Mumpreneur Profile: Sharon-Elaine of The Lingerie Store

Name of Business:  The Lingerie Store

Tell us about your family:  I’m married to Derek and we have one son aged 18 months. We live in Nottingham.

When did you launch? December 2004

How did you get started?

It happened accidently!  I originally started out selling glass beads on eBay. I had bought a large quantity for a project at home, and decided to sell the surplus.  This went well, so I registered as self-employed and started buying beads to sell on.  A local lingerie company had a massive sale on one weekend, so I went along to buy some lingerie for myself and ended up buying lots to sell.   I added the lingerie to the glass bead website, and it sold really well, so I set up The Lingerie Store and stopped buying in glass beads, so I could concentrate on the underwear.

What has worked well about your business? 

Somehow, we have managed to give the impression that we are much bigger than we are!  I also feel we have done well to start out with basically no funding at all, just a few hundred pounds.

Christmas is a great time for the business. We always pack our orders in tissue paper, but from the 1st of December each year, all orders are wrapped in Christmas themed tissue instead.  In past years we have sent out Christmas cards with each order, or tied the tissue wrapped items with Christmas ribbon. One year we sealed the tissue paper with Christmas stickers instead of our usual logo stickers.  We also offer a full gift wrap service, where the customer can pay a fee for us to wrap their gift for them. We remove all price tags, and then pack the items in the gift box or bag of the customers choice from our extensive range. Great for men who have a phobia about wrapping paper and sellotape!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

How have you dealt with it?  The biggest challenge has been to develop the business without taking out a bank loan. The nature of lingerie retail is that you have to order a lot of stock up front, and then hope you will sell what you have bought. This means there are months when cashflow is incredibly tight.  I have learnt to plan for this and to be very careful with cash when I know a tight month is coming up.

How do you fit in work with the family? 

I’m not sure that I do!  On top of the business, I work full time as an accountant, so I am out 4.5 days of the week at work, and The Lingerie Store looks after itself until I get home. Once my son is in bed, I pack orders, answer emails, contact suppliers, do accounts and work on the website. I don’t get much sleep!

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area? 

When starting out, consider specialising in a size range. I have tried to cover a wide range of sizes, and this means carrying more and more stock. On hindsight, I think I would have been better off sticking to a specific range, either smaller sizes, larger sizes or popular sizes.  I think I was trying to please everyone all the time by stocking all the sizes, but everyone knows you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

The Lingerie Store may soon be for sale, watch this space!

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