way more important than revenue - As my husband says 'revenue for vanity, profit for sanity' (he's an accountant!) It's true - you can make £1m a year, and still make no profit if you make poor choices or spend too much. Always keep and eye on what you're actually making and manage your costs. Cash-flow issues are what kill so many businesses.
- Retail is an 'expensive hobby' Retail these days is hard. As soon as you make some money you spend it again on new stock, advertising, packaging, postage and all the other boring costs that come with running a business. And I don't even have to spend money on a shop! You have to work hard to earn any money for yourselves, you have to be positive and passionate, because the money is definitely not great motivation!
- Take risks - they sometimes pay off big - Sometimes you'll get a hunch about a product and it'll pay off. Other times it won't. But unless you take those risks your business will never change or grow. It's a mix of skill and pure luck! When it's good, go with it and enjoy the ride, but don't worry if that bubble burst - they'll be more opportunities.
- Play nice - There's no room for nasty people in business. Customers will boycott you, brands will stop selling to you and you'll get a reputation. Play fair and be nice and the rewards will come back to you!
- Stay true to yourself - I set up Little Nutkins to sell products that I believe in, and that can enhance the lives of the recipients, or those that make them. I've had opportunities to sell other products or sell mass-market brands. But if I don't think it's a good fit, or works with my ethos I won't sell it. Hopefully that thinking has gained trust with our customers, and they know they're choosing from ethical, good quality products that will last.
- Be good listeners - Keep your ear to the ground, see what people are saying on social media, ask customers what the think, take time to understand what they want and shape your business accordingly. Sometime you opinion may be wrong, or different to that of your customer so be open to change.
- Selling clothes is hard - especially children's clothes! You have to buy so many sizes just to cover a small age range. Designs make take off, or they may flop. Brands pressure to buy in advance and buy lots, which ties up cash. And when you're left with stock you have to take the hit and put it on sale to get rid of it. Whether it's high street or fair trade brands, it's a tough market. And that's why we've stripped our clothing offering right back - for now!
- Find your support - It can be very lonely setting up your own business so find your people and use them for support. It may be family, friends, Facebook groups or virtual friends. There are lots of supportive groups out these that can give you advice, provide support and learning to get you going, keep you motivated and maintain your sanity!
- Love what you do - running a business that involves your passion is the best feeling in the world. I'm a nerd and love ecommerce, I also love design, toys, fashion and technology. I've fallen on my feet doing a job that combines all of these. Don't go in it to just make money, do it because you love it (otherwise you'll soon get bored!)