#SelfStarterStories: From investment Banking to taking the 'bullsheet' out of buying bedding.
This week's #selfstarterstory features Nick James, Founder of Bedfolk.
"We believe shopping for bedding should be easy.
We've done the hard work for you, offering a curated collection of only the best. All Bedfolk bedding is the same high quality 100% long staple cotton, offered in the same choice of easy-living colours, at the same price."
#PickYourselfUK caught up with Nick to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
What was your last job?: I worked in the City for 5 years, for an Australian Investment Bank, before moving out to the Cotswolds in 2016. I worked in a finance role at my wife's family-run antiques business for 18 months whilst we put the wheels in motion to launch our own bedding business.
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: In 2016 when I bit the bullet and decided to leave my job in the City. It was very much the old cliché of not wanting to be a tiny cog in a huge wheel anymore; I really value the time I spent there but I didn't like all the rigidity and structure, whether that's the (relatively) fixed hours I worked, working from the same desk every day, or the type of work I was doing.
Having spent 18 months working in a small business and now building my own brand, I can confidently say I'll never go back to a big company. The freedom to carve my own path and work as part of a small team to effect change is something I really value.
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: The lack of tangible results and affirmation in the period before launching the business. We've been working very hard and spending lots of money for the last 9 months.
What is your favourite business book and why?: To be honest, I find that I get much more out of podcasts, in part because I can listen to them while walking the dog or driving. The Shopify Masters podcast is brilliant, whether you use Shopify or not.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: We do almost everything ourselves at the moment but use lots of apps and software to make things as quick and effective as possible. We've used Fiverr for creating web icons and other design work, which is cheap and really great.
What is your favourite marketing tool ?: Klaviyo - it's a brilliant e-marketing tool that lets you do so much more than just sending the same emails to all of your followers.
How do you market your business?: We do a lot on social media, particularly Instagram. Before we had decided on our business name and finalised what products we were going to sell, we started posting inspirational imagery to try and build a following of people who appreciate nice bedrooms. This got us to about 8,000 followers which is amazing really.
Now that we're approaching our launch we're starting to use our own imagery and pivoting the page to being more of a retail brand. We're currently building a photography studio in our home in the Cotswolds, so we can do regular professional shoots of our bedding...
We'll also be dipping our toes into influencer marketing and paid digital advertising, and have recently started having conversations with journalists about featuring in local and national publications.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: We launch in May so paying customers are still a few months off! We're hoping that some of the hard work we've done in building a following on social media will pay off in terms of generating our first orders...
How did you get your first traffic to your website?: Primarily from our Instagram page. I think our approach could easily be replicated by other companies before they launch, whether they are retail or not - it's never too early to start building an audience of potential customers, even if you haven't got your product or service (or even your name) nailed down.
We also love following #journorequest on twitter. It's how we found out about PickYourself, and it got us our first bit of press in none other than Forbes. Most journalists won't write an article about your business when you haven't sold anything yet, but if you can find an angle then they'll write about you, and your business will get a mention too.
The Forbes article was about how entrepreneurs sleep and has, after one week, already been read 8,500 times, which is pretty cool. We've seen quite a bit of traffic to our website from it, and we've then been able to use the press on our own social media accounts.
Nominate one person/friend who believed in you from the start, and what would you like to say to them today?: It would have to be my wife and business partner Jo. I tell her every day with my tongue firmly in cheek: "keep up the good work, as we need to start making a living soon..."
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: Even if the business doesn't take off, I've learnt more in this process than in all my 7 years of employed life. I've also built tonnes of connections by attending small business events and speaking to friends of friends, which could quite possibly lead to a role if I do ever need to go looking for another 'real job'.
The other thing is that launching your business invariably takes longer than you think, unless you're willing to cut corners. So if you can get the ball rolling whilst still working or earning some money, it makes life much easier.
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?: Jeff Raider, founder of Warby Parker and Harry's - both direct-to-consumer online businesses that were started from scratch, and which have done incredibly well. If I can have one successful e-commerce business then I'll be more than happy!
To stay up to date with Nick's entrepreneurial journey, please follow his social media channels below:
Nick James has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2018. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.