I Started a Business With a Baby: Debbie Talbot of Toys and Clothes Ltd

Tell us a little about your business

I run three websites with the help of family and a close friend.  Magicfairywings.com sells baby and children’s products.  Footiemad.co.uk sells official Football Merchandise and Totsactivities.com is a directory of activities for children of all ages.  Magicfairywings.com came first in March 2007 and the others followed. Magic Fairy Wings and Footiemad sell via Mail Order and the website.  They also offer low cost Business Opportunities such as becoming a Sales Consultant. I had some beautiful personalized cards and invites designed by a lovely children’s book illustrator, Loryn Brantz.  I have recently launched a business opportunity for  running your own personalized cards and invites business.

What was your job before starting your business?

I worked in IT, Accounts and Finance in various roles since leaving university with a 2.1 European Accounting and Finance degree.  Whilst working in finance I took several CIMA exams and now have part qualified CIMA status. All of this study/experience has proved so useful whilst growing my business.

How did you go from your old career to your new business?

I opened my limited company in January 2003 after suffering a miscarriage.  I wanted a less stressful role for when and if I got pregnant again. Back then I was selling ex-chainstore clothing on ebay.  Sadly all the large supermarkets started selling budget clothing and so I realized that I needed to change my product focus if I was to continue running my own business.

Whilst I was pregnant with my little girl I temped in a Credit Control role. I hoped to do so after having her but was sadly unexpectedly poorly after her birth and needed an operation when she was 6 months old. A couple of months after that an unpleasant situation occurred.  Since this time I have suffered with depression, anxiety and PTSD.  I wanted something to focus on to use what I had learnt in my career and at university but which fitted in around my daughter and my personal situation.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I started my business as a result of being ill, but also due to the cost of childcare and because I wanted to work flexibly around my young daughter.  I also wanted other people in a similar position to have the option to do the same but for it to not cost them a lot of money to get started.

Did you use any childcare?

I did use childcare but always as little as possible. Now that my daughter is at school I have 6 full hours in which to work on week days which is great.   In the holidays I split my time between fun time with her and working which can be a struggle at times but overall is fantastic.

How did you get your business idea?

My eBay name was Magicfairywings and my mum said that it would make a lovely website.  I was struggling to find top quality toys for my daughter which would last and had an educational value. I also wanted to help local schools and groups raise well needed school funds and to this end my optional cashback scheme was launched.

With Footiemad I found a company which offered fully stocked dropship websites and decided to give their football products site a try.

With Totsactivities I had struggled to find things to do with my daughter locally and thought that I could not be the only parent or carer in this position.  I also wanted to give children related businesses the chance to advertise for a small fee. I understand how tight the cash flow situation is for small businesses, especially as they are starting out.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

A big problem has been having not enough hours in the day, especially when my little girl has been poorly.  As she has got older it has become easier and I get more done.    Illness has been my biggest challenge as it has affected my concentration and I am tired a lot. Thankfully I have had the support of family and a close friend who share the load. The economy has not made things easy over the last 18 months or but I have found that suppliers have been really helpful by reducing minimum order levels and therefore tie up the least amount of money possible in stock. I have learnt not to be disheartened by quiet periods and to work consistently to provide the best products and customer services possible. Supporting my Sales Consultants has been a learning curve because I did not have a lot of supervisory experience.  I overcame this by using resources such as netmums which have also helped with getting my businesses more well known.

What training, information or advice did you need to get started?

Luckily I knew how to do the Accounts side of things because of my degree and working in industry for so long. Being fluent in French and German has proved useful in dealing with European speaking customers and suppliers after our recent expansion into mainland Europe.  I struggled on the marketing and advertising side at first and so used an outside person until I learnt how to product marketing materials myself by changing existing designs. I have always approached the relevant government bodies when unsure about something and have always found them really helpful. I found an excellent Accountant who specialises in small businesses.  Overall trawling the internet has proved to be my most useful resource.

If you could give one  piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

If you are thinking about running your own business but are apprehensive go for it.  There are so many resources out there to help you on your way.  The improvement in quality of life is so worthwhile and the satisfaction you get from thinking ‘I did this myself’.

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