Turning 5 in business years is a pretty major milestone moment and as Britney would sing ‘I’m not a girl, not yet a woman’ - it feels like you’re still learning, yet you’ve amassed enough experience to know you’re on the right track.
There are so many things I wish I’d known before starting La Basketry in 2017, so what better way to celebrate this business birthday than to ask 4 other female business owners whose businesses are also turning 5 in 2022, for a piece of advice they’d share with their younger entrepreneur self or to anyone who’s still in the early stages of their business journey…
Business birthday: May 2022
Founded by Vicky Simmons, Mean Mail makes cards for “those you love and love to hate”. With 100 stockists globally, Mean Mails are made in the UK and have been featured in press such as The Sunday Times magazine, Stylist, and Cosmopolitan to name a few.
Advice: When it comes to decision making, a piece of advice that I’ve found really helpful and referred back to regularly since starting my business is ‘if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no’. It sometimes feels like saying yes is the easy option but if it doesn’t align with your business goals, the relief you get from saying no goes to show it was the right decision to make.
Personal highlight: Some of the amazing stockists I’ve had the enjoyment of working with over the years and the friends I’ve made in the process. Mean Mail being stocked in Colette just before they closed was a dream come true.
Business birthday: September 2022
With an ethos of buying less and buying better, Bethany Rowntree launched Studio B in 2017, a curated retail platform for independent, new and niche brands.
Advice: I’d say don’t listen to your own negative thoughts - a hard one as I guess I still do, but go for it and believe in yourself! I always find the happier I am and the more enthusiastic I feel, the better things go, it seems to radiate. And while I know that’s not a solid form of mathematical/monetary advice, it’s something I still have to remind myself of, especially when the burn out of running a business solo hits.
Personal highlight: The clothes! I love the buying side of the business, something I’d done in my previous roles employed by brands, but it’s a joy when you get to see new collections, discover new brands or find ways to collaborate with smaller brands.
This is something not everyone will agree with of course, but lockdown had also been a high for me business wise - the site suddenly seemed to get so much more attention from press, grew on Instagram and shoppers seemed to go crazy. The thrill of receiving a lovely new parcel was one of the only things we had (that and food!) when all we could do was walk and stay indoors.
Business birthday: September 2022
Featured in Harper’s Bazaar’s Top Planner’s in the World list, as well as Tatler’s Little Black Book 2021, ByChenai Events is a name to note down. Founded by head planner and stylist Chenai Bukutu, ByChenai Events is a boutique wedding and event design company based in London.
Advice: Just start. I spent a lot of time at the beginning researching the industry and how I would approach selling my service, which was the right thing to do, but I also spent too much time being paralysed by fear that parts of my business weren't perfect before I decided to launch. I should have just gone for it because the learning and 'perfecting' doesn't end. Every year I budget for learning - be it a business course or new skills course that can help ByChenai grow and give my clients a better experience.
Personal highlight: Amongst a few other goals I was working towards when I launched, one was to be an award winning, high end event planner, and the second was to have my work recognised internationally. Four years later, I am the current UK National Wedding Planner of the Year (Wedding Industry Awards -TWIA ) and Harper's Bazaar has named me one of the top planners in the world.
Sweet Pea Rosa
Business birthday: December 2022
Founded by Sally Bastard, Sweet Pea Rosa is a popular florist located in Walthamstow, London. With over a decade's experience, Sally describes her signature style as rustic and romantic.
Advice: I’m not much of a planner in my personal life, I enjoy being spontaneous. But when it comes to business I have learned that you have to plan ahead, setting yourself goals and putting in steps to achieve these goals. I couldn’t manage without my bullet journal, which I use to plan for each month and week, as well as making lots of to-do lists.
Personal highlight: My personal highlight, or rather something I am very proud of is getting my allotment up and running and growing lots of flowers to use in my work.
Business birthday: May 2022
La Basketry was founded in May 2017 by Tabara N'Diaye, sharing the traditional craft of basket weaving from the artisans of Senegal. What began life as a product based business has since developed into a best-selling book, workshops, partnerships and beyond.
Advice: My number one piece of advice is to keep an open mind and develop different revenue streams. Back in 2017, La Basketry was just an online shop but 5 years later, I’m so proud to see how the brand has developed and all the different routes the business has taken - from a book, influencer campaigns working with brands in tech, fashion or in DIY, an online course with Domestika that has become a passive income, as well as developing and running in-person and digital workshops. In 2022, it’s so important to be multi-faceted and to think outside of the box.
Trade carefully, test ideas, tease new ideas to your audience, offer freebies to begin with and see what the response is like and if there's enough interest for something bigger. The business I'm running today is very different to the one I had envisioned when I started La Basketry.
Personal Highlight: The Twine Basket Kit - a product I developed during the first lockdown in 2020 and launched in the Summer of 2020 - being featured on This Morning on ITV in their Christmas guide and people going crazy for it. I had to pause all orders as I just didn’t know how I was going to fulfill them all. I had to hire 2 extra people to help me pack and dispatch everything. It was such an exciting time - crazy but absolutely wonderful!