I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend. Let’s kick-start the working week with another fantastic business story. Behind the Biz is my weekly interview series highlighting fab businesses, discovering the story behind the founders and inspiring you to embark upon your own business journey.
I chat with Michelle, the co-founder of Dickie Bow about her business journey.
Please tell us about your business.
Our online store, www.dickiebow.co.uk, offers sumptuous tweed wool and cotton neckwear for adults and children. Our website has been operating for a little over a year and is based in Lymington. We also have a sister company who sells on e-commerce platforms such as Ebay and Amazon.
Where did the inspiration for Dickie Bow come from?
When my husband and I were planning our wedding we were both pretty disappointed at the wedding day attire available. Neither of us are particularly traditional so finding something that wasn’t hideously priced or just boring was a bit of a challenge. My Husband, Dills, had been toying with wearing a tweed bow tie but couldn’t find any he liked despite ordering several. In the end he pieced his outfit together through various online and high street retailers and looked gorgeous but it left us with quite a few unused bow ties so I sold them on Ebay and discovered there was a market.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
This is an area of contention in my family – I think it was my dad but my husband thinks it was him. Either way it was a brief conversation around the dinner table. It sounded catchy and as we were so small at the time I really didn’t give it much thought. If I knew I’d be writing about it as our brand name I might have given it some more thought but actually I’m happy with it and it turns out its very helpful for finding us in google.
What did you do before starting Dickie Bow?
I’ve had quite a mixed background career wise including insurance, catering, education and for the most part, social care. I spent several years working in children’s homes and with young offenders before joining a local Charity in the New Forest. My last full time role saw me setting up a supported living home where adults with learning disabilities can live more independently.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
I had worked in 28 different organisations by the time I was 25, mainly through starting work very young but also from working for agencies for years. I found my last job through agency work and loved it but I knew that if I didn’t work for them I would be self employed. My family, for generations, have done their own thing so its a fairly natural path however I have become more risk averse in my old age (36) and didn’t know what I wanted to do so am a little later to the party. Working for an agency is a little like being self employed as you almost have to find your own work so I had some practice but I always struggled with the fear or work drying up (which it never did!) and thats the same thing that spooks me now as proper self employed person but I’m working on that.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
I secretly love praise so getting almost 3000 pieces of glowing feedback is great and tells me we’re doing a good job. Also, and not so secretly, I’m a geek so trademarking our brand name and designing new ranges of ties under our Dickie bow brand was very exciting.
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Having never worked in retail or supply I am always on a steep learning curve but I quite like it that way. As with any new subject learning the language is the first hurdle to overcome whether it be around logistics or accounting but over time you pick things up and it gets easier. Making the decision to leave my management job was probably the biggest personal challenge.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
I have a love/ hate relationship with social media…..mainly because I’m terrible at it! I love love love connecting with our customers and especially seeing their photos. This is the beauty of social media. On the flip side, I don’t really use social media personally any more and am not a particularly showy person so hyping around our brand is not a good fit with my personality. I’m still trying to find my voice on social media so perhaps check back in in a few years and see how things things are going. We primarily use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as they lend themselves well to our products and customers.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice always is to take a punt….have a go….see what happens! I started our business very flippantly and conservatively which meant I had almost no risk, aside from to my own time. Consequently I could try things out, play around a little and enjoy the process. That’s not to say it has been stress free but I can naturally put pressure on myself so keeping things light works for me. Some people swear by goals but I’ve never set any although I do have loose plans. You definitely need someone to talk….actually loads of people as theres always a lot going on so its good to spill the contents of your brain from time to time. My main people is my long suffering husband. He’s great! I’ve almost met some wonderful freelancers who are happy to help and signpost the land of entrepreneurship. Friends are invaluable too.
Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?
We are working on developing more ranges based on the numerous requests we get throughout the year. I hope to have some better systems in place to streamline the business, a bit boring but oh so essential so really this year will most likely be a period of consolidating and reviewing how things go. Then 2019 will be more about growth. I think its important to see what happens organically as if I make too much of a plan for the year I may miss opportunities that arise.
I want to say a huge thank you to Michelle for taking the time to get involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about her business journey and I hope you did too. If you’ve stumbled upon a gap in the market and are keen to fill it then give it a go. Start your business idea as a side hustle, like Michelle and see how it goes. You never know, you might end up in a position where you can leave your 9-5 and focus on your side hustle full time.
I wish Michelle and Dickie Bow the best of luck throughout 2018. I can’t wait to see the new ranges.