Interview with a career change mum - Lucy Tones

Today I interview the lovely Lucy Tones who has a beautiful shop in Cheshire and a website for those of us that don't live nearby. 

1) What gave you the idea to start up your business?

It was a dream I'd held for quite a few years, but the timing had never been right. And then after my third stint of maternity leave I found that timing, finances, and opportunity coincided - so all I needed to do was add a large dollop of courage and self belief!

The business now allows me to combine the experience I gained previously in business management, communications and marketing, with the creative hobbies I'm passionate about. I love it!

2) What did you do to prepare to start up your business?

I had quite strong gut instincts about what would make the business work, but I backed that up with research. I ran online surveys, visited other craft shops and spoke to their owners, met with suppliers, and then wrote a detailed business plan. 

I was especially cautious about budget - I had a limited investment to start up with so every penny I spent had to be carefully considered. Going through the process of preparing a sales forecast, and also working out exactly what my regular overheads would be was essential, and I still spend quite a lot of time analysing the finances and keeping a close eye on cashflow.

3) Which aspects of your business did you need help with? Where did you get that help?

Possibly like many other career change mums I felt I needed someone to keep me on track with my plan, and to boost my confidence when it dipped. So I found a fabulous mentor in the form of Maeri Howard from The Make and Do Studio (www.http://themakeanddostudio.co.uk). She's another woman who has changed career post kids, and she runs a really great creative business. Not only did she offer helpful advice and introduce me to essential supplier contacts, but she also made sure I kept up momentum. Without Maeri I would probably still be *thinking* about starting my business! 

4) Describe what your business does and who you target it at / your ideal client

I own and run Magnolia Tree Crafts - a boutique for modern crafters. Athough primarily a yarn business, I also cater for people who sew, embroider, and make all sorts of other things.

I have a bricks and mortar shop in my home village of Poynton, Cheshire - but every product is also available on my website (www.magnoliatreecrafts.com) so my customers could be literally anywhere in the world.

My passion lies in helping people find modern ways to get into craft. Crochet is not just for grannies - there are some fabulous modern crochet patterns available now - and the same goes for knitting and embroidery.

That said, I also have a stalwart base of retired customers who like to make more traditional things, so I am here for them too!

5) What is the most rewarding thing about having your own business?

I love the independence - there's no one looking over my shoulder and I don't have to deal with office politics and employment admin like annual appraisals! 

Instead I spend my days in a lovely bright colourful craft shop, talking with customers who are planning their next project. I love helping them work out what they want to make, and matching up the materials and equipment they need. Quite often they pop back in a few days later to show me what they've made - or post a photo of it on my Facebook craft group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/995412687244939).

6) What has been the biggest challenge?

Finding a suitable shop was pretty intimidating - especially when it came to negotiating rent and lease terms. But that's where finding a good lawyer was important, as much as it felt like a blow to my budget to pay the legal fees, it was reassuring to know that the paperwork had been carefully checked and riskier details ironed out in my favour. 

 7) If you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?

Stay focused, don't let the self doubt creep in, and do set mini milestones along the way. That way you can see your progress towards the bigger goal - which feels great! 

www.magnoliatreecrafts.com and www.facebook.com/magnoliatreecrafts 

(Also this blog post: http://magnoliatreecrafts.com/want-start-creative-business/)