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Ah. Big sigh of satisfaction after having returned from the beach. The persistant rain that we have now endured for pretty much an entire month (Hello? Meterological system? It’s Summer, in case you didn’t get the memo?) let up for one day and one say only, to give us just enough time to hare down to Dawlish Warren and get in some serious sandcastle building and ice cream consumption.

I made the mistake of offering to share my Mr Whippy with DB2. Hence I ended up having about three licks, before he woofed the entire thing.And then bellowed and shouted whilst pointing significantly at DB1’s ice cream. DB1 looked wary and promptly turned away to conceal his, which I thought was a very wise move. DB2 is officially a bit of a piglet and will consume ANYTHING.


(image courtesy of BBC Devon website – our cracking local(ish) beach!)

Anyway, now we’re back, and it’s back to nose at the grindstone, as a pile of orders have just come in, which is very exciting. It is always the nice part of the job, to see that you have orders coming in!

Pip’s Garden now been officially trading for nearly 6 months, and we spent two years prior to that setting everything up. Reflecting back on those early days, when both myself and BP (business partner) felt so clueless and at times, overwhelmed, I wish I had received some real, honest, practical advice on certain matters. Hell, on EVERY matter, if I am honest. So I’ve decided to start compiling a series of listy type things, over the course of the next few entries, in the hope that it might assist anyone out there who is thinking of undertaking a similar venture.

Your Big Idea – Has it got legs?

All businesses start with that initial seed of an idea. That’s what so awesome about it all – it’s just incredible that it can all stem from just one little grain of inspiration.

However, (and let’s keep with this ‘seed’ metaphor here, I rather like it) – just like a real seed, if it is not planted in good soil and nourished properly, it will never come to bear fruit. Fact.

These are the key questions you need to ask yourself, right from the word go:

1) Is it really such a good idea?

2) How many other people are doing it and what is the competition like?

3) Is it likely to be profitable?

4) If it is truly unique to the market, is there a reason why no one else is doing it?

5) Is it viable in my life, in terms of time and money.

When BP and I were in those very early stages of talking through our big idea (with DB1 sleeping in his moses basket aged 4 weeks old…seems so incredibly long ago now!) we tested our idea rigourously with these exact same questions.

Our ‘big idea’ was to offer a range of embroidered, personalised gifts that focused on being ‘tailor made’ and offering the customer a truly bespoke gift.We knew there was stiff competition on the market for all things personalised, but we felt we had enough of an edge (ie, not many others offering such high quality embroidered, no one really focusing on personalised bedding etc etc) to make it work. We also felt that a lot of the competition was a bit lazy in that a lot of them were offering the ‘same old, same old’. In short, we saw that gap in the market that we felt we could comfortably slot ourselves into.So its a good idea to ask yourself – does my idea have a similar ‘me shaped hole’ in the market? If it doesn’t, you are already facing an uphill battle against many other companies.

Before buying anything in, we first got quotes for EVERYTHING. How much were our raw materials, our fabrics, our threads, our labels, our clothing and linens? How much would the packaging be? We knew we needed to get a really good idea of what costs we were facing, and then work out what sort of profit we would want to make, and whether that would make our retail prices appealling to a customer or not. Turns out they did (phew.) But if your idea is going to cost a tenner for you to make each time, and you figure that you can’t sell it for more than £13.00, for example, you need to ask yourself, is it worth it to me, to do this amount of work for three quid profit an item.

With regards to ‘uniqueness’ – we’re all striving for that idea that no one else is offering. For us, we felt we were offering two unique products, our story bedding (http://pipsgarden.co.uk/bedroom/duvets/childrens-story-time-personalised-bedding-the-sail-away-tale.html) and our handprint bedding (http://pipsgarden.co.uk/bedroom/duvets/luxury-personalised-handprint-duvet.html).

However, (and this is me being my usual, brutally honest self) – we admit fully that we didn’t ask ourselves the question ‘why is no one else doing this?’

In terms of our story bedding, no one else was doing it because it was a darned good idea (if I do say so myself!) With the handprint duvet, it may have been because they are so time consuming to create. Seriously, digitising these babies takes a looooong time. However, we choose to still offer them, mainly because we are so in love with them! (sometimes love of the job overcomes our urge for profit…)

So, is your idea unique simply because, actually, its not very practical, or not very desirable? If so, perhaps steer clear, unless, like us, you have other products that are more profitable and you want to offer something super special.

The last point, ‘Do I have enough time / money’ is a big one. I’ll probably need another post to cover that one properly. But in the initial stages, briefly take a chance to review your life, and figure out if you can give your idea the level of commitment it requires. When I look back on our initial stages now, I realise I was incredibly naive. (I think I thought babies stayed as easy as 4 week olds through all their lives – doh!) I didn’t anticipate the endless evenings, beavering away frantically until the wee small hours of the morning, as I simply didn’t have a chance to do much in the day; what with one toddler desperate to go out and play, and another baby…mainly just continually desperate to be fed.

Anyway – I hope this first little post has given food for thought – I’ll try to do another one tomorrow, focusing on that big question…TIME and MONEY!