Category: Notes to Self

In Search of our First Office

Tuesday October 10th 2017

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.

Win A Pair of Tickets to The Handmade Fair

Thursday September 7th 2017

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!


PS Image by the team at The Handmade Fair.

Creative Business Gems Love List

Monday March 20th 2017

Creative Business Gems Love list

Look Who Made The Love List….

Over the years that I have been running Milly Inspired I have met some truly amazing entrepreneurs, read books that have changed my whole outlook on running a business, and attended events, workshops and meet-ups that have helped me to reach the next level. What and who these amazing sources of inspiration are is just the type of information I want to pass onto you guys so my aim is to keep a list of my top resources, my CBG ‘Love List’.

This list will change and evolve as I find new resources so do keep coming back to view the most up-to-date list.

The List:

Books & eBooks

1.Shape up your Business by Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker

One of two books written by the founders of Personally, this is the one I found more useful, mainly due to it’s insights and tried-and-tested small business lessons. The book is full of case studies from Partners, so it is the perfect read for anyone aspiring to sell on their site.

One of two books written by the founders of Personally, this is the one I found more useful, mainly due to it’s insights and tried-and-tested small business lessons. The book is full of case studies from Partners, so it is the perfect read for anyone aspiring to sell on their site.

2.How to Style Your Brand: Everything you Need to Know to Create a Distinctive Brand Identity by Fiona Humberstone

This beautifully stylish book takes you through the branding process, from the conception of your business through to communicating to your audience as an established company.

This beautifully stylish book takes you through the branding process, from the conception of your business through to communicating to your audience as an established company.

3. Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

A self-help book for creatives. This is perfect for anyone wanting to live a creative lifestyle who is fearful of taking that initial big leap. Gilbert draws on her own life experiences as a creative, and other well-known creatives, to inspire you to take that first step. Personally, I find hearing other people’s stories gives me confidence that I am on the right path, so I often have the Audible version of this book playing in our studio.


1. Handmadeology

A hub for all things Etsy. Started by Timothy Adams, this blog is packed full of useful Etsy advice. Plus. you can connect with other sellers via their social media pages.
2. UK Handmade

An advocate and supporter of all things UK craft. I have used their forum numerous times, and their ongoing support for creatives always motivates me.
3. Female Entrepreneur Association

Started by Carrie Green, this lady has created an online meeting place for business women from all over the world. I joined their Members Club a few years ago and love being able to communicate to other female business owners. Plus, the themed monthly information packs they send out to their members are very useful.

You don’t have to join their membership site to find useful content. Have a listen to Carrie’s weekly podcasts over on their blog, or have a read of their ‘She Means Business‘ magazine.

Training – online and offline:

1. Paperfest

Originally a yearly event bringing together people from the world of Paper Goods, Paperfest is now part of the London Tradeshow, Top Drawer. Top Drawer runs in January and September each year, and both events are FREE to visit if you run a small business. Paperfest hosts talks throughout the three-day event; these have included speakers from major retailers like Waterstones and Selfridges.
2. Nicole’s Classes

Personally I have completed their Photoshop, Illustrator, Photography 101 and Table Top Photography courses (wow, I didn’t realise I’d done so many). The courses are affordable, practical and some of the most useful I’ve taken. You simply purchase the course you want from their website and select the date you want to start the 4-week course. Once purchased, download their software. When the course starts you sign in and that week’s notes and videos are ready to go. You can also upload any work you have done, so your teacher and coursemates can add notes.

Nicole has kindly set up an offer for Creative Business Gems readers. This will allow you 15% off all her courses with the discount code ‘CBG15’. All you have to do is add the promo code at checkout.

3. Start Small, Dream Big

From the owners of the blog, A Beautiful Mess, these sisters have written several ecourses. I have friends who have purchased different ones and all have enjoyed them. For small business start-ups I’d pick the ‘Start Small, Dream Big’ course. Again, it is affordable and easy to access. The courses are self-study so you can work at your own pace.


1. Holly Booth

Owner of Holly Booth Photography. Holly has been our product photographer for many years. She is now one of the photographers recommends that their Partners use. Holly creates quality, on-trend photos. Based in Derby you can visit her for a day or a half day shoot. Alternatively, you can now post her your products, and she will photograph them for you and post everything back. Plus, she is one of the most cost-effective photographers I have found.
2. Jenny Hyde

Owner of Copper Boom Studios, Jenny and I used to work together at Now she offers mentoring, courses and workshops for Partners. Plus, Copper Boom Studios is available for e-commerce product descriptions and photography.
3. Claire Yuille

Owner of Indie Retail UK, a website and ecourses to help launch your wholesale collection.

So that is our first ‘Love List’. Do you have any suggestions you think we should include in the future? Maybe you run an e-course or host a networking event that would be perfect for our list; if so, then please get in touch.

Welcome, I’m Gemma

If you are a Craftsperson, an Artisan, Design-Maker or Micro Manufacturer, looking for product design inspiration then 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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