In Search of our First Office

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.


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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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