School days spark business idea for friends
Mums Clare Goodman and Kelly Barnes became firm friends and decided they wanted to go into business together. But there was one thing missing...the germ of an idea for that business plan.
Friends and business partners
Clare and Kelly first met each other through their husbands - their menfolk had been close friends since they'd been at scouts together. They are god parents to each other's children and now their strong bond has flourished into a business partnership too.
''It was during a holiday in Salcombe, Devon, when we talked about having long-term careers and realised we both wanted to set up our own business and work from home,'' said Clare, who is mum to Holly, three, Penelope, 20 months, and three-month-old Dixie. ''In the back of our minds we knew we wanted to use our maiden names. But we didn't have a product.''
The big idea came when Kelly began to search for a book or album to record her son's school days. ''He was starting school in reception and I hunted everywhere to try to find a suitable book in which to keep photographs and mementoes,'' she explained. ''I'd had a book like that when I was younger so I wanted the same thing for my children, but I simply couldn't find one anywhere. I searched on the internet, but all I could find were American ones - they have a different school system and use different language so I didn't really want one of those.''
That was when Clare and Kelly realised there was a gap in the market, a gap which Copplestone & Brown could fill.
Clare immediately liked Kelly's idea. ''I knew it would be of interest to lots of mums - it would be a one-stop shop for them to keep all their little bits and pieces in about their children's school days,'' she said. The My School Days memory book was now officially in the planning stage.
The pair live one road apart in north London and met up in the evenings when the children were in bed to discuss their burgeoning product plan.
The next step was to find a designer. ''We found our designer through a friend,'' says Kelly, whose children are Charlie, five, and 18-month-old Alex. ''We met up with her and put our own ideas together. We told her about the look and the colour scheme we wanted and left her to come up with the design. There were quite a lot of tweaks as the design went back and forth, but we settled on the design and then met with printers to get some quotes.''
A great combination of skills
Clare and Kelly's skills complement each other well. Clare had worked for 12 years in the City as a fund manager's assistant in stockbroking before having three children, so her financial acumen is self-evident. She ''does the sums'' where the business is concerned. Kelly, 36, currently works three days a week as operations manager for the BBC Tours where she is in charge of 35 staff who conduct the tours at BBC TV centre and Broadcasting House. She is experienced in marketing and regularly takes part in trade fairs.
Since the business was set up in May this year, the two friends have ordered 1,250 memory books. ''We went by the theory of economy of scale,'' says Clare, 32. ''We had to work out how much we could afford to buy and how much it was worth doing it to get a profit. We kept the idea under our hats for a while, because we wanted to just do it and then launch it. We were very confident in the product and knew there was nothing else out there like it.''
As the launch grew nearer, Clare and Kelly told some close friends about their business idea and were delighted with their response.
In the run-up to Christmas, they set up stall at local school fayres and sold their first books. They have also approached local nurseries, where the reaction has been good, and they aim to step that up in January. Primary schools will also be targetted. They're working around 10 to 15 hours a week.
Currently, there is a holding page for their website, www.copplestoneandbrown.co.uk, but they're looking to develop that more shortly.
My School Days has a section for each year and includes spaces for:
* A school photo
* A list of your child's teachers and subjects
*A list of your child's favourite things
* What your child did for that year's holiday and birthday
* Special events and memories for each year
* Your child's achievements for each year
* A wallet to hold precious mementoes and keepsakes
Although the two friends' husbands are not directly involved in the business, they have played a crucial part in backing their wives. Kelly's husband, Lee, 38, a project manager for a construction firm, and Clare's husband, Nigel, 38, a biomedical scientist, have stepped up the mark with childcare when the two women needed to attend fayres together. 'Our business is great because it's flexible,'' says Clare. ''We're pleased with the way it's going - our long-term aim is to produce more products.''