We caught up with Louise from Personalised Bears to find out how she started her online business from home and managed to leave her full-time job and take her passion to the next level.
Tell us what your business does?
My name is Louise and I sell personalised teddy bears, rag dolls, clothing and gifts.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I came up with the idea about 12 years ago. I purchased a very basic embroidery machine and embroidered designs and names on to face clothes and towels. My business was self-taught and I spent many hours practising techniques and learning about how to run a business. I attended courses ran by HMRC and also did a 10-week course on business start ups where I received an accreditation in small businesses.
How have you promoted your business?
At first, I promoted my business by going to craft fairs, school fairs and toddlers groups. Whilst at the toddler groups I met parents who were on the school governing boards and they asked if I offered embroidered school uniform. I looked into the possibility of doing this and upgraded my embroidery machines and started offering embroidered uniform to schools and then companies.
What were you doing before starting up?
At first, I ran my business part time whilst working full time for Thomas Cook. As the business grew I reduced my hours to part time. 2 years later I left my employment and was running my business full time from my dining room. Within 6 months I was running out of space and needed bigger premises. In order to offer competitive prices, I converted my garage into a workshop to keep my overheads low. My business was growing fast and what was once a part time hobby is now a full-time business.
What’s your unique selling point?
I always strive to be the best in the market place, nothing is too much trouble and I offer the best quality at the most competitive prices. If a customer wants something I don’t have I will find it. If a customer wants a last minute gift then I will work late to complete it.
What have you enjoyed the most about running your own online business?
Being self-employed does have its advantages as you have nobody telling you what to do, you can work when you want and for how long you want but it does also have its drawbacks. A lot of people say to me they would love to have a business and work from home. I tell them it’s not as easy as you think. You have to be very disciplined, motivated and be prepared to work long hours. You also have to keep on top of the current market trends, what’s in, what’s out and what your competitors are doing. When starting a business holidays are also a no go area and if you do manage a holiday it’s usually a few days away but with a laptop and telephone taking calls and answering emails.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
A few years ago business started to slow down so panic struck in. Big companies such as Tesco and M&S started offering embroidered school uniform. It was getting harder to compete and schools were taking the load from themselves and getting parents to purchase uniform directly from these companies. I had to think quick and decided to offer a bigger gift range. I looked into what gifts were popular and what I could offer. I decided to offer a range of teddy bears and dolls dressed in clothing that could be embroidered and personalised with custom messages.
How long have you been using EKM and how have you found your website has impacted your business?
I started selling on eBay and Amazon but wanted something that made me stand out from the rest so I set up an e-commerce site with EKM. I registered my site about 8 years ago on Christmas Day, yes Christmas Day. My mind never stops thinking work and I thought that there is no time like the present. The website was very easy to build using the templates on offer and within a few weeks I was up and running and sales were coming in fast. As time went on more and more people started selling personalised gifts so the competition was getting harder. I started selling my products on more market places as well as my website but found the website sales were dwindling and the other market places I was selling on flourishing. This was great for a while but the fees I paid were just too much.
How would you describe your experience of EKM evolution mode?
I knew I had to do something and quick. My website with EKM was looking old and tired so it was time for a change. That’s when I noticed EKM Evolution Mode and my prayers were answered. The EKM evolution team have helped me get my website back on track. It’s now more up to date, less cluttered and easier to navigate round. I do still need to do a lot of work in updating pictures etc but its work in progress. The guys at EKM have been so helpful and helped me so much. They explain everything in detail and have been happy to make the many changes to my site that I have requested and for free and I can’t thank them enough.
How would you describe EKM to your friends?
I would definitely recommend EKM to anybody, they are so helpful and their technical team are so well educated on all aspects of building a website. If you are thinking of starting up a business I would definitely recommend EKM.