I don’t know about you but I’m a bit of a stationery geek. Rather embarrassingly, when I worked in a office one of my favourite days was when the office supplies delivery came and I got to raid the cupboard for pens and coloured post it notes! Even when I was at school nothing beat the excitement of choosing a new pencil case for the start of term! If like me you love stationery, you NEED to check out this month’s mum boss’ store – Got2Jot. It is full of beautiful notebooks, pens and organisers, and you lovely lot can get a discount thanks to Sarah’s generosity! I’ve really enjoyed finding out more about Sarah and her business and hope you do too.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
My name is Sarah Sibley, a born Scouser who never forgets her routes but now lives in a pretty village in Northamptonshire. I am married to Graham and have 2 children, Sam (17) and Beth (14).
I am approaching a big birthday this year so feel it’s a good time to reflect and see what I want to do in the next stage of my life, not only work wise but health and fitness.
Tell us a little bit about your business
I set up Got2Jot in 2013 to offer a range of fun, fashion stationery initially focused on kids stationery but then realised as its online there is an opportunity to sell lovely ranges to parents as well.
I’ve always loved stationery and feel it’s important when you choose a business start up idea that it’s something you have a passion for. I have been running the business in the background alongside my main Marketing Consultancy work . In May this year I took the plunge and have decided to work full time on making Got2Jot grow so it is now my main focus.
What did you do before and has it helped with your current business?
My background has been primarily in retail marketing – I am a bit of a shopper to say the least so for me it’s always been a perfect fit. I have had lots of experience using research to understand customers needs and wants, market opportunities and developing ideas to launch. Luckily my last contract was working with a big retailer where digital marketing is fundamental so this has allowed me to take a lot of learning back into my own business. The main issue I have faced however is when you work in a large organisation you have the experts to then go and land the projects whereas when it’s your own business it’s down to you so boy what a steep learning curve
How did you come up with the idea and what gave you that push to start?
I’ve always had a passion for stationery from school right through to work. Being a project manager meant that I had to be highly organised and I always used stationery to keep a track on what I needed to achieve that day. It was a lovely comfort blanket for me.
In 2012 I went to Australia on holiday with the family and the number of lovely stationery stores out there was amazing, they were way ahead of the UK in terms of stylish, organisational stationery for adults but also colourful fun stationery for kids. So I thought this was a good opportunity to try and bring a UK version to the market combining fashion with function but with a fun, colourful basis.
I also knew that although contracting work was lucrative when it was there, I needed to have a back -up plan if ever anything should happen and the contract end. Previously when contracts ended for me I went into a bit of a tailspin in terms of what I needed to focus on but having Got2Jot behind me I always knew that my back up was something I loved and could build on.
Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a reality?
Research, Research, Research – I looked at the market to see where there was a potential gap and how I would need to position it differently. I also did a lot of focus groups with friends and mums who fitted the target market I was aiming for. This then allowed me to create what the business idea should be and the types of products that I needed to source.
I visited trade shows to get ideas initially and also internet searches to find products and suppliers that were smaller, different to the high street. I also involved my daughter who joined me visiting trade shows such as Top Drawer as she gave a different view on products for” tween” girls.
Have you made any mistakes or got any regrets?
There were a few product selections which didn’t work as well so I had to write off. For example diaries and calendars – For a stationery business you need to offer a range of diaries but beyond Feb/March it’s very hard to sell through so ordering the right quantity but still enough choice is a challenge.
Best thing about running your own business?
Flexibility in planning your day so you can balance between home and work. The house is a more settled environment and I can take out time to go and take my daughter to hospital appointments or my son to University visits without worrying about taking time off work.
I also love the fact that this is all my idea, hard work and I can control it. I’m not working and selling other peoples products, they’re products that I love and my customers love. Financially it also means that the margin I make is all mine, I’m not having to share it with anyone else.
The one thing that I have found that there are some real stationery addicts out there (some even worse than me) so the biggest challenge is how to reach them and to get on the top of their shopping list.
The hardest thing?
Where do I start…
Setting up the website initially in 2013 which I did with my husband was really challenging as although we were both marketing people it’s completely different doing it all yourselves and the tech work behind setting up the online shop, photography, SEO etc was so much to plan and very long evenings
I have recently switched to a wordpress site with a woo commerce shop which I manage alongside with a website consultant who I use to help do the tech side.
More recently being at home although it’s flexible it can be lonely as I am quite an extrovert so get my buzz being round other people, so I try and plan the week to get out and meet others to help bounce ideas etc.
How do you balance work and family life?
Having older children doesn’t necessarily mean that you can devote all your time to the business.
Yes you have the time in the day when they are at school but then you need to be around to help with more complex homework for GCSE’s. (Although the Maths still baffles me) It’s also a good time to be around to help my eldest who is starting second year of A Levels with all the work, pressure and University choices if that’s the route he goes down.
Your role changes to be more of a sounding board, advisor and emotional support.
In terms of balancing and being organised what tips or tricks can you share?
I take Monday mornings to plan out the week so look at events, meetings, product re-stocking, social media planning so I feel the rest of the week is organised. So having a weekly planner is a great idea.
I sometimes use the social media scheduling tools to get messages out but if I am at the desk I prefer to do it “live”
Now I have the time I’m using it to explore the local women’s networking groups to find others which are like minded and a good mix. I definitely don’t do those breakfast ones where you have to bring so many referrals (I know they work for some but too much pressure for me)
As the kids are older I bounce ideas off them, both are doing business studies and its good for them to see how a small business runs and the decisions you have to make. They also are a wealth of knowledge on social media and photography, particularly my teenage daughter.
Finally be brave, you have to move out your comfort zone so that will mean knocking on the doors of friends and family initially to get them to help you, buy from you and spread the word. Awkward sometimes but necessary.
What inspires you?
Positivity and encouragement from others. Seeing how other small businesses have grown and expanded but to a point that still allows the work life balance.
Any advice for anyone out there thinking of starting up their own business?
Research your idea thoroughly and try to create something that is slightly different to what else is out there. Talk to anyone you know in your own network of friends, family who work in business who maybe able to help or advise or introduce you to others who will help you.
Accept that there are some things that you need to outsource as your time is precious, so work through what you can do yourself and then allocate a budget to support. I use an accountant and a website developer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Sarah’s story and picked up a few tips.
If you have any questions leave them in comment or contact Sarah via social media.
Here’s the DISCOUNT info –
15% off when you use the code CWSR15 at the checkout
(Discount ends 10/07/2016)