First Quarter Musings


I’ve talked about my previous work experience and how it led me to create this business before. Recently I've been reflecting on what I've learned during these first few months of running my business.

  • Work out your costs. Every. Single. One. For me this meant developing a spreadsheet detailing the cost per towel of the raw materials and the manufacturing, but also branding, regular photoshoots, the logo’d tissue paper, stickers and water-activated postal tape, the personalised postcard, the Amazon, Etsy and Shopify fees – the list goes on. I was never going to make the cheapest towels possible. Gold standard organic cotton, recyclable packaging and being handmade here in the UK are more important to me (and my target market). What can you sell for? Is the business viable? Is there room for escalating costs (the cost of raw cotton increased by 26% one month after I started my business, leading to me adjusting my pricing).
  • Be fastidious in your research. Iron out all the kinks ahead of your launch. Test every aspect of your product, including the packaging. Then test some more. If you're posting your item, wrap it as you would dispatch it and throw it around the kitchen for three days. Then open it up and see what your customer will see.
  • Buddy up with a fellow small business (in a different sector). I have reconnected with my friend Helen (https://helenbartlettlifecasting.co.uk/). We meet up every couple of weeks for a walking meeting and offer each other an ear, advice and perspective. In between our strolls we cheer each other on virtually.

  • If you can’t do something effectively or efficiently, find someone who can. While I have the experience and business acumen, I don't sew. To start with, Anna does the actual making. She lives in the next town and runs her own very successful tailoring and alterations business. You don’t need to be an expert in all the things, but you need to know enough to make decisions and hire the right expert. My IT background meant I was able to build my own website, but when I hit a hitch that I couldn’t solve in two hours I hired someone on Upwork, and he had it fixed within an hour. My frustration levels went down and I was able to work on other tasks in the meantime.

  • Plan for growth from the very beginning. Before I found Anna I found a wonderful sewing studio. I loved their ethos, and my towels would still be handmade. But I wasn’t ready for the volume that would make the cost feasible. So I started with Anna, and I continue with Anna, but I also had my growth plan in place and the studio on standby, and now I split the work between them. It feels good to support two other businesses.

  • Canvas opinions, but not too many. Ask different things of different people – who knows about what? But at some point make a decision and trust your own judgement. As Jeff Bezos says – most decisions are two way doors.

  • Don’t back yourself into a niche corner. Hair is most vulnerable when wet. My towel reduces friction, damage, split ends and frizz whilst reducing drying time, so it’s great for ALL hair types, not just us curlies. I realised people were referring to it as the towel for curly hair, and that they had got that from me, so I changed the narrative. I’ve had some amazing reviews from owners of straight hair so it’s starting to speak for itself in this respect.

  • Consider joining a networking group. My writer friend Mo Lawson (https://www.wordfairy.co.uk/)  recommended The Athena Network and I was a little unsure at first. Having previously worked in IT, a male dominated industry, I wasn’t sure how I’d find a women-only group but it has been such a revelation. The Winchester region launched at the same time as my business so it was perfect timing. So many wise, clever, experienced, supportive women in all sorts of careers. And as a people person I love hearing about their own business stories.

  • Ask for support, be vulnerable. Keep it within your trusted circle if you feel more comfortable that way – but most people want you to succeed. I had a hairy moment early on when the first batch of towels’ labels weren’t as I had hoped. I allowed myself the tears and frustrations then went into problem-solving mode. I delayed my launch, ordered new labels and listed some of the towels as seconds on Etsy, had some resewn, gifted some to amazing women going through chemotherapy and had others made smaller for children or micro-plopping (it’s a curly girl thing).

  • Operate with an abundance mindset. Don’t get consumed by competitors or thinking you’re too late to market / Instagram / your chosen selling platform(s). Focus on the customer, not the competition. There’s plenty of business to go around.

  • Don’t undervalue your product, and don’t feel like giving it away is the only way to get your business off the ground. If you are going to gift some, carefully consider your recipients and don’t expect to be an overnight sensation! You wouldn’t actually want this anyway: you’d likely run out of stock which is an eTailer’s nightmare. You’d lose any organic ranking you’d built up, and if your potential and repeat buyers can’t find you they’ll likely buy from your competitors. Slow and steady wins the race.

As I move into the post-launch stage I'm learning new lessons and developing a new pattern of working. For example, it's proving helpful to divvy up jobs into daily (packing and shipping, ranking checks, social media posts), weekly (keeping Xero up to date, content ideas) and monthly (stocktaking, fabric order, blog posts) tasks.

During the last few months I have worked harder than I ever have in my life. But it’s been so rewarding: there’s something very special about building your own business and being the mistress of your own destiny.


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