Janan Leo combines her full-time job with running CocoRose, her ‘after hours’ online business. Her collection of chic ballerina pumps can be folded and stored conveniently in a handbag – providing customers with the perfect alternative to having to walk home in high heels. So how does she keep her employer and customers happy?
“Although I created the concept in early 2007, it took me a year to launch my business. During this time, I worked on design and product development, branding, marketing, fundraising and building the supply chain. CocoRose officially launched in May 2008.
“What’s so fantastic about modern technology is your business can be open 24/7 if you sell online. Although I have a day job, it doesn’t mean my business need come to a halt while I’m at work.
“Being in full-time employment while setting up or running your business is challenging. For more than two years, I’ve sacrificed my evenings and weekends to developing my business.
“My ‘holidays’ are largely spent at exhibitions. When I return to work, colleagues ask whether I had a relaxing holiday. I can’t help but laugh and tell them I’ve been on my feet for days and I’m even more knackered than before. The passion, belief and determination I have for CocoRose always keeps me going, though. Plus – I love shoes!
“I’m really lucky to work for a supportive company, where entrepreneurship is welcomed. My colleagues are great too, they’re always asking about CocoRose.
“I’m continually getting advice from my family, too. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so being able to bounce ideas around is fantastic. Business has always been discussed very openly, especially at the dinner table.
“My boyfriend, sister and brother-in-law also help out at exhibitions, for which I am extremely thankful. It’s great to have them as a support network.
“When setting up CocoRose, one of my biggest challenges was finding a reputable and reliable supplier to produce my designs.
“Quality and attention to detail were extremely important, as was flexibility and willingness to produce innovative products. New products cost money and time, but I was willing to take the risk – I just needed a good supplier to take it with me.
“I remember the first day of production. I was badly let down and everything seemed to come crashing down around me. However, I picked myself up and a few months later, I found my current supplier, who is amazing. We’ve had our hiccups and will probably continue to do so, but we’ve developed a good relationship, which is fundamental.
“Trade shows can be one of the best ways to source new products and meet new suppliers. There’s nothing like meeting in person to help build the relationship.
“I outsource my PR, but work closely with the agency that works for me. We work proactively on our campaigns to create fun, catchy and relevant content that ties in with our new ranges, trends and exhibitions. We also collaborate with other businesses on joint promotions and send out monthly newsletters to our customer database, telling them about our new products, events and offer competition prizes.
“I network as much as I can through business events, friends, websites, social media sites, etc. I always carry promotional postcards with me, too. Recently, I walked past a lady in the street who was changing into heels from her flip-flops. I stopped and gave her a postcard. Later she emailed me and it turns out she’s marketing manager for a fantastic organisation and she asked if we could work together. Often such things take courage, but the worst thing is not trying.
“The majority of our website sales are from the UK, but we’ve had orders from as far a field as South Africa, Hong Kong and Hawaii. We supply wholesale to Japan and our products do very well in Tokyo’s boutiques.”
This case study originally appeared on the Enterprise Nation website, where you can find lots of good advice about starting a home-based business.