insideKENT Magazine Issue 60 - March 2017 - Page 149

How did you make the transition from your 9-5 jobs to both being full time in your business ?

Michelle was on maternity leave with George ( now 5 ) and it was becoming clear that sales were growing with Auntie Mims . It was a little scary to fully commit to the business , but Michelle decided that after returning to work as a teacher she would give it one year before trying to make Auntie Mims work full time . All went well and after our Personalised Wooden Spoons saw phenomenal sales one Christmas , we knew that there was more mileage in what we were doing , combining Michelle ' s design skills with the technology we had available .
As the business grew , so we were calling in more support from friends and part-time help and Peter was managing to hold down his career as a music teacher but working from 4am before school and late into the night . One Christmas we had people working 24 hours to meet demand , from our spare room at home with the children asleep upstairs ! After a health scare back in 2014 , Peter followed suit with a change of career , and we were suddenly working on Auntie Mims full time . We moved from home to our first workshop and are now in a large studio and warehouse space near Dover with an extension currently being built for us as we grow .
What has been the most challenging part about your growth ?
The hardest thing for us has been ensuring that our designs and ideas are always fresh and original whilst watching out for the copycats ; as soon as we have new products available it is only a matter of time before other , less creative businesses , are imitating . This used to really upset us but now we just have to stay one step ahead and resolve to be better and better . We really like notonthehighstreet ' s old strapline of being ' a life less ordinary ' – this is what we aspire to for ourselves and our products .
Beyond this , making sure that our eggs are not all in one basket has been a key factor in the past year . We were far too over-reliant on NOTHS as our sole platform but now , as the Auntie Mims brand has grown , people find us . Traffic to our own site and via Etsy is up and we supply a diverse range of corporate customers from Buckingham Palace to Jamie Oliver ' s Fifteen Restaurants and Lily O ' Brien ' s Chocolates . We have also just acquired a new business called HOWKAPOW ( www . howkapow . com ). This is a successful online retailer which sources beautiful gifts and home items from small independent brands and artists – this is a very exciting move for us and sits nicely alongside Auntie Mims .
Was there ever a moment where you thought , ' What have we done ?', and how did you get over that hurdle ?
Never . There really hasn ' t been time . We know we are truly lucky but are both very much forward thinking . We look for new opportunities all the time and when working for yourself you very clearly have your destiny in your hands .
What ' s your most popular product ?
Historically it has been our wooden spoon heads – we sell thousands of these , personalised , every year . Hammers are a close second but more recently our personalised destination Road Signs have taken off hugely . These were our best seller at Valentine ' s Day .
Congratulations on your recent milestone of serving your 100,000th customer ! When you first set up shop , was it always your goal to make a career out of it , or did the business grow organically ?
Not at all . It is always a surprise and delight when the orders ping through , but the growth
has been organic . Back in 2008 we were always excited with an order a day ; these days it can be as many as 800 a day at Christmas – we still can ' t quite believe that happens !
Where did the name ' Auntie Mims ' come from ?
Mims was the name Michelle was know by when she was young , and she has always been Auntie Mims to her nephews – it came from there .
If you could only give one piece of advice to a ' beginner ' entrepreneur , what would it be ?
Do it . Take the first step . Take every bit of advice you can . The ' business ' bit is what is most tricky for creatives in particular . Online forums are a great starting place and small business owners tend to be the most helpful people around . It ' s a great community .
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