I started a business with kids: Catherine Graham of Adventure Togs

catherine_graham_adventuretogsAdventure Togs began life in 2004 when my children were still very young, so the company will be 9 years old this October. We couldn’t find new waterproof jackets for them in any of the outdoor shops in Cardiff, I came home that evening and began researching my idea to start a business specialising in childrens outdoor wear.

I didn’t even have broadband at home at the time, and I needed to invest a few thousand of my own money to buy stock. It was tough, starting an ECommerce store on a budget, without the social media marketing opportunities we have today. The business grew very gradually by advertising on flyers, magazines and word of mouth.

I was a part-time pharmacist working 2-3 days a week as a locum, had two young children and a husband who worked long hours. Looking back now, I must have been mad to even contemplate the idea of starting a business. It has been hard letting go of pharmacy to entirely focus on the business, and I have constantly juggled all the balls.

I have never actually used childcare, as I mainly worked around the children and in the evenings. The children have always gone to my parents for their tea once or twice a week, so the longer working days til 6 really help to keep me on track.

The most difficult thing in the early days was drawing the line between work and home, and I became a slave to the computer, not knowing when to switch off. My husband was relatively supportive but didn’t really understand my need to immerse myself into my business. To me, it was my third child, and it needed nurturing so. Over time I have become a better at juggling the work/life thing and really appreciate the balance having my own business has brought.

I outsourced the warehousing in our fourth year, when I started running out of space for stock. This was a real turning point – I only needed to deal with the day to day admin and was able to spend time marketing and promoting the business and seeking out new product ranges.

My day is so varied…..I can be chatting to customers on Twitter, or speaking to schools about outdoor play clothing. I can get up to work at five in the morning and work for a few hours before breakfast if I need to, or catch-up in the evening after a family day out. It is truely a flexible way of working. I have even been known to work 14 hour days when I am in the mood, but it is so different working when you ‘want to’ rather than ‘have to’.

So much has changed about the business since the start. When I hear people complain about the demise of the high street and companies going under, I do empathise with them, but know that retail is ever changing, and you have to constantly move with the times. The retail world has probably changed more in the last decade that ever before, and anyone who ventures into this vocation should be prepared to keep learning to evolve their business to meet changing customer demands.

If I had to advise someone starting out in business – Do lots of research, but don’t feel too bombarded. There is so much advice out there, it is easy to become overburdened without actually taking action. It is the actions you take which matter, not necessarily your knowledge or qualifications, so start quickly and grow as you learn.

You can find out more about Adventure Togs here:


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