We all like to brag about a success story don’t we… Focus on the good bits and smooth over the ugly parts.
In a way it makes us feel better. A version of keeping up with the jones’s I suppose.
In small business (especially when you’re new!) it’s the easiest thing in the world to hide behind a wall of social media and only put up “perfect posts”, but what about the times it goes wrong? Sometimes the best laid plans can go to pot no matter how organised you’ve been or how prepared you thought you were…
So this week I thought I’d share the story behind my biggest success so far, and how it all started off a bit… well… rather crap actually!
When I started On Point, what I really wanted more than anything was to attend a show. Not the west end variety, but the kind with exhibitors standing proudly behind there stalls showing off their exquisite wares. I’d all too often wander off into a little day dream and imagined myself at an exclusive country fair with luxury handmade gifts. You know the kind that A-List celebrities attend to but nobody dares says anything because they’re all faaarrrr too sophisticated to lower themselves to fanatical behaviour daaaarling.
Unfortunately reality hit me like a brick to the erm… proverbials… The one part I had not factored into my fabulous fantasy was the cost of attending one of these events. Let me tell you now, it is CRAZY how expensive some of these things are and I mean C-RA-ZZZYYYY. Not just hundreds of pounds but for some it’s even thousands!!! And when you’re a fledgling business that kind of cash is impossible to come by.
So I had to lower my sights (slightly!). No biggy I thought. “I just put myself down for one of those local community fates and build up from there. I’m sure it’ll be a roaring success” (little did I know!). I set about scouring the Internet to find a local event to attend,and to my surprise my old primary school was hosting a Christmas fare. I filled in the application form with eager anticipation, paid the small entry fee and set to work making plenty of stock for my stand.
When the big day arrived I put on my favourite Christmassy dress and sparkly festive earrings and packed the Clio jammed full of all my stock. I was so excited to be going to my first real fair! On the short drive there I was already having a mini panic attack about not having made enough stock and feared that I might run out at any moment! I should take the opportunity to point out that the event was in fact only four hours long
I didn’t get off to a great start as when I arrived I had no idea where to park, so when I finally found a spot to land my filthy little mud waggon (neatly between two shining 4×4’s) I wandered into the school. I was shocked to find that a mere 25 years later I was completely lost and unable to navigate my way to reception. However as I bumbled past the classrooms I spotted a lady wearing a ‘parents comity’ polo shirt and managed to grab her attention.
Loaded up with armfuls of bags like a Pack mule I waddled off down the corridor behind her as she kindly offered to chaperone me to my stand area. I was already out of puff after the first short flight of stairs and started to become a little despondent as we lumbered along what felt like an endless corridor, and another, and another, until we arrived in a expansive classroom at the very back of the school. It was there, nestled in the deepest darkest corner of the room that my two sad looking little tables sat, stacked up next to a child’s plastic orange chair…
“Oh God… What have I done..”
Never mind! Just take a deep breath and carry on! (Plus perhaps convince someone to buy me a glass of fizz from the prossecco bar upstairs!).
I set up in record time. Introduced myself to the other two ladies in my room (hoping I sounded totes professional and like I did this sort of thing aaalllllll the time) and settled down on the horrendously uncomfortable kiddie chair to await my adoring customers….
And wait I did…
Nothing. ABSOULTELY NOTHING! Not a bloody sausage and to top it all off I was ffrreeezzzinnnnggg cos the stingy buggers had only gone and switched off the heating!
I went the whole day without making a single penny. A few people drifted through the area I know like to call ‘the cave’ but they were either only interested in the children’s accessories and sweets on the other stands or did that thing that I now know all stallholders HATE (and I will never do ever again!) which is to walk up to a stand, touch EVERYTHINGand then wander off without saying a word…
So the hours came and went and I decided that I was going to start packing up early. What a waste of a Saturday afternoon!. To my surprise a lady walked into the room and made a beeline straight for my stand, I was expecting her to ‘finger’ everything and wander off like the others had but she actually spoke to me. “Do you do requests?” she enquired. “Absolutely” I replied “most of my business is making bespoke accessories for dogs, what did you have in mind?”.
The lovely lady wanted a plain bright red collar. Simple enough I thought, but for the fact she wanted it for Monday. This basically meant I would have to go home and make it immediately ready for her to collect in the following day. As I was already in a bit of a grump after the failure of my first fair, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the idea. I took down the ladies details and advised her that I needed to check my fabric stock to make sure I had the right colour and quantity available. Midway through the conversation her mobile rang and she had to scuttle off quickly out of the room promising to be back in a few moments. On her return she apologised profusely and mentioned that she was getting in a bit of a state as she was having to take her French Bulldog puppy up to London. Which was in fact, why she needed the collar at such short notice! little Dottie (as I now know her) was going to be in an advert.
An advert you say? Wellthat sparked my attention. At least this show may not have totalled a complete loss if I could get one of my collars into a picture in a local magazine, maybe even a mention of my fledgeling company. Even better still Dotty’s mum revealed it was an advert for the banking giant HSBC!!!
O-M-G!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!! Stay calm, stay cool and whatever you do, DO NOT PANIC!!!
Somehow (although I’m not sure how) I managed to restrain myself from leaping across the table, giving her a big, wet, sloppy kiss and saying thank you I love you!!
I shut up shop, ran out of the door and drove home at a speed that most definitely wasn’t in line with recommended limits! Leapt up into the sewing room and scoured high and low for just the right colour red. Fortunately as it was so close to Christmas bright red had featured highly as the backing material for my festive themed bandannas. As fortune would have it, little
Dottie was only founths old and Ihad just enough leftover in my scraps box to make her a teeny tiny red colour. In the end I actually made two collars as I had frightened myself into thinking her neck measurement would somehow be incorrect andthe one that I had made wouldn’t fit on the day.
So the following day the kind lady came to collect the collars that I had sat up and lovingly made. She had brought Dottie with her and I can tell you in real life she is an absolute cutie pie. At this point Dottie’s lovely mummy mentioned in passing that she hoped Dottie would behave herself on camera and that the shoot was not for a photograph as I had thought but for a TV advert! with none other than ‘The IT crowd’ actor Richard Ayoade. To say I was gobsmacked would be the biggest understatment of the year!!
I watch them trot off together down the road, slightly shell shocked and wondered when I might hear how the photo shoot went.
A few weeks later on a break at work I discovered I had several texts, missed calls and tags on Facebook from friends and family clamouring to tell me that my little collar was on the big screen!
I’m super proud that even in my first year with On Point I have managed to get one of my products onto such a widely seen platform. Of-course it all comes down to luck. I was just in the right place at the right time but it would be very easy to just tell everyone about the exciting bit at the end and leave out all very depressing parts that lead up to such a thrilling conclusion.
I think it’s important for people to know that life isn’t always perfect, especially in running a small business and even though something may not appear to be working in your favour you never know when your luck might change.