Have you got a business idea? These founders advise against waiting too long – they believe the more time you think about a business idea the more time you’re giving someone else to launch it first.
Meet Anna Peters, Sophie Morris and Lucy Ambler
These three sisters have used marketing and creativity to great success and are seeing their gift business, Box of Hugs London, go from strength to strength.
1. Why did you start Box of Hugs London and what were you doing before?
A few years ago our mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was a huge shock to us all. We spent a lot of time together during mum’s treatment and one thing we chatted about during this time was how difficult it was to find something appropriate to send to mum in the post. We sadly couldn’t always be by her side. We all live in different parts of the country.
Our mum thankfully pulled through and her illness made us rethink our own lives. We knew, from experience, there was a gap in the market to deliver considerate gifts in the post. So, after mum’s recovery, we decided to put everything into filling this gap and launched Box of Hugs London.
Our aim with Box of Hugs London is to provide people with thoughtful gifts you can send in the post when you can’t be by their side. Whether you want to say happy birthday, congratulations, get well soon or simply “I’m thinking of you”, we’ve created a Box of Hugs for every occasion.
Prior to launching Box of Hugs London our careers were in very different industries. Anna was at Laura Ashley in ecommerce, Sophie was at Trip Advisor in marketing and Lucy was at BGL Group in the commercial team. However, our commonality is that we all have an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. This, with the skills we learnt in our careers, is the reason why Box of Hugs London has been a success.
2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?
Mum was definitely the inspiration behind our business. Her illness helped us see the gap in the gifting market. We’ve always dreamt about owning a family business and mum’s recovery gave us the push we needed to do it.
When mum was ill it also bought back memories of the surprise boxed packages she would send when we were under the weather. This inspired us to put our thoughtful gifts into keepsake boxes. We always felt excited when we received one of mum’s packages in the post. We wanted to recreate that for other people too.
Mum has been a great support to Box of Hugs London. We mustn’t forget our other two sisters, dad and husbands too. Everyone gives their opinion and is there for us in their own way.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
Planning is key. When it’s your own business it’s too easy to go ahead and make decisions without a solid plan. However, this often results in businesses losing their way. We’ve realised how important it is to have a good strategy and plan in place to make sure Box of Hugs London is on the right track. There are three of us running the business. This means it’s even more vital to have a formal document to understand what everyone’s roles and timescales are.
4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?
Mother’s Day this year exceeded our expectations. We had such a great reaction to our collection. It was a real boost for us.
We’re also extremely proud of our ‘Create Your Own’ Box of Hugs shop. We listened to our customers’ requests to pick their own gifts to go into the box. Taking this on board, we invested in a ‘Create Your Own’ feature that allows shoppers to choose a box design and the individual treats they’d like to go inside. This section has been extremely popular. It goes to show how important it is to listen to your customers.
5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Find something that’s different and go for it. It can be scary, but the more time you think about it the more time you’re giving someone else to launch your business idea.
Don’t worry about everything being perfect. It’s all about baby steps. The beauty of having a startup business is you’re agile enough to make changes as you go. Launch with what you think is right and then review the results. If something doesn’t work, don’t worry. Learn from your mistakes and make amends. Every business has to start somewhere.
6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?
Our ‘Create Your Own’ shop. We invested in a web developer to build this for us. It wasn’t an easy section to manage ourselves. We knew to make it work it had to be right. There couldn’t be any flaws. It was 100% worth every penny.
Another area we’ve invested in this year is PR support. We couldn’t find the time to do it ourselves alongside our families. PR was an area we needed to take our business to the next level. It’s exciting to see Box of Hugs London featured in newspapers and magazines.
7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?
Without a doubt social media and PR.
We’ve got almost 10,000 followers on Facebook. This community has been an incredible support to us. The power of social media cannot be underestimated. If you can get your social strategy right, it can work wonders for a business. Especially a business of our size.
The press coverage we’ve received has enabled our brand to get in front of people who may not have seen us before. We’re also communicating with journalists – who we hope will become fans of the brand too. We love being able to say we’ve been in Metro.co.uk, My Weekly and Mother & Baby magazine. It certainly gives you kudos when new customers take a look at your products.
8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?
We have our heads in Christmas at the moment. We’ve launched our biggest collection yet and are very excited about it. This year we’ve got gifts for her and him as well as gifts for children. We’ve also got a Christmas Eve box for grandparents, aunties and uncles to send to grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And we’ve launched Christmas boxes for the whole family. So, if it’s not possible to visit friends or family this year, you could send them a festive Sharing Box of Hugs in the post for them all to enjoy.
Once Christmas is wrapped up our focus will be launching a new corporate gifts collection. Employee incentives and rewards is a natural fit for our products so we feel this is a market we need to explore. Mother’s Day planning will also begin. We’ve got big growth plans in 2020. Watch this space!
Do you have an interesting story to tell about how your business got started? Tell us about it.