Building a business on the side

Lynsey Stephenson has a lot on her plate. Not only is she working four days a week in a sports marketing company and running her own business, but she has a nearly three-year-old son and her husband is on sick leave after developing epilepsy following surgery for a brain tumour three years ago.

Lynsey Stephenson has a lot on her plate. Not only is she working four days a week in a sports marketing company and running her own business, but she has a nearly three-year-old son and her husband is on sick leave after developing epilepsy following surgery for a brain tumour three years ago.

 

Lynsey, who is based in Ferryhill, County Durham, set up her personalised gifts business, www.just4yougifts.co.uk, in July last year and works on it when time allows, particularly on her one day off a week. She decided to start it up when she was about to go back to work after giving birth to her son Aaron. “I wanted to work more flexibly and I saw it as a way of earning extra income too,” she says.

She had also developed an interest in personalised gifts and, with her marketing hat on, could see a future in the industry. “I bought a few myself from online retailers and looked at the set-up costs and thought I could have a go,” she says.

By January 2009 she had written the business plan and she followed up with research into funding. Eventually she got initial start-up money from Business Link North East. She says it is hard to develop a business strategy when she is working nearly full time, but she realises the importance of planning ahead. Plus it was difficult to establish an online presence on limited funds in a competitive market. “There’s been an explosion of personalised gifts and most retailers are into it, but we have linked with local businesses and I have been working on improving our search engine optimisation,” she says. “My aim is to build the business up slowly while I am working to give me more money to invest back into it. I’m keeping my options open.”

She also uses social networking sites like Twitter to advertise new products. At the moment she sells all sorts of personalised products including mugs, stocking fillers and mouse mats. She has developed a wedding range of gifts, including thank-you presents for bridesmaids which have been designed by a local artist. The wedding range is aimed at creating another peak for sales in the summer to add to the Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. She found the artist by researching cartoonists in her area.

Lynsey says that, despite doing two jobs, she believes she has a healthy work life balance. Her commute into work in Newcastle is 25 miles, but she can work flexible hours. Her husband, who had brain surgery for his tumour in February 2007 and was receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy while she was pregnant, looks after Aaron and takes him to preschool. Aaron has “doting grandparents” living nearby.

She hopes that her business will not be too badly affected by the economic climate, given that the gifts she sells are not, as she says, things that “will break the bank” and that personalised gifts are part of a growing trend. She is hoping, though, that things will improve and that she can eventually devote more time to both her business and her family.





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