Always wanted to work for yourself? That's exactly what these women have done...
‘I formed the idea to produce and sell a tourist T-shirt synonymous with Norfolk’
The idea: ‘While my children were growing up, I juggled motherhood with the farm accounts and a busy holiday letting business. My years of dealing with tourists set me thinking about how people shop on a British seaside holiday, and I sketched out a few crabbing-themed designs.’
What happened next: ‘I found a couple of keen young graphic designers to refine my crab design, sourced a print shop and got some T-shirts printed. I spent around £1,500 on designs and printing 100 children’s T-shirts.’
Where I am now: I have 70 stockists in the UK (including National Trust) and I’ve just completed my first order in Spain. In 2010 I started selling online, in 2011 I opened my own shop in Burnham Deepdale and in 2012 we opened another in Southwold. For the first four years, I just covered my living costs, but my partner and I both now take salaries. I’m in control of my time and my business allows me to be creative, gives me a sense of achievement and earns me money – all done from home.
‘I saw a gap in the market to offer West End treats outside of London’
The idea: ‘I was waiting to have my nails done at the Urban Retreat in Harrods, and thoight how nice it would be if that kind of luxury was available in rural Hertfordshire, where I live. I’d always loved the idea of starting my own business so I began to formulate a business plan.’
What happened next: ‘I’d noticed that a shop was available on my local high street. There were no other salons in the area offering what I intended to, so I took the plunge and quit my job. A week before opening, my husband and I posted 500 leaflets through letter boxes and I paid £800 to place an ad in a country paper. The very next day I found 17 bookings on my answering machine!’
Where I am now: ‘In 2013, I reinvested £50,000 from my business to open my second salon, a day spa in a rented 15th-century building in the nearby village of Old Welwyn. I have ten members of staff across the two salons, a manager in the day spa and more than 4,000 regular clients, aged from 17 to 85.’
‘My son’s diabetes inspired me to create an app’
The idea: ‘Around four years ago, my son Solly developed type 1 diabetes at the age of ten. I’m a psychologist specialising in healthy eating, so I was able to support him to a certain extent, but managing his eating and insulin injections was very difficult. I hunted for an app that could help us count the carbs of the food we cooked but there was nothing out there.’
What happened next: ‘I started to research the idea. It took two years of solid research about apps and websites, the diabetes market, and diabetes support groups and nutritional databses. I knew I could tap into the market and help people find an easy way to manage their insulin requirements. I didn’t have any money to spend on the app, so I knew I had to make it as cheaply as possible and get it right the first time. The cheapest quote I could find with the highest standards was a company in Belarus for £14,000. I couldn’t afford it and I even took on another job as a project manager to raise funds. In the end, I remortgaged and raised the money that way. It took three months and a huge amount of determination, but I was thrilled with the results.
Where I am now: ‘I left my job last year and, if my accountant’s figures are on target, I should make around £150,000 from app sales this year, which I’m so proud of.
‘I have lodgers, but only Monday to Friday’
The idea: ‘I wanted to make a bit more money with minimal effort. A friend who was renting out her spare rooms to lodgers was really positive about her experience and asked me to do it. Two of my three bedrooms weren’t being used and I’d recently converted a garage into an extra room with an en suite. I looked online and stumbled across mondaytofriday.com, which is for professionals looking for board and lodgings during the week.
What happened next: ‘I registered with the website and created an advert for my property, which was really simple to do. Within days I had lots of enquiries. I clicked immediately with a nice young chap who was a town planner. He’s been with me for two years now.
Where I am now: ‘ It’s a really decent income and very little work involved. I’ve set the bedrooms up as little hotel rooms, with an armchair, desk, kettle and cups and TV, so they are as self-sufficient as possible.
‘My love of salad led me to my dream business’
The idea: ‘I was interested in natural produce and thought about making salads. I talked to a few supermarket buyers about what was lacking on their shelves, and they said a salad dressing without preservatives. I played about with mayonnaise, oils, herbs and spices, and found a way of preserving using natural ingredients.’
What happened next: ‘I left my job and used my savings to launch the business. It was exciting but I made a lot of expensive mistakes. I had three flavours made – lemon and mustard seed, ginger and toasted sesame, and raspberry and sweet basil. I managed to get my products into Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods in my first year. My turnover was £9,000, which went back into expanding the busines. In my second year, my turnover was £100,000.’
Where I am now: ‘My turnover is triple what I made in my second year and I’m hoping to double it next year. I’m now in over 1,000 supermarkets and retail outlets all over the UK and I want to carry on expanding and go global.’