London Loves Business caught up with two entrepreneurial Dot Londoners who took the plunge and are now running successful businesses from home.
Entering the cottage industry and balancing work from home. Did you know there are 2.9m home-based businesses in the UK, which contribute as much as £300bn to the economy?
Since the referendum of 2016, media has been buzzing with the ‘#LondonIsOpen’ campaign which aims to reassure the world that the capital remains a top destination for investment and business despite the fear of Brexodus. For those of you nurturing a dream and exploring ways to take the entrepreneurial plunge, today we are throwing a spotlight on some successful businesses that had modest beginnings in the owner’s own homes and continue to thrive in London.
Open for business, from home
Liz Wilson runs an award winning micro-bakery Ma Baker in the heart of Fulham. “I bake, sell and deliver bread to the residents of SW6. Besides my bakery business, I also run a range of Bread Courses, which are listed as one of the top 3 classes in London.”
But embarking on this entrepreneurial journey was not so smooth. “Four years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. It was then that I enrolled for a bread-making class and absolutely fell in love with the process. I baked repeatedly, read and took more classes to learn the craft. Initially I would give away my loaves to friends until they started saying, ‘Liz, stop giving it away, we will pay for it’.
I managed all this with my primary school job. By the end of 2014, I started my bread adventure full time, and it has since been the best time of my life.”
The business idea for Elizabeth Eve baby clothes came to Beth Hellowell around 4 years ago when she completed several years of working in fashion buying and decided to create a modern brand of her own.
“I always had a passion for fashion since I was young. This idea came to me when I was hunting for a baby present one day and couldn’t find a befitting hamper, so I set about creating my own! The brand started out with a handful of styles, printed locally in Camden, and has since developed into a successful range. In the next year I will be launching an Organic collection which I am very excited about,” Beth added.
Investing, reinvesting back into the business
For Liz Wilson, one of the proudest moments so far was when she more than doubled her turnover and profit last year. She attributes this financial success to staying true to her values, offering quality product, being sustainable, and the combination of excellent customer service, a creative marketing strategy and a good accountant.
Talking about how she started her business with little initial investment, and how it has all grown organically through word of mouth and social media, Beth adds: “It’s only my third year in business and I have received two Great Taste awards, five World Bread Awards, and I have been listed as one of the Top 5 Bakers in London by the Real Bread Campaign — the only woman to do so. To help my business grow, I also received a grant through Urban Food Routes and the Plunkett foundation.
I am now developing a range of longer shelf-life products which will enable me to approach new and different markets. So watch out for our oatcakes with dark chocolate and fennel and our new range of Buckwheat Crackers.”
On the other hand, Beth funded Elizabeth Eve ‘entirely herself’ starting with an initial investment of just £500 and then going from there, reinvesting the profits made back into the business. “At the beginning of 2016, I had put the collection on Not On The High Street which was a great way to reach new customers. Social media and Instagram have been fantastic resources to connect with other small businesses and showcase my designs. I also launched some new boxes last year in collaboration with Kokoso baby coconut oil, whom I first spotted from their Instagram page.”
Office at home: A labour of love?
Working from home can have its own disadvantages, especially if you have a family and social commitments to keep. However, Beth from Elizabeth Eve believes that running your business from home is very much ‘a labour of love’.
“I spend a lot of my time on the floor surrounded by baby grows, tissue paper and cardboard boxes singing along to the radio! I also work as a manager in another business, so time management is the key for me. I love creating and selling with Elizabeth Eve so it never feels like work. I spend evenings going through the website, checking my stock and getting orders packed for my customers,” she adds.
For Liz Wilson, balancing job with family is the trickier part, especially since her work takes over a lot of the home: “The hardest part is constantly turning the bakery back into a home and vice versa. I let my family know when I am working and when I am not, so they can also fit around me. When I first started, I was working all hours. I am much better at taking out me time now.”
Power of a city-based web address
One thing that is common to both the entrepreneurs is their choice of domain name. As we have seen, digital marketing is a major tool for generating revenue, and an increasing number of London-based entrepreneurs are opting for a Dot London web address, as opposed to a ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’.
Talking about the benefits of having a city-based web address, Dan Hill, Head of Dot London said: “With over 4,000 London-based independent shops opening in 2016 and 98 percent of the registered businesses in the capital being small businesses, entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in London.
“People are being inspired by others to take a risk and start their own business. Doing it with a Dot London web address gives them a local feel, which helps instil trust in their customers, but additionally gives them the instant gravitas of being associated with a globally renowned business hub such as London.”
Starting cottage industry from home: Good idea?
Liz Wilson proudly says that starting her cottage industry has been one of the best decisions of her life. This model allows her flexibility, no daily travel, and she can always be with her family when they need her. “I have little overheads and a good return. I also have an endless supply of really good bread!” Wilson quips.
Beth from Elizabeth Eve would recommend this model to anyone who has the interest, creativity and patience. “I’m sure people would agree that creating a brand is not an overnight process but involves a lot of perseverance. Any individual wanting to start his business from home must work out a clear USP, be consistent with their efforts, keep up to date with communications, and social media, and keep the highest quality of service.”
Word of advice for others
Beth says: “Do it! If you have an idea and you can think of the first few steps to put it into practise, then take those steps and see where they take you.”
“If you have a passion for something, have a go and be the best that you can be. Be mindful of yourself and all those that live with you. And LOVE it!” Liz adds.