Coming through redundancy

by Sian Merrylees on Monday, 16 February 2009

Hannah Van Dijk, 37, was made redundant from her marketing position at Egg, the online bank, in 2005. Hannah now lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, where she recently launched her shop, The Welsh Farming Company.

"One minute I was a high-flying marketing executive, earning a six-figure salary, the next I’d lost my job and was wondering what to do. I’d worked for Egg for five years.

Over the next few months I thought about where I was going. An old passion began to resurface. As a student I had worked in a variety of shops and fallen in love with the world of retail. It was a risk, but I decided to run my own retail operation.

I felt there was a gap in the market for ‘country chic’ sold on the high street. One weekend, I spotted 12 men in wax jackets in Clapham – hardly farming country! This reinforced my idea that there was a market for functional-yet-fashionable clothes and furnishings.

Less than a year after being made redundant, I’d bought the shop. In-between serving customers, I poured over my business plan. In the evenings, I trawled the Internet, researching my competitors and possible suppliers.

Luckily, Barbour was looking for an outlet in the area, and I persuaded them to stock their products in my store. Cosmetic brands, such as REN and Acqua di Parma, followed.

Since we opened, my social life is non-existent. Even though I have five full-time staff, I’m working constantly. The shop is doing better than I could have imagined and we’re about to launch our online store. I’m not worried about the recession. I’m confident of my figures and if I can survive when the economy is struggling, imagine what I can do when things start looking up?"

Old job: Marketing executive for Egg.
New job: Running my own retail and soon-to-launch online business.
Start-up costs: £200,000 from savings and a bank loan – £10,000 spent on branding and website.
First year’s turnover: Projected turnover for 2008/2009 is £350,000.
Worst mistake: Not buying enough stock for the shop initially. If you don’t have it, you can’t sell it.
Best move: Investing in property in Wales when prices were too high for me to buy in London. It gave me a bolthole and security for a loan.
Top tip: Be true to the vision of what you

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