Name of Business: Arabella Miller
Tell us about your family:
I’m married to Ron and we have two daughters aged 9 and two. We live in Lancashire now having lived most of our marriage in London and a couple of years in Scotland.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea (previous career, stay at home mum etc) and how was it making the transition?
I was a civil servant before I started Arabella Miller. I didn’t have a background in fashion but I had a burning ambition to run my own business and when I couldn’t return to my job after maternity leave, I decided to start my own organic kids fashion label, Arabella Miller. I started working in a corner of my dining room but soon there were boxes filling every room of the house and we couldn’t use our front door! I moved myself and the stock out to a room above a local office and this has helped develop the business further – in less cramped conditions!
How did you get started?
The Arabella Miller story began after my youngest daughter developed severe baby eczema (inherited from Daddy!) and I looked for eczema friendly baby clothing to ease her skin irritation. Wearing organic cotton baby clothing really helped to relieve her eczema and when she outgrew her organic babywear, we looked for more organic cotton clothes for children. One day we couldn’t find a completely organic t-shirt (including the ink!), so I decided to see if I could produce my own.
What has worked well about your business?
I have worked very hard developing the Arabella Miller brand. I think it’s vital to get your marketing right and be relentless – I do marketing every single day of the week – whether it is writing articles and news releases, refreshing website content or developing new marketing partnerships with other entrepreneurs. I am lucky as marketing is one of my main skills brought from my previous employment. I have also started to enter business competitions to market Arabella Miller too. This year the company was a finalist in the Startups Best Green Business award and I was a finalist in the ITV “This Morning” Mumpreneur competition. Both of these have given Arabella Miller some vital exposure and brought new opportunities.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
I think that the biggest challenge has been working in a completely new area. Fortunately I find research very enjoyable and have never been worried about asking questions and seeking advice. I have worked with some really great suppliers who have been very helpful too. And through networking I have found that if I don’t know the answer to a question, someone I know will !
How do you fit in work with the family?
With difficulty! There never seems to be enough hours in the day so I am often working when the children are in bed and at weekends. I am lucky that I have a husband who really supports the business and who does more than his fair share of childminding and housework! I would say that it is unreasonable to expect to run a business at the same time as looking after children. You need some time to concentrate on one or the other! Whether it’s working while the children sleep or while they are at nursery.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
I think that market research is key – you must be offering customers something new. I applied for Arabella Miller organic children’s clothes to be certified organic by the Soil Association, which gives parents that extra bit of reassurance of quality and safety. Soil Association certification means that that our organic cotton clothes can be traced right back to the field where the cotton was picked. I ensured that the ink in our unique designs is also certified organic by the Soil Association. This made Arabella Miller children’s clothes a first in the UK and a gave Arabella Miller a distinct niche. You also need to be prepared to develop a presence in the industry to reach stockists. Arabella Miller is a member of the National Childrenswear Association and I exhibit at Trade Fairs such as Premier Kids and Bubble.
Finally, you have to love what you do – because when things in the business are hard, you need to have that enthusiasm and drive you get from loving what you do to get you through the tough times.
Flexible working business opportunity:
I’m always looking for agents to sell Arabella Miller kids clothing. Joining the Arabella Miller team means that you can start your own green and ethical business at a fraction of the cost of “going it alone.” Unlike some agent schemes, our team earn a very generous 40% commission on everything they sell plus a monthly bonus of 10% of the value of their sales. You can find out more here: http://www.arabellamiller.com/agents-and-party-plan-9-w.asp