Anusha: Elizabeth Raderecht

After working for someone who started up their own business, Elizabeth Raderecht decided she too wanted to be her own boss. Combining her interests in design and shopping, she has just launched Anusha, an online boutique. She tells Startups.co.uk.

Name: Elizabeth Raderecht Age: 36 Business: Anusha Type of business: Online boutique Start date: Launched July 2004

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? I sourced designers for a jewellery shop in my late-20s, and I think it’s during this time, working for a someone starting up a small business, that I realised at some point in the future I wanted to be my own boss. Last year, after eight years working at publishing firm, the time was right! I’ve always been a keen internet user, so it made sense to create a business that combined my passion for art and design (I have degrees in art history, and galleries/museum studies), shopping and the internet!

Tell us about your business Anusha is an online boutique that brings a host of designers under one roof. It’s a boudoir-style boutique that’s the antidote to the hassle of shopping on the high street, where you can find wearable designer clothes, loungewear, accessories, jewellery and gifts, no matter where you live or when you want to shop.

Shopping Anusha is designed to feel like a treat, from the inspirational photography on the website, to the excitement of receiving an order through the post, carefully wrapped in layers of tissue paper.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? Yes, Anusha was my first serious business idea. I realised that the only time I’d truly enjoyed my work was during that brief period sourcing designers for the jewellery shop. When I came up with the idea of an online boutique, I searched the net to see if it had already been done. After endless searching I was surprised and pleased to discover that there wasn’t a one-stop boutique that fitted the bill. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t have the guts to give it a shot!

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? I suppose the stories I’d read about women starting their own boutiques made me think it must be possible, plus the huge success of online high-end designer boutique Net-a-porter was an inspiration. Net-a-porter has revolutionised the way designer clothes are bought, and the way online shopping is perceived, proving that it’s possible to sell luxury items to women online.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? Last year the amount spent online by a typical woman rose by around 70 per cent and sales of online clothing are growing at a faster rate than sales of computer games and electronics. People lead high-pressured lives, and Anusha is here to take away some of that stress.   I’d always been frustrated at not being able to find affordable and interesting designer fashion and homeware outside London – there is so little choice for 30-something women on the high street. The response I’ve had to the website has proved that I’m not the only one that feels that way!

What research did you do? I started researching how to set up an internet business, reading as many books and magazines as I could get my hands on, and using websites such as SmallBusiness.co.uk , the ecommerce section of the BBC website, National Statistics Online (www.statistics.gov.uk), and Startups.co.uk!   I spent around six months hunting down products, going to trade shows, surfing the net, shopping in London boutiques and following up leads in lifestyle and women’s magazines.

What advice did you seek? Did you approach any of the government advice centres such as Business Link? A friend told me about the Business Link. I signed up at my local branch, Business West. They advised me to enrol on their three-day starting in business course, which I found helpful in terms of their general advice on the marketing, accounting and legal aspects of launching a business. It was a useful starting point for further research…

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I got a starting in business pack from the bank, which had a business plan on CD-ROM, but found it easier to use a template I found on the net. Writing my plan did take a long time, but it really helped me focus my aims and objectives, and enabled me to identify the gaps in my experience and knowledge.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? I do look at my business plan from time to time. At the moment I refer to (and adjust!) the cashflow forecast most often.

How did you fund this? When I took my completed plan to the bank, they were encouraging about the business idea, but wanted to see a 50 per cent financial commitment from me. I have no savings, so I shopped around the net for ways to borrow the money. I decided to fund the business using a low-interest further advance on my mortgage, combined with a five-year personal loan with the Co Op bank.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? I work freelance during the day at the publishing firm I’ve been at for eight years. Although it’s taken a huge amount of financial pressure off, I’m struggling to get my Anusha work done!

Are you working from home or from premises? To keep costs down, I run Anusha from a tiny office at home, and I store the stock in the house. I would eventually like to find an office somewhere else, so that I can draw a line between work and home.

How many hours are you working at the moment? At the moment I’m working on Anusha until around 10 or 11 at night, and at most weekends…. I never really switch off!

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? When I return from work, I reply to all my emails, check through the orders I’ve taken and pack the parcels ready to take down to the Post Office the next day. I spend weekends developing the marketing and PR site of the business. I try to keep focused, set myself weekly goals and write endless lists!

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? For the first two months, my business was built solely on word of mouth recommendations and email newsletters.

I employed a PR firm to do four days work when I launched my autumn/winter collection. Thankfully the response has been good and, two days after sending out my press release, follow up calls have confirmed pieces in local papers, and mentions in four national women’s magazines, including part of a feature on women who have set up website businesses from home.

I’ve also secured several small-scale sales and fairs at businesses in London. I sell as much in a one-day as I’ve been achieving in two weeks of online sales at the moment! It’s a great boost, and it confirms that I’m selling the right products – as long as I target my publicity correctly.

I joined eDirectory (www.edirectory.co.uk), which provides online shopping through its own website and via websites such as Times Online and Handbag.com. It hasn’t resulted in that many orders, but I’ve noticed that it’s really boosted my Google ranking on the items I sell!

To try to increase sales through eDirectory I’ve been tweaking the range that’s available, keeping them updated with new products and telling them what sells well on my site.

Tell us about your website. My business is a website! I invested a chunk of my start-up money into paying a web designer to manage the project. I sell high-quality items, so it’s essential that I have an attractive, easy to use, professional site, with the right boutique feel to appeal to my target audience. Early in the planning stage, I asked a several girlfriends do an informal analysis of a selection of websites.

After looking at the design, usability, products and prices, some strong trends came out in the survey, and although I haven’t got the budget to implement everything now (I’d like to provide more than one view of the products), I know what I’m aiming for in the future. I’ve recently had very useful feedback from Startups forum members!

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? I would have done more research on the photography for my website. My website designer recommended a stylist who had worked on numerous glossy magazines, and she organised the photographer, models and location for my first product shoot. I was completely green about how many photos could be shot in a day, and after an unrealistically short two-day shoot I still had half my products left to photograph. This meant that I had to quickly sort out additional photography, and delay the May launch. This was an incredibly stressful time because I sitting on pre-paid stock and, as the summer rolled on, I knew it was going to be harder to persuade people to buy summer items, especially since the weather was bad and the sales were starting on the high street. What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Determination, persistence and energy!

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? If you’re sure it’s what you want to do, then go for it! Research your idea and do plenty of planning. Oh, and look after yourself – eat well, get plenty of sleep and have a few nights away from it all!

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time?Yes indeed!

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