Mums on the run

Jane Kelly and Zoe Friskney have started up their own online shop, exploiting their passion for homeware.

Jane Kelly and Zoe Friskney used to go out running along the Bournemouth coastline together. They would run along in one direction and walk back. During their walks they would talk about ideas for doing something on the internet. Both had given up work to bring up young families – between them they have five children ranging in age from seven to 12. They wanted to do something different. They thought about setting up a running blog, but this idea soon evolved. That was last March. Now they are running an online shop selling brightly coloured designer homeware.

“The site started as a running blog and we got really into it, but we wanted to expand it and do more and more,” says Jane [pictured left], who gave up her job working for Channel 4 commissioning programmes nine years ago after the birth of her second child. She now has three children. Zoe [pictured right], who has two children, had been a practice nurse. Both had been based in London, although they are originally from Devon and Cornwall.

They had a lot of skills from their working lives which were going unused, including an eye for detail. Combined with a passion for home interiors, it was the perfect recipe for setting up Nelly Pepper , their online shop.

“We both really loved the Danish company Rice’s homeware,” says Jane. “There is a Bournemouth shop that sells some of their stuff, but their website shows a huge range of funky, bright homeware. We wondered if we could get hold of this and sell it.”

Lightbulb moment
It was hard to find shops in the UK that stocked it. In a “lightbulb moment” they emailed the company in Denmark and asked if they could sell their products in the UK. They then settled on a name for their business and set about sourcing products from other companies.

“We were both heavily into home interiors magazines," says Jane. They leafed through magazines and also researched on websites, including Rice’s, to see what their suppliers across Europe and the US were selling. Initially, they concentrated on Scandinavian goods. Their aim was to keep everything they bought in line with the original stock they bought from Rice.

They kept down their initial outlay by not buying a huge amount of stock and financed themselves. Plus they worked from home. One of their major costs was setting up their website, which only launched in November. They are trying to keep down marketing costs by linking up with like-minded sites and blogs and doing a lot of social networking, including a blog. They are also writing press releases for home interiors and other relevant magazines.

Both Jane and Zoe work when the children are at schools and in the evenings when they are in bed. When the children are there, says Jane, it is family time. She adds that there has been a lot of interest given they have just launched and given that it is a difficult time economically. “That gives us some encouragement,” she says. “We’re in a niche market and we can see from using Google Analytics that people are searching on quite specific terms to get to us. These are people who know what they want. They are people like us. We feel we know them.”

They have done some special offers and left business cards in local schools and the RNLI to build up word of mouth recognition. They have also sold products in local markets. Jane says her children are interested and have helped out at markets. They have had a lot of support from other mums too and invited friends around for a launch party.

Jane says setting up the business has been a steep learning curve, but it has been fun. “We could have spent what we spent on stock on a course, but we have learnt much more setting up our own business,” says Jane.

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