How to become an entrepreneur & tame a Dragon
- By Sarah Dening -
- Apr 19, 2012
With a successful career, marriage and family all to contend with it can be, to say the least, difficult to start out as an entrepreneur. Here’s a guest blog on how it can be done, while taming a dragon along the way…
After a career in the legal professional, a marriage and four children (eek!), to be honest my main hobby (and interest) was shopping – sorry, RETAIL.
Following some freelance work for a friend’s retail business, as my youngest child tottered off to nursery, I found myself helping other local businesses with their online retail presence – whether as a brochure website or an online store. Strengthened by regular episodes of “Mary, Queen Of Shops”, I decided that the obvious leap was to combine the eclectic mix of products and launch my own retail website – and thus Shop On Your Doorstep was born.
My combination of products, suppliers, children and time management confused many friends (and family members) in the early days, but since the launch on 1st July 2010 (almost 2 years ago), my website has grown to include not only local suppliers, but also many UK designers (and some from overseas too) – my many happy customers are a constant reminder that my many years as a shopper have given me an educated “eye” on the products to source for my customers. (This also means my husband can no longer criticise my favourite hobby). Clearly shopping is necessary “product research” and not an enjoyable experience at all (ahem).
The content grew, the products expanded and I realised that my original website platform was far short of the mark. As Christmas 2010 came and went (and with it a small Christmas catalogue), a busy January 2011 followed, and I decided to invest in a more powerful platform and launched the shiny new website in March 2011.
In the competitive world of the internet, it is difficult for a small business to wave their hand higher than larger competitors and grab the attention of the potential customer – and after literally throwing money away on adwords, I channelled my energy into PR. This was a new area for me, however my stubbornness to prove the business could succeed overtook my shyness. I found myself contacting publications and journalists, networking and using social media, and eventually seeing the fruits of my labour – my products placed into national newspapers and magazines. Thank you to the journalists who placed my products into publications including Daily Mail Weekend Magazine, Pregnancy & Birth, Kitchens Bedrooms & Bathrooms, Closer and The Telegraph Christmas Gift Guide. To have my products alongside big names such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Boots provided wonderful exposure for both Shop On Your Doorstep and also my wonderful suppliers.
The decision to exhibit prior to Christmas 2011 required a week in London for me, exhibiting at Earls Court – The Ideal Home Show at Christmas, followed by Spirit of Christmas at Bluewater – at least I could commute each day to this venue. Would I exhibit again? Probably not. Having no staff means an awful lot of work for a show (and support from husband and sister), and this Christmas I think I will be revisiting the Christmas catalogue idea on a larger scale – a tip for anyone who is exhibiting? Don’t wear heels – I could barely walk after Ideal Home Show!
So, after almost two years would I do it all again? Absolutely. Even the parts which took a lot of work and failed – that’s what makes me an entrepreneur. If you don’t take the risks, you won’t reach the rewards – be an employee instead.
How do I measure the success of Shop On Your Doorstep? Well, despite being told my many two years ago that social media was a “waste of time” and to focus my time on adwords…
Thank you to: Jacqueline Gold, Chief Executive of Knickerbox and Ann Summers who kindly awarded me a #WOW Award (Women On Wednesday) in October 2011 via Twitter and Mumpreneur, UK who kindly added me to their list of Top 100 UK Mumpreneurs 2011.
Most of all, thank you most importantly to Theo Paphitis – Chairman of Ryman and Owner of Boux Avenue (perhaps best known for his appearances on BBC1 Dragons Den). On Mothers Day 2012 he awarded me a #SBS Award (Small Business Sunday) – and on Friday 30 March 2012 I was lucky enough to attend the Inaugural SBS Meet Up at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. I got to meet fellow SBS winners, some success stories from Dragons Den. Not a bad way to spend your birthday!
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