Forever French: Chloe Powis

A trip to the USA inspired Chloe Powis to embark on a career change. She decided to use her skills in interior design to launch Forever French last year.

A trip to the USA inspired Chloe Powis to embark on a career change. She decided to use her skills in interior design to launch Forever French last year. She tells Startups.co.uk how she’s getting on. Name: Chloe Powis Age:24 Business: Forever French Ltd Type of business: Furniture re-design Start date:August 2004

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business?I was never really happy in a job unless I was being creative. After studying art and design at college I fell into an office admin role, but gained good people and computer skills. Re-designing furniture was a hobby really until I realised I could earn a living from it and it developed from there.

Tell us about your business Forever French Ltd is a small on-line business based in Northamptonshire. I turn unwanted, old, neglected and clever finds into cottage style French pieces. They then go for sale on the website whereby people can view and purchase. We have monthly promotions, news letters and a mailing list to join so customers can really be involved.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? To begin with it was never a business idea until I received so many compliments from family members and friends about the things I made for my own home. I then knew I was onto a good thing and designing is my passion.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?I have always looked at other famous interior designers like Linda Barker, who could make something beautiful out of something old. So really she is my inspiration to succeed.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? I already know that there is because I have received such an over whelming response to what I do and I have only managed to advertise it to a limited amount of people. I am confident that when the word spreads even more that it will be thriving.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? I knew the most important thing was product and that once we were a registered company and all of the legal parts were in place that I would need a good product to sell. I started by collecting and designing so that when the website went live I had items to sell.

What research did you do? I researched into everything. I didn’t want to be treading on any ones toes with the Name of the company and I wanted everything just right. I researched how to start a business and the legal procedures that had to take place. I also spoke to other people with creative businesses and shared tips, ideas and advice.

What advice did you seek?Yes I spoke to the relevant legal companies and it was a very straight forward and helpful procedure.

What other help did you get? I have family members who are self employed and they advised me on registering as a Limited Company and I often call them to get advice.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? They were very encouraging to me but I suppose before I didn’t realise it would be so straightforward to own a business. Obviously what type of business you own depends on the individual as to keeping it afloat but I found the initial start up procedure quite efficient.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I am very fortunate in that I have great people around me for support. My plan is really to expand and grow and if I don’t do this then I am not reaching my goal.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? Yes I hope so, I know that if I am not busy or not selling items then I am not working hard enough. I will push myself to success.

How much did it cost to start the business? Just registering was around £89, but it costs me everyday because I feel the more I put in the more I will get out.

How did you fund this?From my own funds and I receive help from my partner who puts in regularly. Most if not all of the profit goes back into the business, I have accepted this as a new business hurdle that I will get over. “Rome was not built in a day.”

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? I have been quite confident that it will be a success as this is what drives me forward but if it doesn’t then I will research more into how I can make it work. I don’t give up.

When did you stop working? I actually left my job to go travelling to the States for three months. I knew that when I returned home I had to do something my heart was in. I spoke to so many positive people out there. I returned to the UK and worked in a few places until I found my true talent – designing

Are you working from home or from premises? I am working form home and I really enjoy it. I can manage my own time and I know that if I don’t get things done then the company will suffer so I cannot relax just because of the environment I am in. It does have it’s pluses though, you can have extra tea breaks and listen to music. I hope to open a boutique one day though, I could really feel the benefit of going home then.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Sometimes from 8am until 10pm or even longer. I am always working really, if I have an e-mail I need to reply to or an item to package I wouldn’t just leave it until the next day because it was getting late.

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? I do make sure I get breaks and once I reach targets and tie up loose ends I reward myself with a bit of spare time. I don’t want to run myself into the ground so I am sensible most of the time but having your own business means you give it your all.

What about staff, is it just you?It is just me apart from my partner who designed and updates the website from me when he comes home. I haven’t employed anyone at this stage but will do when I buy a boutique. I am a perfectionist so I like to have things done a certain way.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you?My job is to design and re-create furniture. I want customers to feel they have received an item with a real personal touch. I wouldn’t really want to employ someone who does the same job as me because it wouldn’t be my work.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? I sell items on eBay sometimes and have done lots of local advertising. I am registered on all the big search engines and directories. We are due to appear in two of the biggest interior design magazines in the UK so I think that will be great advertising for us as well as recognition.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? I’d love to own my own boutique whereby people can just pop in a n buy what they like. At the moment people have to go by pictures and my items are much better to see them in person.

What are the main obstacles to growth? I think getting turned down from press or not even being acknowledged for what you are doing and trying to achieve.

How do you plan to overcome these? By being persistent and showing lots of examples of my work and my feedback. Also by not giving up just because I had been rejected.

Tell us about your website. My partner designed my website for me and it is the complete core to my business. I simply couldn’t run it without a website. We had to overcome lots with the website in the beginning. It was a big learning curve and we are finally happy with the way it looks. We wanted it to be professional and nice and simple to use. What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do?Both! I am already enjoying what I do because I have been on the outside looking in and wanting to enjoy my job but it would be lovely to be successful and be able to enjoy the finer things in life too.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently?I found the lows difficult to deal with. When things were not looking so great. But the highs made me realise why I was doing it. Knowing that customers are happy with my products and display them in their homes is a dream come true. What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business?I think you need determination. You need a bit of a background in what you are doing and on top of it all you need to be able to stand tall and be proud of it.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Go for it! Be sensible and research enough about it before you just go ahead. The biggest way of learning though will be whilst you are going through it.

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 definitely

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