I am a great advocator for entrepreneurs operating from home because I know it offers the greatest potential for long term growth. In fact, they contributed 19% of the entire business turnover in 2014 which is no small feat when the UK is coming out of a long term recession. Not only is it considered professional, running a home business offers great advantages when you are just starting out or growing your operation. The most common benefits include lower overheads, no business rates; excessive rents and in some cases the chance to offset the cost against taxes. If you don’t believe me, let me name a few iconic businesses that started from home – Dyson, Microsoft and Disney to name a few. Don’t under-estimate the power of starting small. Once you sort out insurance, regulation and potentially permission from your landlord (if you are in rented, social or public housing) you are good to go. It is important to take into account that running a business from home means you have to be self-disciplined, focused and confident to work in isolation for long periods of time.
But more importantly for women, running a specialist business from home means you can better manage your time around family and childcare commitments rather than navigating London Transport in the rush hour. It’s great to know that there have been numerous women who began their empire from the humble kitchen table, so to speak. If you are not convinced then read about three inspirational women who launched very successful businesses from home. Julie Deane of the Cambridge Satchel Companywanted to raise money to send her six-year old daughter (who was being bullied) into private education. She started off small, making leather satchels for the children of Cambridge, using a modest investment of £600 of her own money to get the idea of leather satchels in unusual colours off the ground. The company very quickly became a global success. A feature in the Guardian Newspaper cited the bags as “a cult among twenty-something fashion bloggers.”
The company was inundated with orders and she never looked back. Cambridge Satchels have regularly appeared on celebrities and on TV shows such as Glee and The Good Wife. In fact, over the years the company has collaborated with the likes of Comme des Garcons, Christopher Shannon, Dr Martens and Basso and Brooke. The bags have graced the pages of The New York Times and were dubbed “The Brit It Bag”. And that’s not all. As well as a thriving online business and a store in Covent Garden, the Cambridge Satchel Company designs, manufactures and sells classic leather satchels around the world.
Research shows that they are producing in excess of 500 bags per day from their factory in Leicestershire with an annual turnover in excess of £13million. Not bad for a woman who just wanted to beat the bullies.
Another lady who has done well from her kitchen table is award winning entrepreneur Mary Ann O’Brienwho was inspired by a chance encounter in a South African hotel kitchen to catapult her entrepreneurial dreams. The story goes that she met a woman operating a chocolate business from the hotel, and then spent the next two weeks learning all she could about the process. With no formal training she decided to study with the Masters and began her business melting and hand-piping in the evening and acting as a door to door sales woman during the day. It payed off. She was given a £250,000 contract and then within two years awarded her first airline contract which saw her output shift from hundreds into millions.
Today the group serves in excess of 17 million branded Lily O’Brien’s chocolates on 23 airlines around the world. Mary Ann comes from a family or renown horse racers but she knew she always wanted to run her own business. Now, she is a well-respected politician; multi award winning entrepreneur operating from a state-of-the-art factory employing over 100 people and manufactures up to 60 tonnes of luxury chocolates per week. Lily O’Brien’s Confectionary has a thriving export arm that accounts for 75% of its annual turnover.
After suffering the loss of her son Jack from brain damage she started the Jack and Jill Foundation with her husband, who had also lost a child from his previous marriage. Over the years, the charity has raised millions of pounds in order to provide support and nursing care to terminally ill children in their own homes.
Finally, my favourite home business guru is the late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, now known as Dame Anita Roddick She was famous not only for her founding of The Body Shop, but also her roots in human rights activism and as an environmental campaigning. She began making and selling natural beauty products made of ingredients not tested on animals from her kitchen table.
As an avid traveler with limited funds, Anita set up her business to make an income to support her and her daughters while her husband was trekking overseas. She called it a business of survival. By 1976 she opened the very first shop and six months later she opened her second shop. Seeing what a success the business was, her husband joined the company and introduced the idea for ‘self-financing’ in order to open new stores. This sparked the growth of the franchise network through which The Body Shop spread across the world.30 years on, the Body Shop has become a multi-local business with over 2,200 stores in 55 different markets. Anita was a strong advocator of Fairtrade in the cosmetic industry to ensure the smaller suppliers in emerging countries were paid a decent wage for their labour.
The Body Shop Community Trade Programme has enabled many women to make a reliable and regular income. Sadly, Dame Roddick passed away in 2007 but not before penning her autobiography and setting up a small activist communications centre. In the words of former (British) Prime Minister Gordon Brown “She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market.
As one of this country’s most successful businesswomen, she was an inspiration to women throughout the country striving to set up and grow their own companies.” If like me, you have been inspired by these examples and want to know how to run a successful business from home, why not attend the “Spare Room or Kitchen Table: How to Run a Successful Business From Home” event taking place on Monday 29th June 2015 at City Hall, London SE1 between 6pm – 8.30pm. Admittance is free but places must be booked at https://nbwnspareroomkitchentable.eventbrite.co.uk