In Search of our First Office

The issues around moving a home based business into its first commercial unit is a topic I see bought up in business forums a lot so I thought I would share how this process went for us.

Working from home – our reality:

For the past 7 years Mr CBG and I have run Milly Inspired from our rented home. It has been an odd set up to say the least which would only work as we are a couple currently without kids so we can allow the business to slowly take over the house in a way you couldn’t if you had a family.

Originally we ran MI from Russell’s 2 bed flat in London. Within twelve month the business had taken over some of the living room, we were sleeping on the floor of the second bedroom, while the work units and stock lived in the larger main bedroom. We coped surprising well but I think you would agreed, all the signs where there that things had to change.

It made sense to sell and move out of London to somewhere less expensive so we could afford to put more money into our business. Several years later and we have settled in Hampshire where we rent a 4 bedroom house (the business taking up much of that space).

When we first left our 9 to 5 London jobs (with long commutes), the change was a lot of fun and very liberating. We knew how lucky we were to have a business that had got us to this stage. We were living our dream of working hours to suit us, from our own home.

The realisation of a home based businesses came a year later when, after a busy week of orders Mr CBG pointed out I had not left the house all week. I had not even realised because I had been too busy to do anything else and as he had gone to shops I had gone that whole week without stepping outside (how sad does that make me sound).

That was a major turning point. We had realised working for someone else forces you to get out each day. Now we worked for ourselves, we had to consciously make sure we got out as often as we could.

In Search of our First Office

From Home Office to Commercial Unit:

We now have several part time staff who join us through the week. Plus the business had taken over more and more of the house (our dining room table was used to pack the gift boxes and our dressing area is also the storage room). Recently the feeling of wanting a ‘home’ again, free from work, has grown.

We wanted to separate the business long before we did it. One reason it took so long to make that step was that I wanted to be sure we could cover all the extra costs this change would incur (two rents and double utility bills etc. etc.). But also I’d heard so many horror stories around the complexity of renting a commercial unit. From research I believed the process would take weeks of negotiations, then months of legalities with solicitors. I’m not afraid of all that but I wanted to wait until I felt I could add that to my work load.

Our experience turned out to be the complete opposite. Once we agreed to go for it and I started looking the whole process lasted only 2 months. (I wander now if these horror stories are related to much larger companies with very specific requirements.)

The places we visited were all different. One had a nutty owner which saw Russ and I running in the other direction, several were well priced but not in nice areas. The most interesting opportunity involved us renting an office space from a storage unit. Our Royal Mail Account Manager told us she visits lots of businesses who work from storage units. I thought she meant the actual storage units, (which I’ve now learnt some companies do use) but what she meant was many of the larger storage companies in the UK have converted some space into offices. What is fantastic about this option is business rates do not apply as that is down to the storage unit to pay. This was a reasonable option, with a rolling monthly contract …perfect.

We had all but signed the paperwork when we found out how terrible the internet is around here. (Somehow our house was in a fast internet area but the rest of Portsmouth currently seems to be terrible.) Can you believe it, we are an hour drive from London and yet the only options would have been the old copper cable broadband (not impressed). I did learn that businesses can overcome this by renting multiple phone lines or laying our own cable (you can guess how much that would cost). So as the options available to us would dramatically increase the cost for the unit we had to cancel this idea and start looking again. The next day the Jo, who works with us, suggested a place she drives past each day.

A beautiful Georgian Manor House used as commercial offices, Gatcombe House, has free parking, a reception, kitchen and mail service, plus affordable supper fast broadband (they had paid to lay the cables on behalf of the business who rented their units). Yes is was more expensive than the storage unit but with the extra costs require to speed up the internet it ended up being cheaper.

The First Week in our Commercial Unit:

As I mentioned the process was very simple. We agreed we wanted the space at the start of April and we move in on the 28th of that month. We packed most things on the Tuesday afternoon leaving enough out to complete orders on the Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon we packed everything else. The removal company came at 7.30am on the Thursday and we were done by 10.30am. We had finished unpacking and headed home at 3pm.

The emotions came the following week when we had to do our first commute in 7 years. When I started packing what I needed for the day, I realised I’d always had everything to hand, now I needed to plan my day in advance again. Needless to say I’ve forgotten things already several times.

Leaving the pets for the first time hurt. Milly hates visitors coming to our house so we know she never enjoyed people working with us there but she loves the days when it is just our mini family and it’s not like you can explain to them what is happening.

Once we got to Gatcome House it felt like the first day at a new job. We knew no one and everyone else seemed settled and at ease with each other as they chatted away at the coffee machine.

So fare those are the only negatives we have found to working from an office but we have found so many positives already. The first being that we have all upped our game. Being around other businesses instantly makes you want to present your business in the best possible light. It completely changes your mind set and motivates you to do better, faster! Mr CGB has said how much more productive he feels and I’d completely agree. Being at home it is easy to flit between home and work jobs and now while at Gatcombe we can only focus on Milly Inspired. I’d go as fair to say the work we are doing is better quality as well.

The biggest joy for us is having our home back again. A sanctuary from work and a clear end to the day. It has only been a week but now that we are out in the day we look forward to getting home.

Have you been looking for your own business premise, what experiences have you had? Maybe you have some advice you can impart? If so tell us about it in the comments field below.

Best Ways to Launch New Products on Notonthehighstreet.com

“How and when you launch new products on notonthehighstreet.com will really affect its success.”

To date, I’ve uploaded hundreds of new products to notonthehighstreet.com. Over time, I’ve compiled a few tactics that seem to give our newest offerings the best possible chance to attract views and, ultimately, sales. Below is an outline of each of them.

Notonthehighstreet.com loves a new product, as does its customer base, so I always aim to have a product in the ‘New’ category of their site.
Why do I do this? Because:
1: I know customers want to shop from that category.
2: I know the key to sales is getting seen, so I want to be in as many categories as possible. As a product is only in the New category for its first month on the site, I want to make the most of this.

This brings us to the second factor to consider. Because I always want to have something in the New category, I can’t launch everything at once, as I’ll soon run out of things to showcase. For this reason, I never launch all of a new collection at the same time.

Once you have made sure you appear in the New category as often as you can, your next aim is to help your product move up the rankings/pages of that category as fast as possible, because the higher the ranking, the more views it will get. This is where the ‘relevance’ of your new product plays a part.

Plan to launch products when the customers are more likely to be looking for that specific item. At certain times of the year customers will be searching for specific keywords. You want to launch your new offering when those keywords are being searched for the most. That helps the products to move up the rankings, as they win more views and click-throughs.

You need to make sure you are launching a product when there is an interest, but you also need to make sure you launch it as soon at that season/interest starts so the product has enough time to move up the rankings before the season/interest ends. Therefore ‘timing’ is also key. That means items that are specific to one gift-giving occasion need to be live no later than 6 weeks before the relevant event. Your aim is to end the season with your product on the first two product pages (that would be a fantastic outcome).

Finally, make sure you consider what Notonthehighstreet.com has got planned. Aim to make the most of dates when you know notonthehighstreet.com will be trying to attract more customers to their site than normal. For example, recently I have been planning the order in which we will launch our next collection in time for Christmas. I remembered that the Notonthehighstreet.com Christmas catalogue normally drops at the end of October/start of November. That always brings substantially more traffic to the site, so I plan to have all the Christmas products live before then.

To conclude, our key tactics when launching a new product are:
1. Stagger the launch of new products so you stay in the ‘New’ category as long as possible.
2. Launch your product when people are most likely to be looking for that item.
3. Launch seasonal products at the very beginning of that season.
4. Make use of the times you know Notonthehighstreet.com will be attracting more customers to their site.

Do you agree with my points? Maybe you have your own theories on how and when to launch your newest products. If you do, please let us know in the comments field below.

**Important note: this post is not endorsed by Notonthehghstreet.com in any way, and is simply our own observations.**

The Handmade Fair

 

Win Two Tickets to the Handmade Fair:

Fancy a creative day out at The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court? Well this year our sister company, Milly Inspired, will have have their first ever stand there so we are all very excited. The show runs from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th September 2017 and Gemma plans to diary her experience so she can share it with you once she gets back.

T0 celebrate this milestone we have two sets of tickets to giveaway.

To win, all you have do is head over to our Instagram account and click follow!

The closing date for our competition is midday on Tuesday 12th September 2017. We will then pick the lucky winner from the people who have clicked follow between now and the closing date.

Good luck guys and if you are going to the fair don’t forget to pop along to our stand to say hello!

oxox

PS Image by the team at The Handmade Fair.

If you are married, you may have already heard about the traditional presents you are meant to gift your husband or wife depending on the anniversary year you are celebrating. This is a very old tradition which has been updated in the past few years with a newly revised gift list.

Below we have created a graphic for you showing both the traditional and modern list of anniversary gifts.

traditional and modern anniversary giftsThe standard list of traditional and modern Wedding Anniversary gifts.

Why Design Anniversary Gifts:

What I love about this gifting theme is that it is very easy to incorporate your current range into this category without having to redesign anything or create a brand new range. You can see from our table above, the theme for a first-anniversary gift is ‘paper’. As we already create personalised prints, these would naturally make a perfect paper anniversary gift. So all we had to do was add a suggestion in the product description that this print would be the ‘perfect paper anniversary gift’. However on another occasion, we create a print specifically for this theme so we could title it ‘Personalised First Anniversary Art Print’. This was so we could make the most of those keywords, plus it enabled us to position a product in any anniversary gifting categories available to us.

First Year Anniversary Gift Design
Gift Design Inspiration for First Anniversary ‘Paper’ Gifts.

Paper may seem an easy theme to incorporate into your current gifting range, so what do you do if you want to offer a gift for the more complex anniversary themes? Personally,  I would suggest putting a twist on the theme. For example, for a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, we have a ruby coloured anniversary print. Following on from this, the theme for a 25th wedding anniversary gift is silver so we have a silver foiled personalised art print.

Designing gifts for a fifth wedding anniversary
Gift Inspiration for First Anniversary, Paper Gifts.

The key thing to remember is you do not have to design a gift for every possible year. Instead, just pick the ones which are relevant to your offering.

Finally, I would recommend starting with the first ten years of themes as these are the ones which are celebrated the most so there will always be a greater demand for those

How to Join Notonthehighstreet as a Partner

Website graphics by Milly Inspired

‘How can I join Notonthehighstreet’, is a small Business question that we hear all the time…

A lot of people want to know how to join Notonthehighstreet as a Partner. If you believe that you offer products that will appeal to their demographic, then I would definitely recommend applying. For many small business owners, working with Notonthehigstreet.com has been transformative, and allowed them to finally leave their 9 to 5 and build a business that they love.

Official Notonthehighstreet ‘Sell With Us’ video. Created by Notonthehighstreet.

Before launching Milly Inspired, I used to work for Notonthehighstreet, so I’ve seen the acceptance process from both sides. Based on my own experiences, I cannot emphasise enough how important each of the following points are:

1. Innovative and unique product ideas

Notonthehighstreet is just what it says on the tin. They don’t want to be stocking items available in large retail chains, so the first thing I would say to anyone wanting to sell through Notonthehighstreet is that innovation is key.

These days, the company have a Curation Policy in place, which actively encourages individuality. If you can show that you’re innovative, this will really help you to get through the doors at Notonthehighstreet.com.

Unusual products have always been a key selling point for Notonthehighstreet. They want all of their Partners, old and new, to stand out from the crowd. There are several ways that you can approach this. Where possible, my team look to design items that are not yet available on the site. Others refresh their offerings with trend-led designs and photography, while others offer notonthehighstreet.com exclusivity to some or all of their range. If you are an independent boutique, make sure you present them with your more unusual offerings.

2. A minimum collection of ten products

To join, Notonthehighstreet will ask you to complete an online application. The team view a high volume of applications every day, so first impressions count – you need a good-sized selection of well photographed products to be able to do this. Generally, Notonthehighstreet suggests this is a collection of ten or more products.

3. Excellent Product Photos

In my opinion, this is one of the most important factors, because when you’re shopping online you are buying into the image of an item first, and the physical product second. If your budget is small, this is where you should be spending your money. I have heard about numerous products not making it to the site due to bad photography.

4. A good brand presence

The team at Notonthehighstreet are looking for small businesses who understand how important it is to provide an all-round exceptional customer experience. In your application make sure you tell them about your branding, the beautiful gift-wrapping you offer, and your excellent after-sales service.

Notonthehighstreet love a good backstory too, so do tell them a bit about yourself, how you started your business and any obstacles you’ve had to overcome.

5. Desire to grow your business

For some Partners, selling on Notonthehighstreet will boost their sales overnight. Others may see a slower, but still very satisfying, increase in sales. As there will be so much opportunity for growth, Notonthehightreet naturally wants to work with companies who are enthusiastic about this. Don’t worry, you are not going to be pushed to do anything you are not ready for, so don’t let that put you off!

To conclude

I cannot stress enough how important joining Notonthhightreet was for our business, and I would whole-heartedly recommend this route to others.

To finish this post, I thought I would show you the results of a quick survey I carried out. The aim was to find out which factors other Notonthehighstreet Partners believe are important when applying to sell on the site. You can see that they agree with just how important ‘uniqueness’ is. They also said that being on-trend and offering quality products is important, with strong product photography being the fourth most important factor.

Facebook Competition

Factors that existing Notonthehighstreet Partners think they consider when assessing potential new Partners

*This post isn’t endorsed by Notonthehighstreet.com – I’m just looking to give you more insight into life as a Notonthehighstreet Partner.*

If you want to apply to join Notonthehighstreet and would like a few specific pointers before contacting them, we’re happy to offer you some guidance.

keep looking »

Welcome, I’m Gemma

If you are a Craftsperson, an Artisan, Design-Maker or Micro Manufacturer, looking for product design inspiration then creativebusinessgems.com is a blog written for you.

I have run my own Designer-Maker Business, Milly Inspired, for over 7 years now. Today our six-figure company is still growing at 50%. Learn how to get the same results right here!

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