Ask any mother and they’ll be sure to tell you that parenting is an onerous job. But ask any female entrepreneur whether this gets in the way of her business ambition and the answer will most certainly be no.
Recent ONS figures show record numbers of women are setting up shop whilst dealing with the daily demands of motherhood. Some of the most famous British businesses, from the White Company to Jo Malone, have been founded by mums on a shoestring.
But being a mumpreneur (yes, it is an official word now!), doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with a fabulous new brand or unique product idea. In fact, there are plenty of businesses that can be started from your kitchen table that require no more than a bit of time, motivation and business sense.
Eight years ago, I decided to take the plunge and set up my own business selling furniture online. Rather than upskilling in carpentry and investing huge sums in web design, I simply found a supplier offering the types of stock that I wanted to sell and chose eBay as a platform to set up a virtual shop. This allowed me to get up and running with very little start-up costs. It didn’t take long to secure my first sale, and gradually over time I was able to build my credibility and experience as an online seller enough to generate a steady income.
Today, the business is still going strong and gives me just the right amount of flexibility I need to balance being a mum with being a businesswoman. Having an online shop live 24/7, 365 days a year means I am constantly open for business, whilst only working the days and hours I choose. Of course, there are times when it can be both demanding and challenging, but to a parent that is nothing new!
To those considering setting up an eBay business, here are my top tips:
First things first; decide on a product category you feel passionate about selling and find a supplier who can provide you with a consistent supply of good quality stock.
A lot of resellers like me use online auction marketplaces to source high quality stock to sell online. They are a great place to start if you don’t have established wholesaler contacts and are looking for reliable sources to procure stock. Sites like i-bidder.com allow you to source products at UK based auctions which sell everything from toys to hair rollers. I find such sites useful as you can bid on a wide range of products, either individually or in bulk lots, at prices you decide. What’s more, the items sold on i-bidder.com include surplus, clearance, end-of-line and customer returned stock from high street retailers and manufacturers, so you most often end up grabbing a bargain at 80-90% off the recommended retail price (RRP)
Your business needs to run like a well-oiled machine and the easiest way to achieve this is to add some structure from the outset. Allocate specific times of day to check your inbox, respond to customer enquiries, and deal with product sourcing, sales and deliveries. Trying to do everything all at once or on an ad hoc basis is a recipe for disaster.
Having a good support network in place will also help make sure each sale you make is processed in a timely fashion, delivered promptly and undamaged. If things take off or you get unexpectedly busy periods, you might need an extra pair of hands to help ease the load.
The digital marketplace is teeming with competition so to be successful you must make sure your customers have a reason to return to your online store or recommend you to others. That means ensuring the whole buying experience is first class from the customer’s point of view.
Be honest when describing what you are selling, respond quickly to customers enquiries in a friendly and helpful manner, and make sure you deliver your products well packaged and on time. Never forget that customers are the backbone of your business so each one should be treated like a VIP.
Parenting is a demanding job, but there is nothing stopping parents from channelling their inner entrepreneur and starting successful businesses from home. These days, becoming a business owner doesn’t necessarily mean incurring huge overheads. Having access to online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, and product sourcing sites like i-bidder.com, make it possible for anyone to run an empire from their kitchen table with little start-up costs and the flexibility every busy mum needs. I would recommend anyone to give it a go.
*Catherine Winder is mum and owner of Crown Discount Furniture.