Your Name and Age:
Mark Readman – 29Tell us about your family:
I got married in March of last year to my wonderful wife Sinead, we have been together 8 years. No children yet as we are both enjoying our work, but there will be one day! We live in Ashford in Middlesex, this is where I grew up so have lots of family and friends here.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
I have a strong background in retail, which I have always enjoyed and after 10 years I moved into IT Project Management starting my own IT Consultancy Business. I have done a lot of work recently for Centrica and Vodafone which has been really fulfilling as it has a very different management style to that of retail. Grandma’s Gifts is my way of combining my passion for retail and online e-commerce. Making the transition has been hard work but something I have really enjoyed, I took the time out to personally meet all my suppliers, and have worked tirelessly evenings and weekends with the website designers to ensure the look and feel of the site is just right.
How did you get started?
I have always noticed over the years that my Grandparents were the hardest people to buy presents for, and more recently I started asking others if they had the same problem. I then conducted some local market research and found this is quite a common problem, many young people resort to buying the same presents again and again for their Grandparents on every occasion. Then after reading many articles in the news about Grandparents being a “Forgotten Generation” I decided I would start Grandma’s Gifts selling products that promote quality time with your Grandparents.
What research did you do before launching?
After conducting the local market research I set about trying to find other companies that offered gifts for Grandparents. Some large corporates offered a selection but it was almost like an after thought to their core range. There were also some small internet companies offering a range, but each time I viewed these sites I had an overwhelming feeling that I could do this much much better.
How have you funded the business?
My IT Consultancy business has funded the business so far.
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
So far I have put a lot of effort into optimizing my website for the search engines. I have also acquired a few Google Adwords vouchers from suppliers like VistaPrint and the Website design company, however this is quite a costly method once the vouchers have run out. I have completed a 5000 leaflet drop locally and am looking to start a poster campaign offering a promotional code to employees of local businesses. It’s early days but the optimization of your site before launch pays dividends, I am also becoming a bit of an addict to Twitter which is proving to be great for meeting new people.
What has worked well about your business?
We sell gifts that promote quality time with your Grandparents and it offers customers the opportunity to get to know their Grandparents again. I think people are all quite fond of their Grandparents and looking to buy a more fulfilling gift than the usual socks, clothes or bubblebaths. We are also the only UK retailer to offer a range of gifts for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, this part of the business is proving particularly popular.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
I think my biggest challenge is yet to come and that is to market and grow my business. I am fortunate the Grandparents and Alzheimer’s communities are very approachable and always willing to help. However getting my business out there and a brand name that becomes synonymous with Gifts for Grandparents is the toughest challenge yet. I am planning to keep telling our story wherever possible, attending local networking events as I am very keen to promote business in the local community, hopefully this combined with a structured marketing plan will pay dividends in the end.
How do you fit in work with the family?
My wife is incredibly supportive and backs me 100%. She understands the reasons I started the business and that I am incredibly passionate about making it work.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Firstly I would say to find your niche or unique selling point, online retailing is incredibly competitive so you need to have something that stands out from the crowd. If you have found it, I would advise you to go for it! I would be more than happy to offer advice where I can, just find me on Twitter @Grandmas_Gifts
If you have a flexible working business opportunity, please explain briefly what you offer and how people find out more.
As a brand new business we are looking to start slowly but I often have opportunities for freelance photographers, graphic designers, marketing, or website designers. I tend to find these through recommendations or through Twitter.
Your website link:
Discount for Family Friendly Working readers:
We are proud to be able to offer the Family Friendly Working readers the promotional code of “askgrandma” which entitles them to 5-10% off across our range.