Like every new mum, we both did a lot of internet shopping for our children’s nurseries and playrooms when we were on maternity leave. Over endless coffee and cake, we would complain to each other about how hard it was to buy a gift for our children, or our friends’ kids.
It was during one such morning that our ‘light-bulb’ moment happened. If we couldn’t find the products that we really loved, then there was obviously a gap in the market, and one that we could fill. Setting ourselves a challenge, we looked into where we could source beautiful children’s products from and, after conducting lots of research, we decided to set-up our own consumer website. Potwells was born in April 2013.
Over the years, we have built our business and nurtured our friendship and our families. Between us we now have seven children and employ seven people in our consumer and distribution business. We have had fantastic fun along the way and we have enjoyed lots of positive days, from moving into our first office to going viral with UniLad last Christmas. But we have naturally hit some bumps in the road too. Now 6 years on, we feel it’s the right time to sit back and reflect on all we have achieved and look forward to further growth, ideas and fun times in the office with our team and children.
Here are our top five lessons:
1) Family First
We’re family-first in everything we do from our designs to our core company values. Our mission is to design products that are loved by children and parents. And we bring this mission to life by including our children in the design and inspiration stage. They are integral to our business. We call them our ‘seven-strong expert panel’. Their ideas are amazing and they are incredibly pragmatic too. What better way to design children’s products than with children?
Our children really are our inspiration, we are building our business from the ground up and hope we are role models for them. And this is not us wanting to pass the business down to them, this is us demonstrating to our children that with a great idea and determination, you too can develop your company and turn it into a success. We’re living proof to our children that hard-work does pay off.
2) Opposites attract
We work well together because we are two very different people with different strengths and weaknesses, and different experiences. Before Potwells, Julie worked as primary school teacher in Birmingham and Nicola worked in retail and was a product manager for two large office suppliers. Coming from two different worlds means we have different and complementary expertise. I think it’s why we also work really well as friends.
Our difference has been an essential ingredient in building our business. Having someone to bounce ideas off and share the highs and the lows has been a huge success factor in running our business. Our decisions are more carefully thought through and are more rounded because we look at issues in different ways.
3) Shout about your products
With the support of a local PR agency, we position our products using a range of PR and communication channels. We’re busy building our social following; Instagram is the key platform for us as our products are so visual and fun. We work with influencers who review our products and we connect with journalists who we believe will love our products as much as we do. We are busy preparing for Christmas already and planning product placements for Christmas gift guides. We have also recently updated our website which is our key shop front window.
We aim our products at families with a love of style, adventure and fun. Our products make unique gifts and an impactful addition to homes. We believe we are the very families that we aim our products at. This makes understanding our audience easier and helps with the marketing and promotion of our collections. To sell products and build our brand, we use all the tools and platforms available, ensuring we are relevant to our key audience.
4) Separate home and business
When running a business with a good friend, you have to remove the personal and emotional elements. You are both in a professional setting, and you need to be mindful and respectful of this. It’s easy to get frustrated, or even overly excited but you need to always respect each other’s views and skills, as you would with an investor, a client or a colleague.
Being best friends and having seven children between us means we share more than our professional life. As our kids are great friends too, we can share the childcare and the inevitable taxing around to after-school clubs. Sharing this workload means, when needed, one of us is still able to concentrate on a deadline or urgent issues without the guilt factor.
But while it’s great to work together we also need to take time apart to think about things separately or develop new ideas independently. It’s easy to get lost in the momentum and the day-to-day detail. Keeping our focus on the big picture helps us to sharpen our view and realise our business goals.
5) Communication is key
We both live busy lives and juggle different priorities every day. It’s important that co-founders are honest about their commitments and time investment. Honest and open communication at all times is key. We believe every challenge in business is an opportunity to grow. With the right attitude and great communications, even the toughest of days can become valuable