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How I changed career in my mid forties part five.

How to build a like minded community where we can all hang out.

If you have missed part one, two, three and four just click on the links to catch up. So far I have found 'my thing' developed a simple idea and set up a supply chain. I have spent time understanding how to import and how to work in a different time zone and country, developed a look and feel for the brand and I now understand margins and how to run the money in the company.

Now let's make some sales.

By chance at the beginning of my journey I managed to get some retailers to buy a few of my rings so I naturally started wholesaling. I also wanted a different revenue stream and selling direct meant that I could really build a community, help retailers along the way and create a world where people could buy directly from me.

Building a website.

I did some research and a friend very kindly set up a website for me. We decided on WooCommerce as our website shop (WooCommerce is a plug in and people tend to use that or Shopify, both have plusses and minuses to them). I then had to photograph every single product, I used two students as I had no cash and although the product images were no where near what I wanted them to be, I kind of figured they were okay for now whilst I was in a trial phase to see if SVP was going to work. Next up was lifestyle photography which I did spend a little money on and was really pleased with the results.

The daily tumbleweed.

No sales. Nada. Nothing. For weeks on end. Hmm, what to do next. So I explored why. Remember I had no budget for anything not for FB advertising, no budget for PPC or for Google Ads. In order to get money to advertise I needed to make money and I could only make money by advertising, if no one knows who I am or where I am or what the brand is how will anyone find me and how can I find them? Chicken and egg.

Popping up here there and everywhere.

A friend was putting together a pop up in Belgravia and asked if I'd like to be a part of it. I jumped at the chance as I figured it would be a good way to meet other young businesses and it would be great to learn and share knowledge and information. I had a small section of the shop and went up as optimistic as ever convinced I was going to have a sell out. I sold four rings. But- I learnt a lot, I learnt Belgravia isn't great for footfall. I learnt that this building a business thing is a lot harder than I first thought and I learnt that it's good to connect with other entrepreneurs and to meet people who could be potential customers. The experience gave me a chance to tell my brand story, to show people the rings, to understand what they liked and didn't.

Trial and error.

So, pop ups were good, not so much for sales but they did help to get the brand out there. So, I continued doing pop ups for a while thinking that if I could break even it would almost be like free advertising and it would be a good chance to help get my name and story and of course product out there. It sort of worked but – I discovered I hated packing up and unpacking it all. So after around seven pop ups I decided they weren't really for me and as it was my company I had to run it my way. The thing is, not everything will work and not everything will be for you – the most important thing is to take calculated risks and try things out to find what works for you and your brand.

You can learn a lot from chatting to strangers and drinking tea.

Because I had met a lot of people through the pop ups, the conversation naturally continued over on instagram and we ran competitions together which shared our audiences. As a result our community began to grow and as I started to chat more and more on Instagram I met new retailers, I met customers and I met other brands. I have a love of people. I love people from all backgrounds and from all corners of the world. I chat on buses, planes, in the corner shop, everywhere I go I chat. You just never know who you may meet and I always think how nice it is to have a fleeting conversation with a stranger - it's like having lots of small doors into different worlds.

Hello Instagram.

My instagram chats have led me to actual tea dates and I have met people from the very lovely Antonia O'Brien, who has helped me over and over again and I shall be forever grateful for her support. Debbie from @thefashionablepan, Jo Whiley, Erica Davies, Vickie from Inpolife (who my mum was following and said 'she looks nice, you should take her to tea - of which I did) and many many more wonderful people. Competitions ran, I got out from being at my desk seven days a week and the brand started to gain traction. Erica and I got our heads together and w created the first collab ever done - something I am very proud of. I met LabelMix part of Next in the back of a cab, I ran down the street not knowing who they were and asked if I could share a cab with them from one trade show to another, I pitched my simple idea in the back of the cab and we arranged a tea date with them, we still work with them now.

Jo Whiley and I on our tea date

Do I need an agent?

So my direct side of the business was starting to work, I was posting every day on instagram, hash tagging away (it does make a difference). Short videos do well and when stories launched this saw me get six times more engagement – all great for direct sales. Wholesale seemed to be a different beast – I next had to work out if I needed an agent? How does an agent work? Why does SVP Jewellery need one? Are my margins good enough to pay an agent? Are there different types of agents? My questions went on and on so I decided to go to a trade show and chat to people to find out what everyone else was doing and why. You see, this chatting and listening thing is key.

An extra pair of hands and being blessed with the gift of the gab goes a long way.

After realising I couldn't build wholesale and direct sales and run the website, create graphics, write opinion pieces, deal with India, design new collections etc. etc. I decided I'd have to get an agent. Yes, I'd have to pay their commission on sales but that would free up my time to grow the company.

Worth their weight in gold.

I trialled a few agents, some worked better than others but I was beginning to get the hang of this side of the business. I decided to put out a call on Linked in and in blew Tracey who has been by my side for the last year. She too loves a chat, but equally and instinctively knows what is right for the customer and retailer. Never pushy but informative, friendly and knowledgable, not just with SVP but within the industry. A good agent is really worth in our case, gold and silver with gems on top! Together we have developed strategies, new ideas and also literature to help retailers and their customers too. I hope you have found this useful, please feel free to ask me any questions. You can follow my journey on instagram here Shop our pretty adjustable rings here

Next time: Warehouses, Facebook advertising and getting help with customer service.

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