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Running an online fashion business

Interview with...

Katie Mowat
IT consultant for the asset finance industry
Business name:
Grannies Inc. Ltd
Retails bespoke knitwear handmade by a team of grannies
Trading for:
One year
ThinkstockPhotos 187730477

Read part one of Katie's interview: Starting a bespoke retail business

Krystena Petrakas: So you're an online retailer - would you ever want to have your own shop?

Katie Mowat: I would but the main concept about the business at the moment is we're a 'design-your-own' clothing company. So it's all about people being able to design the products themselves and manufacturing the garments on demand.

But a shop would be nice. We're thinking of getting our products into markets, like Spitalfields market.

You can get great feedback by selling at markets and it would be quite nice to meet some customers. It's good for market research as well. Although a little shop would be nice, I'd like to go and sell to a few boutiques around the UK who could feature our products in their store.

KP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of running an online business?

KM: Sometimes you can feel quite isolated, I spend a lot of my time indoors at my desk. You don't have the opportunity to get out and talk to people which is one of the main disadvantages. I find that I have to force myself to get out sometimes.

However, as an online business you take 100% of the profit and you're making a larger profit than if you had a shop, which is the main advantage.

KP: How hard was it to get ahead in the fashion and knitwear industry, would you say it is a very competitive market?

KM: We're quite unique in the fact that we're a 'design-your-own' retailers. There are other design-your-own beanie companies out there, but none that are knit by grannies, so we don't find that there isn't that much competition in that aspect of the business.

The edge we have on our competition is that out products are handmade by grannies, so there is that heart-warming feel to each product

However, the knitwear domain is a huge market. The edge we have on our competition is that out products are handmade by grannies, so there is that heart-warming feel to each product.

It would be lovely to bring a top knitwear designer into the company in the future. But for now I'm doing the designing and I'm not trained in this area, so I'm never going to be a cutting-edge designer.

KP: So, do you enjoy designing the products, or is that something you find difficult?

KM: I enjoy it but I think when taking the business forward it would be better to outsource the designing to someone who is more proficient at it.

I'm trying to run the business as well so it's a bit too much for me all in all. Last year was ok as I had the summer free to work on the designs, but we're hoping to launch a summer product next year so I won't be free to do the designs.

KP: How do you find the managerial aspect of running a business?

KM: I don't find the paperwork too difficult, I can generally do the accounts myself because I was in a job before which gave me the skills to do that.

The main thing that dragged me down last year was dispatching all the products. Intend to outsource that task to better free up my time. It's a bit of effort having to package the products and send them out, because you obviously want them looking fantastic when the customer receives their product.

KP: Have your working hours calmed down since the business became established?

KM: No not at all! I want to do the best for my business and there's no end of things you can do to improve your business.

The nature of our business is quite seasonal and last year we didn't have any products that would attract customers in the summer. You would think my hours would have calmed down a lot in those months, but at the time I was designing the knitwear for winter and getting the new website organised, so I was still quite busy!

Winter's our busiest seasons and it's kicked off again. So no I don't find the hours have really relieved at all, but it's my own business so I'm happy to work as hard as I can.

KP: Reflecting on how you started the business, would you do anything differently if you could do it all again?

KM: I don't think I would. Maybe I would have tried to combat the seasonality of the products, as I mentioned summer was obviously a downtime for us and this year we're going to try and bring out products to attract the summer market.

But I think I needed that time last year to be able to design and expand the business for the winter, so I'm not sure I would even regret doing that!

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