Since I didn’t start this blog in the beginning, before Boutiko had been invented, (and when the world was a considerably poorer place,) I thought I would instead attempt to condense the last eight months to give some idea of the process which brought me here, to the edge of the launch.
People always ask ‘What made you want to do this?’, and there seem to be several answers. One is that I have always had a tucked-away dream of having my own shop. Sadly in London the costs of opening a shop are beyond the capabilities of a start up (or this one anyway), so a website was conceived, allowing for considerably lower overheads and a potentially wider audience. The shop could come later.
A second reason to start my own business was that I had quit my job in Montessori teaching after nearly six years, feeling there must be something more and different out there. I travelled a bit, returned home, and wondered what would give me most fulfillment now. A very difficult period followed, and as I came out of it I decided if I didn’t at least try this dream out now, when would I? Besides which I didn’t want to return to teaching, much as I had loved it; I needed a new challenge.
Thirdly, my travels started me thinking that I would love to import some of the diverse and beautiful handicrafts that are made in indigenous communities around the world. This thought was somewhat thwarted on finding that although many of the things I saw (and bought) were undeniably gorgeous and beautifully made, they tended not to travel well, and their true beauty failed to shine in our cold Northern light. (Not to mention the daunting ins and outs of importing.) But I fully supported the idea of craftspeople receiving fair pay and treatment for their labours (really, how could you support any other way?), and with public attention being increasingly brought to the existence of sweatshops and the state of the environment, I decided I would like to set up a shop where everything sourced would directly benefit its creators and cause little or no harm to the planet, while at the same time fitting in with the taste, lifestyle and aesthetics of the Western world.
And so I have spent the past eight months or so obsessively sourcing; scouring lifestyle magazines for potential suppliers, visiting trade shows, spending hours online following trails of eco friendly and fair trade websites. It has been fascinating, exciting and fun; after all, it’s basically legitimate shopping!
While all this intensive sourcing was going on, I was also asking questions questions questions, of anyone and everyone who crossed my path who might know something that would help me. I visited my local Business Link, quizzed everyone I knew about all aspects of business from book keeping to writing press releases, signed up for newsletters, read articles and books. I even, much to my father’s surprise, started reading the business section of his newspaper and his monthly copy of The Director. Quite a change from Glamour and Homes and Gardens!
The hardest thing was the decisions. Never a great decision maker, I found myself confronted with almost daily choices; which designer, product, supplier to go for? Which logo? What colours? I interviewed book keepers, asked ridiculous questions on forums, and trusted my gut, which so far has not let me down.
I’ve even made some new friends. I don’t think there is any substitute for finding someone who is also starting up, and if they are doing it in a similar way and in a similar area, you have found an invaluable sounding board, adviser, sympathiser and essentially someone who understands just how great it is that you’ve finally found someone to supply you with fairly traded organza jewellery bags. I have been very lucky here.
Ah luck. A whole other question. Whatever your beliefs about luck, for me there can be no denying that my dedication to my dream has drawn help, support and information from all sorts of unusual and surprising sources. Things fall into place, someone knows someone who can help you with exactly what you’re looking for, someone else suggests something that solves that niggling problem you’ve been mulling over for weeks. The more you give to your dream, the more the universe conspires to help you. I read a version of that somewhere and for me it has undoubtedly been true.
So I made the decisions, chose the name, the suppliers, the designer, the printer, the logo. (All agonising decisions for someone as indecisive as me, but all happily successful as far as I’m concerned.) I made some mistakes, but I’ve learned so much from them I’m glad I made them.
So here I am on the cusp of the launch (well, it’s a month away but let’s not quibble over details and ruin the drama of the moment), and I feel excited, nervous and, unusually for me, quite proud of my efforts over the past months. I have yet to come across someone who doesn’t support what I’m doing, and as far as I can tell, that is pretty unusual. I have been so fortunate in my support network; not everyone is so lucky.
My one secret worry is that I don’t know enough about what I’m doing to give this a chance of being a success. I’m not a great business mind, and some of what I’m now doing doesn’t come naturally. This must be normal though; not everyone jumps from the womb knowing the secrets of business success! But I have faith, I believe in what I’m doing, I have fantastic support and I’m going to give this everything I’ve got.
So let’s see what happens……
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