Starting a business – reflections from Julie Dodsworth

Posted: 18th January 2017

By: WiRE Team

julie-dJulie Dodsworth is an artisan British designer who works from  her narrowboat Calamity Jane on the Grand Union Canal. England. At the age of 50 julie started her ‘third age business’ – leaping into the unknown to follow her heart and turn her painting hobby into a high street brand. Julie shares her experience with us and some of the great advice she has been given by others along the way.

It all started for me with just a simple chance comment from my daughter ‘Mum your painting is lovely  I think it would sell’.

That’s just how the seed was sown. I see myself as a very ordinary girl who left school at 16 and was lucky to land a florists apprenticeship. Ive worked hard in my artisan world of plants and flowers all my adult life. But my childhood dream was always with me; to paint and create designs for the home.

Where to start ? What to do ? Why take the challenge?

For you, the idea of a third age ( or new age!) business may be just a twinkle in your eye or perhaps you’ve already started to sell your products and services to family and friends.  If you were to walk to China tomorrow it would start with one small step, and then another and another and eventually you would get there.  On reflection starting a small business is just the same and the best little steps to start your journey would be to make some notes .

Firstly, examine your reasons. Would you like to become wealthy , making lots of money , or would you be happy to just stay afloat for a while. If it’s the former, you could be sadly disappointed. Most self employed folks work incredibly long hours with little return in the early day s and the ongoing work may be challenging.

Secondly, consider that not all the time worked in your business will be using your craft. If you start out as I did , you will have to do a lot of  jobs which you may feel are not your core strengths. But don’t be put off , keeping a level business head and being organised is really just a combination of common sense and  simple housekeeping.

Providing a service or product will involve ‘selling ‘and finding a route to market. Without a customer you have no business . Having a lovely shopkeepers smile or being able to introduce yourself from cold will be as important as your trade. But if this doesn’t come naturally again, don’t panic If you love your work and feel confident about your product  your natural ‘sell’ will shine through.

If you are leaving your job, will you manage for money ? For how long?

Your new venture will rely very much on the support and understanding of those close to you .Try and chat through every eventuality and worse case scenarios. It’s great to to get encouragement but all your financial decisions, changes to family life and time implications need to be aired if they effect  those whose very support you’re going to need.

Here is a good point to put your first golden rule into place.

‘Never knowingly make an enemy in business ‘

This was incredibly good advice I was given very early in life. For sure if you are starting a business that may compete with your current employer you will be off to a terrible start. Better to get the blessings of all you know – it will count for such a lot down the years.

If you can manage your new fledgling business around your steady much the better. Although incredibly hard work it is a safe start and gives you the chance to invest your wages into your vision.

Start with some very simple maths. My service / product takes this much to make therefore I need to sell however many with this much mark up  to make this much money. Does the sum add up to cover those hidden overheads and leave a little over. If yes ,you could be off the mark.

A very simple business plan on one side of a4 paper should be enough to show your overheads ( heating, rent, insurances, telephones , transport etc plus the costs of basic materials ) against your predicted sales. Far better to over estimate the former and under estimate the latter . Consider being prudent to start..would the shed in the garden suffice instead of a rented space etc. ‘Making do’ until you get going could be the making of you !

I think back to my tiny work space within our home from where I could work ‘after work ‘, and my painting at the weekends still keeping me around the family. There were definite advantages beside the cost savings for my ‘ making do’. Being close by also kept everyone involved and I was amazed at the help and support my friends and family gave me.

From these tiny beginnings, my mind racing with possibilities and in awe of the market I was hoping to enter. I could plan within the warmth and safety of my comfort zone, yet knowing the magic was going to happen way outside of this cosy circle.

My golden motto was born…

If you never ask the question the answer is always no!

From here it was best foot forward and it was time to take a few more of those baby steps.
🌸Julie Dodsworth

‘Whenever you need us – we are there for you’

Julie 07940540428 Simon 07940540431

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