#SelfStarterStories: From being an HR consultant to becoming the founder of an accessories den
This week's #selfstarterstory features Beth Lothian, Founder of The Lion Sparkles, a clothing and accessories den.
The entire Lion Sparkles accessories collections are hand-picked to bring together colour, sparkle and Stand Out power to those who wear them. Gorgeous and fun they rock strength, positivity, self confidence and sisterhood for any age.
PickYourselfUK caught up with Beth to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey.
What was your last job?:
I worked for myself as an HR Consultant for 3 years as my background is corporate HR. I ran workshops, providing 1:1, and team coaching, organisational development workshops and focused on improving individual performance and therefore team and company engagement and results, as well as integration projects and any other pieces I felt were within my capabilities and clients needed!
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?:
The clients and people I worked with directly were great, lovely people who got very involved but I wasn’t challenged or learning anymore and knew I had to do the thing that really got me excited and scared all at the same time!
I couldn't rely on another business to give me what I needed to fulfil my dreams! I had just found out I was pregnant with my 5th child and had been toying with the idea of the online accessories store for a while. I'd been to trade shows, explored the competition, researched the market and made some decisions about 'IF".
I had discussions with my husband and we decided it was now or never ! So September 2017 I launched! Scared to death that I was actually putting myself out there.
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?:
Taking the plunge and fixing a date for ‘GO’. The bit before is actually the fun nice bit where you can theorise as much as you like and put together forecasts on imaginary customers who are going to LOVE what you do.
When you press LIVE you then have to fulfil those promises to yourself and be confident that you are making the right decisions. As you go on it gets easier though the decisions are no less tough!
What is your favourite business book and why?:
Strengths Finder, by Tom Rath because it celebrates the core of the growth mindset and focuses on positive change and progress.
Its very accessible to everyone and I find it fascinating the slight nuances between people that drive their decision making. It helps with confidence building, creating and maintaining relationships and respecting the positive parts of us all.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?:
I do most things myself yes as there’s little budget. However, I do have an accountant who does my returns etc and a friend who helps me out as a sounding board! I think it's so important to have someone you can consult or bounce ideas off when you are working alone.
Not only is it healthy for the business but also personally as it can be so lonely. I have had developers help me with the website back end and some marketing workshop sessions. I enjoy meeting the customers face to face, curating the collection and design work the most.
What is your favourite marketing tool ?: Pop Ups! As an online store it can be hard to feel connected to your customer and vice versa. I think being in front of people and having the ability for them to see you, know you are genuine, touch the products and feel the sense of the brand across different locations is fabulous.
It enables the brand to stand out, the customers to feedback likes dislikes and either directly or indirectly price points and you see your customer base in all its glory. I like to be in touch with people and there is no better way to market your product than being present. I would thoroughly recommend the experience!
How do you market your business?:
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pop up shops, networking groups (these are invaluable for support, recommendations and collaborations), Google, card placement in goodie bags, newsletters through Mailchimp and I am thinking of getting involved in some influencer marketing too alongside potential wholesale of my own accessories.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?:
Obviously family and friends were kind and my fist sale was to my sister! But for real customers I didn't know I ran a campaign on Instagram and Facebook. To be honest I should have started marketing on these platforms a bit earlier to build the base but you live and learn and things are picking up now.
How did you get your first traffic to your website?:
Instagram, FB and Google
Nominate one person/friend who believed in you from the start, and what would you like to say to them today?:
Rosanna Dawson - You're the best!
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?:
Make sure you understand your market, you don't have to be 100% ready before you start, but understand it's going to take lots more time than you think and it is unlikely to fly the moment you press the button at launch BUT it is SO exhilarating go for it!
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?:
Baroness Michelle Mone. She worked hard and tried and failed and tried and succeeded and faced challenges along the way and still keeps making great decisions!
Beth Lothian 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.