I think it’s incredibly important to learn lessons from each other about how to keep pushing our businesses forward. So I decided to start a new segment to the blog, in order to share other creative business owners’ experiences.
I’m calling this new segment ‘Small Business Monday’.
The feature will include soundbites, interviews and videos from very inspirational creative business owners.
Today is the very first feature!
Let me introduce you to Nicola who owns Boo Cottage Botanicals.
What inspired you to start Boo Cottage Botanicals and how did you make it happen?
I’ve always been a serial crafter and love making new things. I’d always admired other people’s handmade soaps and was intrigued as to how it was made so I bought myself a book, researched online and had a go. I was immediately hooked. I have a science degree and soap making is a brilliant combination of chemistry and creativity.
After a lot of trial and error I was happy with what I was making and so began giving it away to friends and family to try. They gave a lot of positive feedback and encouraged me to progress from hobby to cottage industry. Over time I did this, but it was tricky whilst having a full time job. So, after making sure the basis of the business was in place and we were happy with what we doing and, more importantly, where we wanted to go with it we made the leap and went full time.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in running your own business so far?
That you’re not going to progress to the next level without investment! That’s applicable to both time and money. We’re always telling ourselves that we need to speculate to accumulate. That doesn’t mean throwing money away without proper consideration but really weighing up the pros and cons of, for example, investing in new equipment that will make production quicker, advertising and promotion to reach the right audiences or paying more to get a place at higher quality events that reflect the quality of our product.
In terms of investing time, that could be in relation to market research, developing products, scouting out potential stockists and going the extra mile for customer service.
What would be your number one tip to someone wishing to start their own business?
Be absolutely clear as to what to what it is you are trying to achieve. That means knowing exactly what your product and branding is, knowing your target audience, the market your product fits into and knowing what’s out there in terms of competition.
Basically, do your research. Get to know your industry. For example, we have to conform to the EU Cosmetic Regulations which means all our products need to be tested before they can go on sale. So many industries have legislation attached to them that you’ll definitely need to do some research to adhere to the industry standards.
How do you plan each month?
The months vary depending on the time of year, for example September onwards is very Christmas orientated. With our soaps taking between four and six weeks to cure we really do have to think ahead and plan carefully. With a number of shops selling our stock, a website through which people can order and with us doing a number of fairs and events we really do have to be extremely organised to make sure we have what we need when we need it.
At the end of the month we sit down and look ahead to the following month. We will look at what events are coming up, what products need to be made and processed. Generally we will have two making days a week, although at certain times of the year that will be higher. Those are the basics, but we also factor in time for the research and development of new lines and products which will allow us to progress the business. We factor in time for stock checks and doing inventories so we’re always aware of ingredients and stock levels.
We’re also looking to expand the number of shops we are stocked in and so we’ve drawn up a number of locations that we are keen to investigate. We don’t just phone up a shop and ask if they want to stock us; we like to have a look and get a feel for the place and also to see what competition is out there.
We have a big wall planner which, despite being a bit old school, allows us to see the whole year at a glance. By having that on the wall all the time we’re always aware of what’s coming up and so there are no surprises.
How important is it to you to set business goals?
Hugely important! It’s crucial to know where you’re going with your business and what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. Without having a clear vision it’s very easy to just drift along and not progress the business. We try and put deadlines on goals as it pushes us to get them completed. Some things though, like developing new products, can’t be rushed as we would hate to compromise the quality of the goods and the reputation of the brand. So there has to be an element of flexibility but, where possible, we do try and stick to deadlines we make.
What is your next business goal?
We’ve recently taken on a new premises which is extremely exciting! We’ve been spending time kitting it out because we’re going to using it in a variety of ways. It’s going to be our making studio as well as shop but, also, it’s going to be where we host our workshops. The workshops are something we’ve been planning for some time but we’ve needed the right space in which to host them. As soon the new place is finished we’ll be launching our programme of workshops – which will include soap making and a number of other natural skincare products too, watch this space!