Businesses are set up by people with vision and drive, but they’re not extraordinary or superhuman and they have to contend with the same financial and domestic pressures as the rest of us. I hope these stories will inspire those who are struggling with their business or who are considering setting one up.
I’m starting with online clothing and fashion business Fantasy Wardrobe, set up by Gemma Dawson of West Yorkshire (pictured above). With experience in car sales and at a solicitors and some A levels in business management, Gemma began trading in April 2009.
She’s also the mother of a toddler and is expecting a second child in early 2010. As any parent knows, children demand bucketfuls of time and energy.
Gemma chose fashion because that is what she loves. She says passion for the product is important: “It keeps you interested, focused, and makes you want to work to make the business work.”
Starting a business requires a considerable investment of time and often money. To date Gemma’s put in £1,000 of her own and poured in a huge amount of time sourcing and researching. Where possible she's made use of free material from the internet or information from books.
As with any business, getting customers is a challenge. But Gemma's now got a steady stream of business and has more than covered her start-up costs. She started with fancy dress products but has since expanded the range.
Every new venture faces challenges. Gemma's was getting the website up and running and learning the needs of her customers. Because many of her products are inexpensive she found potential buyers were being put off by the delivery charge, so that's now been dropped.
Gemma is upbeat about the prospects for Fantasy Wardrobe in 2010. This is the first time she's run a business and she's learned a huge amount in the first few months. With strong foundations in place she's confident that the business will grow and is hoping to move into larger premises within the next 12 months.
Update November 2010: Read how Gemma's online business has changed since this original post was written.
If you've set up a business in 2008 or 2009 and have a story to share drop me a line via email or make contact via Twitter.
Andrew Knowles is a freelance writer.