With the never-ending list of flourishing businesses taking up every inch of our advertising space, it can be easy to ignore their presence and continue on in the same boring daily routine of browsing the same sites for the same products. However, there is a lot that can be unearthed when you try to dig up bargains from business owners, with surprising results!
This current age of advertising, marketing and technology may seem daunting to wade through. Lots of younger people in particular might be tempted to start up their own business using plenty of open-source online tools to help them, but feel worried or unsure about how to do it. And with so many others attempting to do the same, it can be a disheartening venture. However, experience from those who have gotten their fingernails dirty and gotten to the root of their venture is an untapped resource of seedlings ready to be planted.
One such local business owner is Alex Roff, founder of a small independently owned business known as Petals and Pearls. Working alone, Alex creates artificial floral designs for clients, and was gracious enough to accept an interview with us. Cool, casual and competent, her presence seems to naturally light up a room even before any questions have been asked. After some informal chat, Alex is more than ready to begin an interview and seems very eager to explain a lot about what exactly started her off on pursuing a small business.
“I’ve always been a creative person. There were these little letters that my cousin’s friend wanted for her wedding… and my cousin was like, ‘Alex, she’s a very creative person, she could do this, let me ask her’. The woman was over the moon about it and she sent me pictures, it was beautiful. And then I wondered what I could do with these flowers…I wondered what else I could do with these and what other things I could’ve created, so I tried doing a wreath and it came out absolutely beautifully. It made me start thinking ‘I wonder if this could be something more than just a little hobby. ’And it kinda just developed from there, really!”
From what initially was just a creative hobby, a budding business had blossomed forth. But Alex is quick to mention that it wasn’t just the financial side of things that motivated her to keep going once that initial spark had illuminated a career path.
“I met people in the creative arts and craft sorts of area, started doing stall events at different fairs and hotel events and things like that… There were so many lovely comments being said and the amount of people that were interested… Yeah, I think it was the really lovely comments, the really nice [things] people were saying about the products and saying about me, and me as a businesswoman, how I was very professional, how the products and the delivery was really good, the pricing.”
Having people there not only as customers but also supportive comments and the like was and still is a great benefit to Alex. This is especially true when it comes to social media, noted by Alex as being “a big part of people’s lives”, meaning more effort was required than just creating a page on Facebook. While a ‘like’ here and there is a way of showing support, directly voicing the positive reviews and opinions you have are far more genuine and helpful to a small business owner, and is more likely to work in favour of certain algorithms for advertising and promotions. “My mum and my sisters added people, my friends started adding people and it just built it up to the point where I have one thousand three hundred members now… My goal is to get two thousand by the end of this year, so it’s exciting, it’s fun.”
Alex’s experiences in building a business from scratch have resulted in the necessity for her to learn fast. Without missing a beat, she is able to relate how her experiences have yielded a brighter and successful foundation for her future endeavours.
“I’ve never had my own little business before. There are a lot of things I had to figure out and learn for myself. Like, I’m horrendous with maths, I’m terrible with maths. But I’ve had to learn to do, y’know, profits and working out all the materials etc. and things like that… No matter how small [a business] is, you have to know how to do all sorts of things… It started with me just making up some creations, and then it got to the financial side of it and there are a lot of skills that I’ve learnt.”
“I am looking to hopefully get an actual website going once I’ve got a bit more of a plan of action. You’ve got two types of people, really; people that will just jump into it and go for it, and then you’ve got the others that will plan it and make sure it’s right before you do it. I am one of the planning types, because… I want this to come across as a professional business, no matter how little it is.”
Looking at the steps Alex has taken to building up Petals and Pearls into something bigger, there’s no doubt of her first-hand credentials when it comes to making a business. In turn, she has plenty of tips and tricks to offer for anyone who shares the desire to start up their own independent creative outlet.
“I think my advice would be to set yourself a plan. Don’t rush into the idea. With this sort of thing it can be exciting, you kinda just wanna go for it. And I think definitely do, don’t hold back on that if you wanna. I think I was lucky that this was actually something that did work and people were interested in.”
“It doesn’t matter how great your products are; if you’ve not got the people interested and you haven’t got the customers you’re not gonna get anywhere with it. So what you need to make sure is that you’re doing the correct approach, you’re planning it out correctly, you’re thinking about it, you’re trying to go ‘What will make mine stand out?’ And then you kinda just go from there and it just falls back into place.”
Making a business is all the more difficult when everything is being held up by one person, but having an action plan can alleviate the stresses that come with the typical slow start.
“It kind of means you have to think about your customers… plan on what you can do with the products you are choosing. You need to study, with craft/handmade products you wanna look around for the best and cheapest materials. With my stuff, one of the big things about it is… when I did my first event a lot of people were shocked by the prices… They said that the stuff looked more expensive than what it was, which is fantastic because when someone says something like that it means you’ve got a really good quality product. But then you’ve also got the added factor that they’re shocked by the price, and they think ‘it’s that affordable, I have to have it!’, which is quite an enticing thing for when you’re selling to people.”
Don’t discount the value of customer care; building genuine connections from the start with customers and clients ensures you have a strong user base. “It’s also the customer service stuff… You’ve got to be willing to smile. I’ve always been chatty, I get it from my mum. But I would definitely say you can’t expect customers to get stuff from you if you have not given the correct attitude and the correct approach about it. You want to be smiling, you want to be happy, you wanna be able to create a relationship with each customer even if it’s a one-off customer… you want that interaction. That moment that you have with them, you want it to go well. You want it to be opening up the possible chance that they’ll purchase from you again.”
All in all, one brief interview has helped to promote and grow an idea from a small sprout into a mighty endeavour that will only spread further and further with time. If you are in this position, use the advice from learned and experienced creators to motivate your efforts. Do the research and treat it with care. When you do this right, you can sit back with a proud smile on your face and watch your garden grow indefinitely.