Stylus Parties: Sarah Cook
The home-based entrepreneur and mum on growing her business and looking across the pond for growth opportunities
Company Name: Stylus Parties Website:www.stylusparties.co.uk Founder: Sarah Cook Age: 42 Based: Gloucestershire Date Started: September 2010
Tell us what your business doesWe’ve taken the principle behind Tupperware parties and The Body Shop At Home. Stylus Parties is the UK’s first ever at-home style party company, which makes style accessible to all and gives budding stylists the opportunity to train and set-up their own business.
Where did the idea for your business come from? Launching the business was a culmination of three years’ planning and dedication, fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine to do something entrepreneurial. My love of fashion and style and desire to make them accessible to all was the inspiration behind the company, along with my ambition to provide people, particularly women, with the opportunity, support and guidance to become self-employed and successful in business.
How did you know there was a market for it? My work as an image consultant has shown me what a massive part style plays in people’s lives and how having confidence in the way you look can have a massive impact on how you feel. Opening style up in a way that’s affordable and fun is something I think there is a big market for.
What were you doing before starting up? I’ve been a self-employed image consultant for a number of years, advising individuals, corporate teams and retailers on all aspects of style and personal branding. I’ve also worked in the lifelong learning sector as a tutor, delivering a range of style courses. I continue to do this work, as I find it extremely rewarding.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Yes! Ever since I can remember, I have dreamt of running my own business. The idea of creating something totally driven by myself and inspiring others to do the same is something that motivates me to work hard every day.
What planning did you do before you started up? Initially, I had to get what was in my head down on paper! I wrote reams of notes and kept changing and adding to my initial plan over a period of 12 months. I spent a great deal of time researching through clients, friends and colleagues, and I found the Direct Selling Association website very helpful. I also invested a lot of time into researching around the average spend at home parties to help me set my prices. Because I didn’t have to go cap in hand to the bank, my business plan isn’t hugely detailed, but I do have one. It’s given me an ongoing focus, and I’m amazed at how many times I’ve changed it in the last 12 months.
My husband runs his own business and has been a huge inspiration to me over the last 20 years; he has given me tough business advice, but it has only added to my knowledge.
How did you raise the money? I’m proud to say that the development and launch of Stylus Parties has been totally self-funded by my work as an independent image consultant and tutor.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? The biggest challenge is getting the word out there about what we do. I’ve invested heavily in PR and marketing to raise our profile. Social media has been a particularly useful tool in allowing us to reach lots of people in a short space of time, particularly Facebook and Twitter, and it’s something that I can see working well for us as we grow.
Where is your business based? I’m currently based at home, and I am very strict about my working hours. Achieving a positive balance between working and a happy home life is very important to me, so I always make time to take and pick up my children from school, cook their meals, etc. Business is important, but being a mum is my number one priority.
What has your growth been like? I’ve deliberately grown the business steadily in Gloucestershire before rolling it out to the rest of the UK. I have almost recouped my initial outlay, but I have invested so much into getting the brand right, establishing a fantastic website and virtual learning environment, I don’t expect to profitable until the end of this year. My business plan has kept me on track and helped me to stay within budget.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?There is no doubt that having a family makes you think differently about business. It’s kept my feet firmly on the ground, and I’ve worked hard to keep the impact on my home life to a minimum.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?My first main goal is to have a Stylus Parties stylist in every county across the UK, and then we’ll build upon that. We’ve already had interest from the USA, so there is huge scope to expand. Being at such an early stage, I can’t see myself ever exiting, but to get the business into a position where it could be sold would be a fantastic option to have one day.