Following the popularity of our spring interview series we have decided to make interviews with Mums in business a regular feature! We have had some fantastic feedback from our readers saying how inspiring they have found the posts as well as some wonderful feedback from the businesses featured telling us how it has brought new interest and opportunities for their businesses.
Here is our latest interview with Wendy Murray from Little Buttons Boutique…
Tell us a little bit about you and your business. When did you start and what made you decide to start your own business?
Hi, I’m Wendy and I was inspired to start my own business by my little boy Joshua who was born in 2009. I was made redundant in 2010 and was lucky enough to be able to be a stay-at-home mum for a couple of years. As Josh got older and was due to start nursery I began thinking about going back to work and it was my dream to be able to have my own business to work from home and work around his childcare needs. As Josh suffered with eczema as a baby I’d discovered the benefits of organic clothing, which was something I’d never come across before. The ranges I bought for Josh were beautifully designed, fantastic quality and also didn’t irritate him as the organic materials are grown without any nasty chemicals so are much gentler on skin. The clothes are also really hardwearing and wash brilliantly so are perfect for little ones. In partnership with my sister, the idea for Little Buttons Boutique was born! We wanted to set up an online store which would allow our customers to shop in the comfort of their own homes at a time that suited them. It was also really important to me to ensure that boys were equally catered for as I’d found from personal experience that there was always much more choice for girls’ clothing.
What did you do before starting your business? Did you have any experience in selling clothing?
I was a Customer Services Manager with Hewlett Packard’s IT division so I had years of customer service and admin experience but absolutely none in selling clothing! Looking back it was probably a big gamble to go into an industry which I really didn’t know much about but I was so passionate about the products and had fantastic help from the brands which I now stock that after a steep learning curve and lots and lots of research I’m so glad I did.
How did you feel when you had just launched your business?
Nervous, terrified, anxious but above all very excited! I was very fortunate going into business with my sister as we complement each other really well and had each other for support. We’d put in so much work sourcing the products, getting the website just right and planning the launch that it was incredibly rewarding to see it go live.
What were the main challenges or most important things to learn when you first started?
The main challenge was juggling starting up a business whilst looking after my little boy as my partner is a submariner and was working away a lot so my family and friends were a brilliant help in providing childcare for Josh.
Did you get lots of support from family and friends?
My family and friends were fantastic and incredibly supportive. It’s never easy starting a new business and I really couldn’t have done it without all their help.
Once you had started how long did it take for you to feel that it was an established business? Or if you’re still building your business at what point/milestone will you feel like you’ve established a successful business?
I think it’s an ongoing process and there have been lots of little milestones along the way. Getting return customers and receiving lovely feedback was a big milestone as it proved there was a real customer base out there for our products. It’s really important to us to provide a personal service to our customers along with outstanding customer service so receiving the feedback showed us we were on the right track. Also, when we first launched the website there were a few ranges which we wanted to stock who were understandably reluctant to supply a brand new, unknown business so it was my aim to build up the business then approach the companies again. Within our first year of trading, three of the companies on my wish list approached us asking if we’d like to stock their clothing which was a brilliant milestone. This season we were delighted to begin stocking Hatley, a Canadian brand which I’m a big fan of and we’ve recently been contacted by a fantastic French label and are now in discussions with them to bring the range to Little Buttons Boutique next summer so working with international companies has been a massive milestone and really makes us feel like an established business now.
What was the first item that you sold? And how did it feel?
The first item sold was a little organic cotton outfit from the Kite range which is one of my favourite brands. It felt amazing and I was over the moon somebody wanted to buy our items as my biggest fear was of launching the website and nobody wanting to buy anything!
What items do you sell and what are your favourite items?
We specialise in organic and high quality clothing for babies and children and have recently expanded into natural skincare. The organic items are extra gentle on little ones skin so perfect for those with eczema like my little boy. The non-organic items are all top quality and ethically made. It’s so difficult to choose a favourite as I love all the ranges! They’re all carefully sourced to make sure they’re of the highest quality and we only stock clothing I’d be happy for my little boy to wear himself. He mostly wears Frugi, Kite, Piccalilly & Hatley at the moment. I love the skincare range Miamoo which I use all the time at home as it’s multifunctional and gentle enough for the whole family. We’re also delighted to stock Cheeky Chompers Neckerchew teething bibs which I think are a fantastic invention and have had brilliant customer feedback, as well as pictures of happy little customers chomping away! I love the originality of Blade & Rose leggings and also the fact they cater for boys too, these have been a big hit with customers.
What are the best things about running your own business?
There are so many good things – being able to manage my time and work my hours around my family is the main thing. It’s very rewarding to have built up a good relationship with our regular customers and receiving lovely feedback is wonderful.
What are the worst?
As I’m juggling my hours around a very energetic 4 year old, I often find myself working late at night after he is in bed so it can be exhausting and I find it impossible to switch off from work sometimes. Working from home can also be a bit isolating as there’s not the social interaction you would have going out to work.
Is there anything you wished you’d known before you started?
I definitely didn’t realise how challenging it would be to juggle work and family, I thought working from home would make it easier but I’ve had to make a conscious effort to separate work and family time.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement so far?
Having the companies who were reluctant to supply us at the start actually get in touch and be very positive and complimentary about the website was wonderful and we were so proud to have achieved something which they wanted to be part of. Also being able to expand into skincare and expand our age range up to 5 years from 2 years has been a big achievement. We now also stock internationally renowned companies such as Canadian brand Hatley which is a dream come true as I’ve always been a big fan of their products and they were one of the companies on my wish list which I’d hoped to eventually work with so being able to stock them within our first year is something I’m very proud of.
If you weren’t running your own business what do you think you would be doing?
I’m not quite sure to be honest! My plan was to go back to work part time once Josh was in nursery so I would probably be doing that but I’m so glad I decided to take the leap and start up my own business.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I mainly spend time with my family and friends but I actually enjoy my work too so feel very lucky to have that.
What advice would you give to other mums thinking about starting up their own business?
It’s really challenging but so rewarding so I’d advise them to go for it! I think it’s very important to be passionate about your business idea and have something that you really believe in. Knowing who your customer base will be is vital. It’s much more time consuming than I imagined and you can’t just switch off at 5 o’clock so time management’s key. Also social networking has been really important. I’ve met some lovely people on Twitter and Facebook. I never really bothered with either before but it’s a great way to meet people, both customers and other businesses, and a great way to build relationships.
What plans do you have for your business in the future?
The future will hopefully be all about expanding. We have other brands which we’d love to work with and we’d also like to expand our ranges to include older children too.
Do you think running your own business has had a positive effect on your children and how they view you as a working mum?
I hope so. My little boy loves helping out with stuff like choosing new ranges so he’s like my little helper! He’s always telling people he got his shirt/jacket/whatever from mum’s business so I think he’s proud of me.
Where can we find out more about Little Buttons Boutique?
Our website is www.littlebuttonsboutique.co.uk, Facebook www.facebook.com/LittleButtonsBoutique and Twitter www.twitter.com/LittleButtonsUK. We can be contacted either via the website or email email@example.com
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If you would like to apply to take part in one of our future interviews and have your business featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to hear from you!
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