Online retailer specialising in PVC and oilcloth tablecloths
Tell us what your business does:
We are an online business selling PVC and oilcloth tablecloths. We are also in the process of manufacturing cool items such as aprons and bags made from the oilcloth. We cut all the tablecloths to a person’s individual requirements.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We saw some real funky oilcloth designs on a website in America. We bought some and used it for our table but my wife is the creative one and made some bunting from some of the off-cuts. We then ordered some more and she made some bags for family members, which went down a storm. We felt that whilst people sold oilcloth it was more of an add-on so we wanted to specialise in this area only and offer designs from around the world.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We spoke to a lot of people in the industry, especially reps and they all said that they felt that demand was growing. We did the usual research online and using some of the free tools from Google which helped. Once we were certain we could sell the
oilcloth we set up an eBay account to test the waters.That way we could ask our customers what they were using them for and we could also see trends. It has proved invaluable for our market research.
What were you doing before starting up?
I had worked for 22 years for a large local authority. With the austerity cuts I was offered redundancy and I decided to take the plunge, as this had been something burning in me for many years. My wife was working as a seamstress and she still does a little bit of that work but as we have got busier that has become less and less.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, my father has run his own business for the last 40 years (he is 70 and still works!). I have two other brothers that run successful businesses so I guess it was always in my blood!
How did you raise the money?
Redundancy money and savings, we want to grow the business organically before looking at external investment. We looked at going down the bank route but felt that whilst we are establishing the business it would be another stress we could do without. We want managed growth and an injection of cash at this stage may make our growth too quick.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Predominantly the technical issues with the website. I spend a lot of time on the Internet and buy lots online so I like to think I know what makes a good website. I also have a degree in IT and have produced many critiques of websites. I know that most people will give your site 10 seconds so it has to work and navigate well. We have also had the age-old problem of locating suitable suppliers. After lots of searching we are happy with our current suppliers but we constantly look for new suppliers.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We are a pretty simple business model really. You choose your item and you pay for it. The website does have a blog and we are looking at developing that further to see if there is any cash generation from that, however that is the next phase for the business model.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Receiving our first large order from a hotel. We have since received further orders from the same chain around the country. I would also say that our first few international sales were pivotal moments; it’s pretty special to think that someone would be using our products in a foreign country.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Plan, but more importantly be adaptable. What your first business plan said is not ultimately what you will do at the end. Keep focused but be prepared to veer from that path if the need arises.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Running a very successful online business with a blossoming blog. I would also like the business to be able to accommodate employing our children when they are of working age. World domination wouldn’t go amiss either!