The past two years have been challenging for EnterprisingYou client, Victoria Merness. After finishing her Master's Degree, she set up her business - Little House of Victoria, all whilst having to isolate. With a background in Contemporary Fine Art, Victoria also has a varied professional experience in marketing, office management, and accountancy. She has now set herself a mission to promote the therapeutic practice of stitching through her embroidery to help people’s wellbeing and provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
We chatted with Victoria to learn more about her mission and business.
How did you start your business?
In March 2020, when lockdown hit, I graduated with an MA in Contemporary Fine Arts from the University of Salford, but unfortunately, I also lost my employment in the events industry. That was a big shock, and I wasn’t able to go out and earn money for health reasons. So, I went into self-employment. The reason I wanted to set my business up was so that I could work in the area which I'd studied. Luckily, I've started going through the Launch Business Programme at the University of Salford who help businesses to launch.
The whole meaning behind my business was therapeutic to help people's well-being. It was about the art of flow and as embroidery is a therapeutic craft, the flow process drives relaxation. I have designed a series of embroidery kits that are easy for beginners and very portable so that people can take them everywhere. I tried and tested everything, from the right embroidery needle to the most suitable fabric, and the printed templates mean that people can pick them straight up.
How has your business been doing in the last two years?
My business has only just turned profitable after two years and it has been such a learning curve. I've got a lot of product lines; I was pushing many designs out and didn't have time to review them all.
In the first year of business, I secured a contract with Hochanda Global and appeared on six TV shows on their Craft Store and Create & Craft TV channel. At first, it felt terrifying as I had never done it before. I have to show and demonstrate my products in front of live TV for an hour, sew and talk about my business and what it means to wellbeing. People buy it straight away if they like it. It's been fantastic exposure, and I have grown my mailing list through this channel. Since then, I've been able to target and think about the different selling channels.
At this point, I can finally take a step back and look at the product I've got and think about the direction of my business. I have a clearer picture now of what people want. My market lies where my customer lies. Whereas previously, I was relentlessly throwing mud at a wall and seeing if any stuck, and it did.
How did you hear about the EnterprisingYou programme, and what’s your experience so far?
I joined the EnterprisingYou programme because the University recommended it. They suggested that once everything had finished with the Launch Programme, people should join EnterprisingYou. I first connected to my mentor, Isabelle Farquhar, from the Business Growth Hub, and then I joined the programme. My EnterprisingYou business coach, Vikki, is fantastic because she can assess what I need and recommend the proper training. It's not just for the training support, but Vikki's moral support and her feedback were fantastic because it's a lonely thing setting your own business up.
My costs were tight meaning I had to do everything myself. So, I was designing the product, buying the packaging, and running the website and social media. Although I had a marketing background, the principles are the same as ten years ago, but the channels are completely different. I was aware that there were skills I didn't have, such as digital marketing, video, and PR. I got this training through EnterprisingYou, which was like the jigsaw's final piece.
What I got from EnterprisingYou has been invaluable and practical, and I've probably put about 80% into practice. It's made a huge difference. I've got more of a direction and an idea now. And thanks to the programme, I have done my social media marketing right, which helped me secure the contract for the Hochanda’s TV shows.
What would you say to someone who’s started running their own business?
Do your market research, know your business, and identify your target market and your competitors. Be resilient and be prepared to learn. Be prepared for your business to take over your life as well. Last but not least, find your support systems wherever that might be - from your family, EnterprisingYou or anything out there that is recommended.
What does the future hold for your business?
I would really like to do more workshop teaching as it will help to drive the business. I need to do some serious thinking about profitability and whether to keep doing the TV programmes so it drives traffic to the website. I am at the stage where I can take a step back and do a complete business review – what are the top-selling products that I'm putting out, the level of packaging that I'm buying and the way that I'm presenting the products. For example, if I'm not going through the TV channel, I can present them differently and not hold stock. It is nice to be in that position to review rather than relentlessly pushing out designs.
You can find out more about Victoria and her business here:
We provide fully funded support to the self-employed and gig economy workers across Greater Manchester. If you would like to find out more about EnterprisingYou, register online or email email@example.com.
More information about the EnterprisingYou programme can be found here.