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Read on to find out more about how a young school student with an entrepreneurial spirit created her own personalised gifts business.
So, tell us a bit about how your entrepreneurial spirit got ignited?
It first started at school. My mum had bought me a pair of shoes, which I thought were a bit plain. I mentioned to mum that I would like a prettier pair, her response was, ‘you need to work hard to get nice things’. And that got me thinking about how I could make money. At that time, I was in secondary school and I noticed that pupils were fed up with having to walk to the corner shop to get their treats, so I decided to buy sweets at a wholesaler and sell directly to the pupils. It worked, and within a short space of time I had the money to buy the shoes that I had wanted.
My next business idea came when reusable shopping bags were coming on to the market. At that time, they were all a bit plain, so I thought about finding (and selling) a reusable shopping bag that was a bit more stylish. That’s when Tiffany’s Totes was born.
During college (in 2016), I really got into costume jewellery. The high street shops would retail many pieces around the £40 mark, but I knew that I could buy them cheaper if I researched suppliers abroad. It was then that I started following fashion bloggers and finding out what they were wearing. From there I would replicate their costume jewellery by buying the components myself and making the pieces. I would then sell them on eBay. At that time, I did dabble into fashion, but as it is such a fast paced industry, I found the trends were changing too quickly to keep up. Jewellery had longevity.
How did you decide on your product range?
I tested products by wearing them and seeing if people commented on them. Those that got attention were then purchased in bulk and sold on eBay. At this point, it was still a ‘hobby job’.
When did it become more than a hobby?
It happened when I was at university. I was beginning to have a good income (for a student) and at that time I was working at a high street shop, on a basic hourly wage. I realised that I could earn more from making my jewellery and work the hours to suit me. I resigned from that job and put my efforts into my own business. It was during this period when I noticed the seasonality of my products and the pricing trends (costume jewellery was more expensive in the spring/summer).
In 2017, the choker that the character Harley Quinn wore, from the film Suicide Squad, became the must-have piece of jewellery for Halloween. Ahead of Halloween, I sourced the best quality supplier who could provide the fastest delivery. I wanted to ensure good customer service for not only the product but for the delivery time too.
This was another pivotal moment. Once again, I was reminded of the seasonality of my products that had peaks in summer, around Halloween and before Christmas. From January until late spring, business was quiet.
That’s when I decided to launch year-round products. I decided to make personalised gifts for babies, weddings, christenings, first birthdays and family frames. These events happen throughout the year, so would provide a more stable income. The idea came in 2017, but it didn’t get to market until 2018. During 2017, I was making prototypes and testing it on the market. In 2018, I started selling these products.
Where did you sell your products?
Mainly online (eBay, Esty and Depot) as well as word-of-mouth through family and friends.
Where do you get inspiration from with your gift ideas?
I get inspiration from a variety of places. Some things I have seen elsewhere and I have put my own spin on it. For the new baby frames, I saw the clothes on the washing line on a greeting card. I researched where I could buy the wooden pegs and the mini clothes and tested a variety of samples before I decided on the final version.
What types of gifts do you enjoy making the most?
Though they are the longest to make, I love making the newborn baby box frames. It’s nice to see people’s reactions when they see them for the first time. My gifts help make memories for them too. I find this really rewarding.
Will you be expanding your product offering?
Yes, I have new ideas in the pipeline. I want to go back to bags (because of the company name Tiffany’s Totes) and I am currently researching and testing jute / hessian reusable shopping bags, which will be designed by me. These should be available in 2020.
Do you make these gifts full-time?
Currently it is a part time, but I hope that will change in the not-too-distant future.
How do you promote and sell your services and products?
I promote on both Instagram and Facebook. However, they have two completely different audiences and demographics. On Facebook, I only promote the frames. Instagram works better for the jewellery. I do paid ads occasionally, but most of my business comes via my posts and shares. I have also found doing giveaways helps boost sales and create buzz around my products.
Do you have a website?
I do now. For a long time, I was selling my items on third party platforms. But over time I had noticed how they are skewed in the customers favour, which I generally support. However, there were occasions where I had my fingers burnt by unscrupulous customers. I felt the time was right to have my own ecommerce site, where I could be in control. I am slowly phasing out my products on these platforms.
Currently, only the frames are available on the website, but the product range will expand in the future to include a jewellery and bags section. My other aim for the website is to create a customisable section. At the moment, people choose set designs and personalise only with the name of the person for whom the gift is for. In time, I’d like my customers to have more flexibility.
How else do you market your product and company?
Other than Facebook and Instagram, I also have a You tube channel. On here I promote my jewellery by talking about what I am wearing.
My offline marketing is through attending expectant parent events, such as the Mothercare one and word-of-mouth. I believe in the power of my networking, so I do a lot of giveaways, as I know it will bring returns in the future.
How’s business going since you first started out?
I can see month-on-month a sales growth. I also do a quarterly review of the business, to reflect upon what has been achieved and what can be improved. That helps me to address my processes and adjust them if necessary.
What plans do you have for the immediate future?
As previously mentioned, I want to sell only on my website. I’d like this to be a full-time business and in time I would like to hire staff.
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
I’d like to have a physical store too. Other businesses do, and so why can’t mine? I still believe that people would like the chance to ‘see’ my products before they buy.
For other people out there with creative abilities and ideas who have not yet created a business, what advice would you give to get them to get started?
You have to TRY! My parents taught me to be a big dreamer. You have to have a goal. Getting there is a matter of taking the necessary steps. Some will be easier than others. But unless you try it, you will never know. I have also been surprised by consumer reactions to products. What I thought would do well, sometimes hasn’t and things that I tried, thinking they would flop, have proved to be popular. So, you should never limit your beliefs. Be open. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
I always believe it is best to do, or better to try something, than wonder if…
Who has been your inspiration?
My parents and successful YouTubers. I admire those people earning an income by doing what they love, like Amber Scholl.
I always keep to the front of my mind that all the big brands started out just like me. At one point they were all just somebody with an idea. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work at it.
So, if you need personalised gifts that look great, look no further than Tiffany’s Totes and keep an eye out for her other product lines in the coming months. Tiffany’s creations can be found via:
Email – email@example.com
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