Sometimes we all have ideas but how does that idea turn into a business?
One woman who is making it happen reveals her secrets. Getting a foot in the door of the business world is tough at anytime but when you’re a Mum and helping to run other family businesses, it can be even harder, but it can be done.
Tracey Topp from Rotherham in North Canterbury had one of those ideas which all began from what she describes as “a small idea”. “I’d been looking for some woollen
socks for my two boys and couldn’t find any anywhere. So I began thinking, how crazy it was that we live in New Zealand which is renowned worldwide for our
sheep and there was a lack of
wool socks for children. I guess it all just started because I wasn’t happy that my children didn’t have warm feet and so I started thinking about how many other children didn’t have warm feet and wool socks too.” And so from there Cosy Toes was born.
Now for most of us, an idea would stop there as the demands of everyday life take over. “I believe if you go to bed thinking about something and you are still thinking about it in the morning then you should really do something about it. If you wake up and aren’t still thinking about it – it’s probably not meant to be.” The internet was the logical way to start Cosy Toes. “Because of my location and family commitments the website opened me up to the world almost instantly.” Through talking to others she found a website designer who helped out with the logo and the overall design of the website which also lead to the same design being used on brochures and business cards. “We chose bright colours and cartoon characters throughout the website. The name “Cosy Toes” had a child like connotation. My logo is of a wolf and a pig, (The Three Little Pigs) with their arms around one another as friends, dancing with socks on. It’s really important to match your design with your product.” she says.
Five years on Cosy Toes has grown in demand and has also expanded its product range into a practical range of merino wool clothing. All socks and clothing are made in New Zealand. “I’m continually coming up with new ideas which sometimes can frighten me as I’m not sure whether I’ve ever been so passionate about something in my life for so long! I’ve grown in confidence along this journey, but I feel I also made some sensible ‘back bone’ but practical decisions from the beginning which has helped my journey.”
Some of Tracey’s advice for beginning a business by website or mail order would be:
• Start small and with what you can afford. The beauty about a website is that you don’t have to have loads of stock to begin with and you can grow your stock numbers according to demand.
• Think carefully about pricing and presentation and then think again before you start marketing and going live with your website.
• Target your advertising to the correct market and be careful not to get carried away and waste your advertising dollar.
• Start a customer contact list where people can subscribe from day one to offer specials and to tell customers about new products. You can also make some great friends by doing this.
• Offer fast, uncomplicated delivery service. When people are ordering off a website they have to wait for their order – unlike a shop which you can get your products there and then once they are paid for. This can have a disadvantage over a retail store.
• Update and add to your website regularly. Don’t just sit back and think, “I have a website and it will work for me”. This helps with searching for your site on search engine ratings.
• Talk to others constantly and listen. Get a business mentor or just listen to what ideas your customers have.
• Remember things won’t happen overnight.
• Make sure you know the reason you are doing what you are doing. That might sound strange but if you don’t have a reason then what is the purpose.
Having your own business can be very satisfying but also demanding. “When I think back to when Cosy Toes began I was so excited when my first order came through and that is what is important for me to remember those small things now so I can see where my business has expanded to. I get orders from all over the world and also wholesale enquiries from all over the world too. The juggling act can be hard to find the time for everything and you have to be prepared to work long after what used to be your bedtime. The upside of it all is that I’m learning all the time and very excited about what the future holds for Cosy Toes.”
And the final bit of advice would be: “If you feel strongly about something, find out all you can first then take small steps and let them grow with enthusiasm!”