By: Fiona Atchison- Partner in Little Bundle Box
I never imagined, on turning 60 I would be in a business partnership with my daughter Debbie, and on the threshold of a whole new career in the baby gift industry with ‘Little Bundle Box’. That was 3 years ago and our baby gift business now provides ‘bundles’ of joy to lots of new parents.
But let me tell you how it all began.
Debbie and I have a special and close relationship. I was just twenty when she was born and she remained an only child. She was fifteen when her father and I separated. He moved abroad and it was a very difficult period for Debbie and I, both emotionally and financially but we pushed through together and came out the other side. I think that experience is what makes us a good business team today because we know first hand about hard work and resilience. Not that we agree on everything – we don’t and at those times we will discuss the issue until we find a compromise.
I’ve had a varied working life from the age of sixteen including: horse riding instructor, self-employment in catering and a partner in a Wine Bar. This was all before deciding in my thirties to go to college then university, finally gaining a BSc in Occupational Therapy.
When I took self-retirement at the tender age of 55 it was simply if I’m being honest, because I felt burnt out. I had been managing a social work team for many years when the opportunity to take my accrued pension as a lump sum provided me with the means to jump. I enjoyed the stress-free days for a while but as a trained Occupational Therapist I know only too well how a lack of purposeful activity can erode confidence and self-worth. . A short stint helping a free magazine gain advertising content alleviated some of the boredom. When Debbie gave birth to our gorgeous granddaughter, Ariana in 2016 I felt joy and new sense of purpose. The only problem was that Debbie and husband Rowan resided in Melbourne, Australia. When Ariana was born they had lived there for 9 years.
The Business Formation
I arrived in Australia a few days after Ariana’s birth to help out, staying for seven weeks. During this time lovely gifts arrived and Debbie amassed all manner of baby keepsakes. On one of our pram walks we began discussing the need for a keepsake box and with growing excitement, imagined starting our own baby gift business. Perhaps I could begin the process when I returned to the UK such was the passion and conviction for our imagined product, a bespoke Keepsake Case filled with beautiful baby gifts. I began researching suppliers and manufactures as soon as I got home. However, this was no easy task. It took months trying to source companies dealing in the type of small cases we envisaged and samples from China and Europe proved to be disappointing. It was only when Debbie and Rowan made the enormous decision to return to live in the UK with Ariana, that the business idea began to gain momentum. With Debbie’s creative skills she was able to design our white keepsake case in two sizes and negotiated with a company in the UK to help produce them to our specifications. It was wonderful to finally have the product we’d dreamed of. We researched and hand picked our gift products by visiting trade shows and meeting with manufacturers and suppliers. For instance the leather luggage tags attached to our keepsake cases were hand-made in Manchester by a master leather craftsman. Each item in our gift bundles has been tried and tested by us to offer our customers something we would wish to buy.
Start Up Business Support
As well as doing your research homework it’s vital to gain some specialist business support. Here’s the thing, some councils offer free services covering all aspects of business and the one I came across was the Ayrshire branch of Business Gateway. Free to sign up, plus access to a huge variety of business workshops and short courses. My assigned business advisor also supplied information and support on applying for a financial business grant to the local council. It took many weeks to complete all the grant stages and to produce financial forecasts and marketing plans. Eventually I submitted an application for grant assistance to go towards the services of a professional photographer for our recently formed website and finance for our attendance at an upcoming baby show. We were successful on both counts gaining 50% of the costs which was key in launching Little Bundle Box.
We also joined the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which published a piece on our new business in their quarterly magazine. Professional support is essential if you have no knowledge or very little on starting your own business. We gained skills in business planning, marketing, legal and tax support, accounting, insurance, health & safety, media and much more.
Little Bundle Box finally launched successfully at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, Baby & Toddler Show in April 2018. It was a fantastic three days for us financially and emotionally and we signed up straight away for the following year.
Business View Today
Since Covid 19 we are primarily an online baby gift retail business and are fortunate to receive regular traffic. We miss the live trade shows throughout the country although some are back in a virtual form. There are also online virtual pitch and networking events available. We have links with several companies who operate Award and Recognition Schemes. These companies provide maternity and paternity gifts for employees who are expecting a baby and it is such a lovely and supportive gesture. Every business has had to find a way to adapt and keep going if it can for its staff and customers. Flexible, home working is a great way of retaining office staff and incorporating social distancing with full covid precautions becoming a way of life in all business settings.
Business Tips Learned Along the Way
- Have a good idea of the amount of finance you need to get your idea up and running.
- Know your competition. If there are a lot of similar businesses in the area/field then you must have a point of difference. One that will sell!
- Be ready to make sacrifices. A business is not for those who really want more time in retirement.
- Seek business advice right from the start. Much is free and online.
- Marketing is your best friend but spend your money wisely.
- Design – your product also has to look good to a consumer therefore your logo, and packaging are essential to get right.
- Get an accountant – to do your books and tax returns which will save you financial headaches. Also for advice and guidance on how to tackle certain issues as they arise.
- Purchase business insurance – to help cover costs should you suffer any damages or find yourself being sued.
- Maintain your quality to provide a product or service you are proud of.
- Go that extra mile to give excellent personal customer service. You will find this is much appreciated.
- Customer feedback can help direct your business. What do your customers like/what don’t the like so much?
- Finally but also foremost – you must enjoy the business you have chosen. Starting a business in something you love will maintain you through the downs as well as the ups and is less likely to fail.
Grasp the Nettle
My message here for other ‘women and men of a certain age’ is never think it’s too late to start anew. Life is full of surprises and my once jaded self is full of passion and excitement for ‘Little Bundle Box’. It’s been a long and sometimes rocky road to get to this point but every day is different and full of purpose. So if you have the kernel of a business idea, my advice is to do your research and go for it! Age is irrelevant, you just need energy and conviction and the rest will follow. See you out there!