Learning from other’s successes and mistakes – Notonthehighstreet.com

My journey on setting up Manylion Bach | Little Details Design has continued this week with more research into setting up a business and reading up about other companies’ successes and mistakes.

This week’s read was ‘Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table‘ by Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker, founders of www.notonthehighstreet.com.

I bought the book a few weeks again but it wasn’t until this week I had the opportunity to sit down and read it properly. I’ve flicked through it but I’ve been distracted by something else like my iPad. Last Monday, I had a business meeting down in London with work which meant four hours on the train – perfect opportunity to read the book.

Light Reading - 'Build a Business from your Kitchen Table' from the lovely ladies of notonthehighstreet.com and Cath Kidston's 'Coming Up Roses'
Light Reading – ‘Build a Business from your Kitchen Table’ from the lovely ladies of notonthehighstreet.com and Cath Kidston’s ‘Coming Up Roses’

I have to admit, I don’t read books often and I feel guilty that I don’t dedicate more time towards reading or motivation to sit down and concentrate. Give me a cookbook or a supermarket magazine any day, I’ll read these without any problems. I only manage to settle down and read a book when I know I’m not going to be disturbed or distracted, and that’s while I’m on holiday.

So, it’s 8.25am, I’m on the train to London and I’ve started reading ‘Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table’. I look up and the train pulls out of Reading station. What just happened? I haven’t checked my work emails for over an hour. Yes, this is a good read. This hasn’t happened in a long time.

By the time I arrived in London two hours later, I’m half way through the book and all I could think about throughout  the day was finishing the book. I can reassure you, I wasn’t reading the Hunger Games Trilogy. I was gripped by a business book.

On my journey back to Cardiff, I had a quick look at my work emails then straight back into the book. By the time I jumped off the train in Cardiff and waiting for my train home, I finished the last chapter on the platform.

It was fascinating to read about Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker journey in setting up notonthehighstreet.com. Just two mums with a great business idea and in search of a better work/life balance. Being a regular visitor of their website, I never thought once about any potential problems they might have experienced while setting up the company. I always assumed the founders had massive capital, got the site up and running from day one with no problems, no debt and bathed in £20 notes every night.

That wasn’t the case – they had problems, they did mistakes, lost a lot of money but they didn’t give up on their idea and eventually got notonthehighstreet.com up and running in 2006. A lot of their mistakes could have been easily avoided if they were advised properly, seeked better guidance and research more. I’ve name note of their mistakes to ensure I don’t do anything similar.

As for problems like website issues – unfortunately these cannot be avoided. I share their pain when working with a dodgy digital agency! I will probably come across my own set of problems and issues and I’ll just have to tackle them head on.

End of the day, they didn’t let their mistakes, issues, problems and worries affect their dream to set up notonthehighstreet.com. They had an excellent business idea, and it’s an idea that has helped 1000s of other small businesses in the UK to grow and sell their products.

Putting their story to one side, their guide on setting up a small business is very good and comprehensive. I knew a lot already after attending a ‘Starting a Business – Taking the Plunge‘ workshop with Business Wales a few weeks back, but this has a female approach to it. Written in simple English, with very little business lingo (there’s a glossary to explain the terminology), easy to read and broken down into simple chapters like Business Plan, Marketing, Financing etc.

What makes this book different to the other business books that it discusses honestly about Work/Life Balance – working from home, childcare, setting up an office, your relationship with your husband/other half, relationship with family and close friends, money worries. These are topics most women worry from time to time but are probably a bit reluctant to talk about, especially when considering giving up full time work becoming self employed.

We all dream about the perfect Work/Life Balance, especially us women. Every woman with babies and young children wish to spend more time at home with them, being there for school plays, picking up / dropping off from school and not spend their entire income on childcare and feel guilty about going to work. Leaving full time employment and becoming freelance or self employed might be the best solution for most women in this position however it is a lot harder to achieve than what many think.

This section on Work/Life Balance did highlight the pros and cons in taking this step, and it did make me think how can I achieve this and how it could affect my relationship with my husband, family and friends. I can do my jobs when my husband is watching football on TV, out watching football or away on stag weekends. But what happens when I’ve got so much design work to do that I come to the stage I send most evenings in the studio and not relaxing on the sofa with my husband and dog?

What happens if I decide to become self employed? How will I adjust not having a monthly salary not be able to pay myself a wage for a few months, even years? What cutbacks and sacrifices will I have to make to get MB|LD a success? Will I have to cancel Sky Movies?

And don’t get me started on starting a family. Throwing a baby into the mix just complicates things more.

A lot to consider and planning for the future (not forgetting saving money!) however I’m not at that stage yet to quit full time employment. It is still early days yet for MB|LD and I’m confident that I will be able to fulfil up and coming job requests in the evenings and the occasional weekend.

I’m glad I’ve bought this book and invested some time to read it. Again, like the ‘Starting a Business – Taking the Plunge’ workshop, this little book has given me a confidence top up as well as keeping my focus on setting up MB|LD the proper way.

This book is definitely a keeper and one that I will reference back while doing my business plan and all the other necessary paperwork for MD|LD.

Next on my reading list is Cath Kidston’s ‘Coming Up Roses – The Story of Growing a Business’. Hope it’s as gripping as Notonthehighstreet.com!


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