Tell us a bit about your business?
Gem's Wedding Supplies is an online wedding and event store. Initially I began focusing on supplying wedding decorations and accessories. But in order to have more return customers, I have recently expanded to cover other events such as birthday party supplies.
Why did you start up your business?
After working for 14 years as a primary school teacher, I was finding that life was very busy. It was a constant juggle to get up, get myself ready and get out of the door as well as getting my young teenage daughter on her way every day. Weekends would come and I would be spending a lot of the weekend getting prepared for the week ahead. Getting remarried in 2009 gave me an idea for my own business. I had shopped online for my wedding and this then became my business idea.
What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business?
As my business is based around retail of in stock items, there is always the challenge of cash flow. The more I purchase in bulk, the more room I have to make profit on my items. However, that does mean spending more also and having cash tied up in my stock, with some lines of stock proving to be more popular than others.
As I completely changed careers, it has been a constant learning curve in many areas of the business, from designing an online store, to finding the best way to ship my items. These were all areas that I had not worked in previously.
What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business?
Join groups to network with other people in business. This allows you to ask questions and get advice from others that may have gone through similar challenges. Be open and willing to learn from others. Be flexible in your decisions, something that may work today, may be unsuitable down the track. Mistakes are fine, if you learn from them and avoid making that error next time.
What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?
I dabbled firstly in a little online selling on eBay initially. This allowed me to test out the waters somewhat and to see if it was the kind of path I wanted to take. I was tired of the Monday to Friday grind and wanted something that was mine to work on. The challenge of building a business from scratch was an exciting prospect.
How did you family and friends react?
Initially there was some concern about leaving a well paid secure job. But once they realised how happy it made me working for myself, I think they actually became quietly jealous!
How has your life changed?
I am definitely still as busy as I was when working Monday to Friday, often more so. However, the flexibility is what has won me over. I love being able to have an afternoon off here and there with my family. This often means you may find me working at crazy hours, even up at 4 am. Working at home means I only need to wander out to my computer with a cup of coffee. No more sitting for hours each week in traffic. I love making my own decisions and being in charge of the direction of the business. I may not always make perfect decisions, but it is very satisfying seeing the change and growth of the business over time.
What success have you experienced since starting your business?
There are many little steps along the way and successes worth celebrating. From the first website sale, through to negotiating better freight quotes with delivery companies. I particularly enjoy hearing from happy customers when they have found that our items have been just what they were looking for and exceeded their expectations.
What is the vision for your business going forward?
I look forward to continuing to expand the range of items that I am offering in my online store. I would also like to outsource more of the business tasks to free up my time to focus on the important aspects of the business.
What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup?
Being an entrepreneur has definitely been hard work, challenging and crazy at times, but I love the challenge and the flexibility of working for myself and wouldn’t change it for anything.