Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Startup: Let's open a bead shop then ...

Ann - who is the one with all the talent for making things - suggested that a bead shop might be a good idea. Paul (whose only experience of gemstones came from reading this Dick Francis book) mumbled something that might or might not have been agreement and it all sort of spiralled out from there.

First things first, we needed to get some angle on what things are available on the market and how much they cost, and there was a trade show coming up in late February at the NEC in Birmingham. Of course, in order to get into a trade show you have to be in the trade, so we rather rapidly set up a company to do the trading.

This isn't necessarily the best thing to do to start with, as there's a lot of admin wrapped around setting up a company and keeping it legal and shipshape - and as any accountant will tell you (as ours did when we eventually got one) a limited company isn't necessarily the best trading vehicle to use. But what the hell, we just went for it. Luckily, Paul knows a bit of company law and was able to get Scrumpybeads Ltd up and running quite quickly using the online service at Companies House - wouldn't necessarily suggest that anyone else does it that way, as you are left more-or-less on your own in getting all the other bits and pieces set up. But it is quick and cheap.

So, on 8th February 2012 Scrumpybeads Limited sprang into existence.

Then it was time for some research.

For the next two days we toured the bead shops of South Wales. Interesting. Also very very cold. Ann knew more-or-less what to expect of course, but for Paul this was a revelation. Bead shops are a bit like sweet shops for grown-ups - there's plenty to look at, fiddle with, wonder about buying, and a whole blaze of colour and sparkle to look at. Nice. Even Paul can see why people come to these places. He even bought stuff, that's a good sign!

And as well as looking and buying things, we were mentally looking to assess stock values, stock levels, what looks good and what doesn't and all that sort of thing.

We'd like to thank everyone we visited, particularly Crystals & Ice in Cardiff, Wild about Beads in Bridgend, Serendipity Beads in Cross Hands and Anastasia Beads in Barry and Penarth. It is thanks to you folks that we are in this business.

And while we're at it, much thanks to the Diplomat Hotel in Felinfoel for putting us up, and to the Masala restaurant in Llanelli for a wonderful lightly-spiced selection of curries.

Of course, if you're going to have a shop you need to find one that's available. That was next on the list, and Ann spent a week wandering the town looking for suitable premises while Paul was struggling with getting the company books all straight (told you it wasn't that easy).

Like everywhere else, town centre shops can come expensive, way too expensive for a start-up business. Quite quickly narrowed down to four possibles - one short-term lease (say 6 months-ish) on a block that is going to be redeveloped, one at the 'wrong' end of the High Street, and a couple on St James Street, which is a bit of a backwater right now but close to the seafront and pier and which promises to get more traffic when the Market moves in later this year. One big shop and one small one. Now, the bigger one is better looking, but it would probably cost us 2-3 times as much to stock it full enough to look enticing - and that is just too risky. So we rang up the estate agents to view the smaller one. That was a very good move.

And while all this was going on, there was that trade show at the NEC that triggered everything off. Interesting event. There's clearly a lot of money washing around somewhere in this business, but it's clear that a lot of it is aimed at people who are in the business of actually making jewellery, as it's hard to see sometimes where the profit margins would come from just in retailing. Lots of interesting people to talk to though, and plenty of useful contacts that we used to beef up our supplier list. Pretty well convinced though that we will have to rely heavily on direct importing to be able to make a reasonable living and keep our prices sensible. That's a whole new ballgame.

Still, by the end of the month we've got a rough feel of the business model, have a shop in mind and have some idea of the suppliers we will need.

That's not too bad a start.

Oh, and we set up a bank account as well. Shame these things don't come with free money!

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