Kitchen Goddess: Sally-Anne Baker

Sally-Anne Baker's new business offers household products only found abroad.

Sally-Anne Baker was travelling when she came up with the idea of selling hard to find household products on the Internet. So she set up Kitchen Goddess and hopes to cash in on the growing trend for online shopping. 

Name: Sally-Anne Baker Age: 29 Business: Kitchen Goddess Type of business: E-commerce Start date: June 2005

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I always wanted to be my own boss and over the years I had a few ideas and even went so far as writing a business plan but never turned that ambition into a reality. But, forever sitting in traffic jams is a good motivator and, on the positive side, gave me time to think about what I’d really like to do. With my thirties around the corner it was now or never so I decided to take the plunge. If you never go, you never know!

Tell us about your businessKitchen Goddess is a website business selling gorgeous kitchen and table essentials at dangerously affordable prices with a strong emphasis on gifting. It’s aimed at women who like entertaining in the comfort of their own home and who are, more and more, shopping online.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?Kitchen Goddess was my first non hair-brained idea! Whilst travelling in other countries, I realised that there are so many beautiful products for the home you simply can’t find here in the UK, this led me to come up with the idea of Kitchen Goddess.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? All the evidence shows that online shopping has been growing for the past two or three years, and is now becoming really mainstream. In particular, 56% of women are now shopping online because they have less time and it is much more convenient. The trend for leisure cooking and kitchen gadgets are also on the up suggesting consumers will continue to spend money on their kitchens and entertaining.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? I carried a notepad around with me everywhere jotting down all the ideas and random thoughts that came into my head. At that time my head was buzzing, I’m sure that’s when you get the best ideas. I also discussed the idea with my partner and then wrote a to do list of all the things I thought would need to happen before I could launch.

What research did you do? To find out whether there was an opportunity I created a questionnaire. It was a bit rough and ready and not very statistically robust but it gave me a good feel for what consumers thought about this area. Then I sat at my computer and scoured through tons of stuff on the Internet, not all useful! I then visited a fantastic interiors exhibition in Paris to check out products available to sell.

What advice did you seek? I found the Business Link very helpful. They checked through my business plan and recommended a free two-day course for people starting up new businesses, which was two days well spent. I attended a regional enterprise show and talked to people who had started up in the last year, that was a great insight.

What other help did you get? I talked to friends, taxi drivers, anyone with their own business to hear what it was like from the horse’s mouth.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? Information-wise I think they are about there, however some financial assistance in the first few months would be very welcome!

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I tried the fancy software from the bank but in the end I just took the best bits from many templates I had found and created my own. It was good to get all those ideas down in some sort of clear fashion. Once it was on paper I felt like I was on my way.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? I don’t follow it to the letter every day, and things change as you go along but the principles are definitely very valid.

How much did it cost to start the business?Everything has been done on an extremely tight budget and the business cost around £10k to launch. When you are doing it for yourself you realise that every penny must work really hard. After working in marketing for Nivea, where budgets were millions, my budget for launching and running this business is miniscule in comparison. I even question a 4p pay per click charge with a search engine!

How did you fund this? I am very fortunate and very grateful that a local charity called The Harry James Riddleston Charity felt as confident in my idea as I did and granted the business a 5-year interest free loan. This really bolstered the capital I had saved and definitely takes a lot of pressure off in the early days. I felt the whole experience was really positive, I think they could see my passion and that convinced them!

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Please explain them.Maybe I am naïve, but I have to be confident the business will take off. If it’s slower than expected I will keep working at it and find a part time job or other ways to generate income in the meantime.

When did you stop working? I stopped working on April 8th 2005. I planned to launch 2-3 weeks later but in fact it was 8 weeks later when the site was actually ready. Things always take longer than you expect. If I did it again I would build a deadline clause into the project with the website company.

Are you working from home or from premises? I am working from home mainly to keep my budget as low as possible. On the plus side there’s no commute and the lunches are good but on the down side there’s no retreat, somewhere separate to work. Once things take off I would like to find premises close to home to help give me that dividing line between home and work.

How many hours are you working at the moment? I work a 9-5 on the whole, but I do find myself logging on at the weekend to see how sales are going. Again it’s that fine line between home and work.

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 make a list of the things I need to do that really matter and that will make a difference and try to stick to it. There’s always more on my list than I actually do but tomorrow is another day!

What about staff, is it just you? For the moment it’s just me. This is great because there’s so much to learn about from VAT to trade marking my brand name.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? Budgets are small, so I have to try to find innovative and creative ways to build awareness and generate sales for the site. So far, I have focussed on PR, targeting glossy magazines to try and get a mention or a write up about the business. The results are looking positive and I am starting to build relationships with a few journalists. Supporting this has been an online marketing campaign, consisting of sending viral emails, getting listed in directories and search engines and starting a small ‘Adword’ campaign.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? I hope to be in a position where customers have received an excellent service and are so delighted with their products that they tell their friends. I aim to have a strong, steady flow of traffic coming to my site enabling me to have at least 10 sales per day. I hope to have broken even and be in profit making position allowing me to move forwards and upwards.

What are the main obstacles to growth? I think the main obstacle is making consumers aware of Kitchen Goddess. Without huge marketing budgets I can’t buy advertising space to gain instant awareness and my marketing plan relies on many things that aren’t guaranteed, such as publicity.

Tell us about your websiteMy website is my key sales channel so is vital to the success of my business. I employed a local company to build it and am very happy with the way it looks and functions. I wanted it to be very feminine so I was very pleased when the team of guys there came up with the goods. The pink flower design was apparently inspired by the designer’s mother’s day card! If I did it again, I would definitely build in a deadline clause into the agreement, as it’s really easy for the project to spin out of your timelines!

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do?I would like to make enough money to warrant me to continue doing this full time. I love the buzz of doing something for yourself, that’s very motivating.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? I think I thought Kitchen Goddess was going to be an overnight success with a loyal customer base straight away. Basically I was totally unrealistic and it just doesn’t happen like that. I have realised that it’s a big old hill to climb and it’s going to take some time to get where I want to be.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Just believe in yourself, give it a try, and give it your all. A very wise Vietnamese lady once told me ‘If you never go you never know’.

www.kitchengoddess.co.uk

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