How and why I set up my home-based business


Cotton plant - How and why I set up my home-based businessJane Robson spent her early career working for top high-street brands. After becoming a mother, she sought greater flexibility and a more favourable work-life balance. Jane found both by starting The Fine Cotton Company from the comfort of her own home

"Before I became a parent, my career had been spent working as a retail buyer for large high street stores such as Debenhams, Top Shop, Homebase and Habitat. Then I left work and journeyed to China to adopt my daughter, Mei.

"I'd been going through the adoption process for more than three years, and my priorities changed immediately. I became a single mum and didn't want to return to my old career - I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Mei. Running a home-based business offered the solution.

"I began thinking about the business after returning from adoption leave, while working part-time. After around a year of planning, I launched my business website.

"I came up with the idea of selling organic bed linen and homewares after searching for organic bed linen for Mei. Some was available, but it was rather dull and the base fabric wasn't very nice, while the only colours available were dirty whites and beiges.

"I also believe we each have a responsibility to be kind to our planet, and buying organic cotton is just a small way of helping."

Solo trader

"When I started the business, I ran it on my own. I learned many new skills and it involved a steep learning curve. I did various short business courses to gain more knowledge when necessary.

"When I was unable to tackle a task, I called someone in to help. Although I was on my own, I generally had someone working with me most weeks. I still outsource such tasks as design, photography and accounts.

"Mei has worked as a model for my website - she also gives me her opinion on our designs for children.

"I've been dealing with my largest supplier for many years, long before I started up in business. Because I only buy small quantities of exclusive products, they've bent over backwards to help me. With new suppliers, it's a case of working slowly to build up relationships and trust with them.

Home truths

"I just have one of each product stored at my home - all my stock is held in a fulfilment warehouse. Initially, we had a warehouse locally, and packed and distributed orders ourselves. As we got busier, it was more cost-effective to outsource.

"The distribution team is made up of experts in their field, and they do a much better job than I ever could.

"When launching the business, I contacted various journalists, but didn't have time to do it regularly. I then took on a PR agent to help me. Again, it's a case of using experts' knowledge where cost-effective.

"The business has grown, and we now supply luxury yachts and hotels. Our customers are the most important part of it, and we're working hard to ensure they remain completely happy with our products and service."

Jane's three key lessons

  • When running a home business, make sure you draw a distinction between work time and personal time. If possible, have a dedicated office where you can close the door on work at the end of the day and forget all about it.
  • Nurture strong relationships with good suppliers, and pay your bills on time.
  • If you lack know-how or time, outsource key tasks - providing you can afford it.

This case study originally appeared on the Enterprise Nation website, where you can find more advice about starting a home-based business.