I was made redundant just after having my second child and started thinking about setting up my own business. The market for organic cotton clothing was in its infancy at the time (2006). I researched the sector and realised that the safest and fastest growing market for organic cotton was for babywear. I was surprised at the lack of design and colour within the organic cotton clothing sector and decided that there was a huge gap which needed to be filled.
My background was in film making – I trained as a producer and studied at the Royal College of Art. When I left London to move back to the Yorkshire Dales, I started work at an import company which involved travelling around India and Indonesia and overseeing product marketing. I have been able to apply all that experience to Piccalilly.
Setting up and growing Piccalilly has been – and remains – an exciting and ever-changing journey. It’s important to know when change needs to happen, what it should be and to embrace it. To grow any business, you have to be driven and motivated but also patient.
Have a clear business plan which you update every few years and never be afraid of making mistakes – being fearful of failure can hold you back. Try things out which might not work – sometimes things which aren’t successful take you in another direction. I’ve never been afraid of having a go.
My favourite thing has been watching sales growing an average of 40% year on year since we launched – it reaffirms that we are doing things right. It’s also been a pleasure to take on new people and see the business start to take on a life of its own. The hardest lesson I’ve learnt is that some things are out of your control. Enabling others within your business is an important part of growing.
Building your own business can be lonely and I’ve always believed in getting as much advice as possible. It’s not necessarily about taking on board all the opinions you are given, it’s more about listening to other people’s perspectives and experiences and deciding what will work for you. When I learnt about SREG, I was keen to have a mentor to talk through some challenges and opportunities and I was lucky enough to be partnered with Alan Halsall, Chairman of Silver Cross. Alan helped me to understand the importance of cash flow and stock management – an area I found the least interesting but now realise is the lifeline of the business. I’ve always gravitated to the more design-led aspects of the business and buried my head in the sand a little with the financial and accounting aspects. Now I pay much more attention to cash and budgeting as Alan has made me understand the importance of being disciplined in these areas.
To start with I met Alan every three months and we worked on the business plan and financial accounting. We now meet less often but Alan is always keen to hear how things are going and is a very useful source of inspiration and contacts.
Follow the link to visit their website http://www.piccalilly.co.uk