How did you find out about BWC?
Originally, when we opened Mudlarks in 2014, we were based in a little shop unit in Llandaff. We’d been on the lookout for a networking group to become members of, but didn’t come across anything which we felt suited us or that we would suit them. Our good friends Rachel Burgess (Rachel Burgess Bridal Boutique) and Sarah Thompson (Bespoke Admin), both Penarth residents, had been singing the praises of BW Penarth, so when we left our premises and became a pop-up we we’re really excited to join the group.
Which hub did you join and why?
Joining Business Women Penarth was something we were really pleased to find ourselves able to do once we had made the decision to widen our business vision to the Vale as well as Cardiff. We had heard so many good things about the group from friends, and we could imagine ourselves how wonderful it would be to have the opportunity to meet with and learn from other business women – let alone how many opportunities for collaboration might arise from our membership. Once we had attended our first meeting, hearing Caz from Waterloo Tea speak about his life in business and gone away feeling super-charged, we knew we’d made a good decision!
If you worked in the corporate world what did your career path involve?
Though neither of us had worked in the corporate world, we both have had other careers, and continue to work in the fields of education and television production. We originally met and became friends whilst working in the Art Department filming a series of Big Cook Little Cook!
What inspired you to start your business?
Years of working closely together on various television and event jobs made us realise that we had very similar outlooks on life and work. We’ve lost track of the amount of business ideas and plans we have discussed over the years! We both love beautiful things – our houses are filled to bursting with them – and especially things with a story, whether because they have some history about them or because they were handmade. We loved the idea of a shop where lovely new gifts and home accessories sat alongside vintage finds and locally handmade products, just as they do at home. Being makers ourselves, we were also really keen to provide a platform for local artists and craftspeople to showcase their work. We spotted the shop in Llandaff for hire and, with the encouragement of our fabulous friends and family, went for it!
What concerns do you have/did you have when taking the leap from corporate life to starting your own business?
The fact that Sam was heavily pregnant when the shop was launched, and Sarah was embarking on a Masters Degree course loomed rather large in our minds when it came to overcoming challenges in the beginning. Plus juggling work commitments outside of the business. We were pretty confident we had a strong vision, we felt determined and excited to be starting the journey, but, no doubt like many others who have their own business, we always knew balancing the various aspects of our lives both in and out of work would be challenging.
What has been the best and most challenging moments to date and why?
The most challenging time for us since Mudlarks was launched was definitely when we were asked to leave our little shop. We were very sad to learn that the premises was to become another in the long line of small shops to be taken over by a national supermarket chain. This happened at very short notice at the end of summer 2015, and to say that we were daunted by the prospect of reformulating the business to exist without the shop would be an understatement! By far and away the best part of owning our own business so far for us, and something which has only improved since leaving the premises and becoming a pop-up, is working with local artists and craftspeople and displaying their wonderful products. We love a good nosey and a chat – going around meeting makers and producers, learning about their craft (and parting with plenty of our own cash at the same time!) is a complete joy for us, as is knowing that we are in a position to help others grow their businesses.
Who inspires you and why?
We are lucky to have several good friends who have their own businesses. Their support has been invaluable and being able to look to them as a source of inspiration has really helped us along the way. There has been many an occasion when one of us has uttered the phrase ‘what would Hamptons do?’
What has been the key to your success so far, even if you are literally only days into launching your own business?
Flexibility! Having had to overhaul our vision for the business and take it in a completely new direction certainly taught us not to be rigid in our thinking. We’ve learnt to be open to new opportunities and not to be afraid to look for them in unexpected places. We might not have seen the changes we would need to make coming, but looking back we can see how moving away from our little shop gave us some of the balance we had been looking for in our working lives and therefore allowed us to be more successful in our approach to the business.
What are your 2016 business goals?
We are really excited to have been asked to re-launch the craft fair at Cowbridge Old Hall. On 23rd July 2016, Cowbridge Handmade Fair will bring together some wonderfully talented local makers and producers and will hopefully be the first of many such events in the beautiful market town.
What are your top 3 tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Collaborate with others – whether through a network such as BWC, co-working, teaming up with other local businesses or simply meeting with like-minded individuals for a cuppa – a support network in business for us has been wonderful.
Keep positive and look for the opportunities in everything, even in the most challenging situations.
If you’re working closely with a good friend, make sure you ban the topic of work once in a while!
What projects are you currently working on?
We have a series of pop-up shop events coming up, including the Boutique Gift Market and at Cowbridge Old Hall and we are booking up our diary for the run up to Christmas (our most favourite time of year!) We hope having launched Cowbridge Handmade Fair in July that we will continue to develop this event and expand it to take place a number of times in the near future.
What’s the best lesson to date you took away from your time at BWC?
We always feel like we leave BW Penarth meetings having expanded our minds – often not just in terms of our business! The more business and life stories we hear, the more we realise that business is definitely a process and a journey, that success is never instant but often, when we look back, we can see that we have made steps towards it. The best lesson we have taken away is to look at the bigger picture and remember that, at the moment, we’re only at the beginning.
What is your secret to a good ‘Life Long’ balance?
Working so closely as friends, even before we went into business together, we believe reminds us to put the most important things first – ourselves, our families, our sanity! As we mentioned before, banning the topic of work every now and then certainly helps!