My Journey so far…

Here I am, sitting down one year on after starting Little Red

What a journey it has been so far. Good and bad, with plenty of ups and downs, bumps and slides. But despite whatever the journey has thrown at me, two key things have stayed constant – my passion for fashion and my heartfelt desire to run my own business.

On some of those darker days, and to be honest, there haven’t been that many, I thrive on that  incredible feeling, the rush of the self knowledge that “I have done the right thing!” when someone, somewhere-out-there connects with me and buys something from my website.

It really is a truly remarkable feeling to create an online store from your kitchen table that reaches out to an audience around the world. Simple as it seems the reality is incredible. I’ve enjoyed sales and conversations with women from Brazil to the US, from France to Sweden. And everywhere in between!

I wanted to share my journey with you. It’s also an opportunity for me to reflect on my achievements and my failures this past year. My wrong decisions and my right ones, if you like!

When I am being hard on myself and I have a few days bad days with no sales I remind myself that this is all new and it takes time to establish a brand and create a business from just an idea. I had no experience of running a business. I wasn’t steeped in the retail world. I don’t have external investment or employees to discuss ideas with. It’s just me! But don’t get me wrong, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I love it with all my heart, but there are lonely days too, and days when it just all goes wrong!!

My ‘go’ button for starting Little Red Kiss was based on one single product, my Cashmere Little Red Kiss Scarf. The moment I saw it…. I knew I had found a real ‘gem’. It looked like a ‘designer piece’, it felt so super soft and looked ‘wow’ when I put it on, but it’s without the designer price tag. That was my moment. The moment! From that point on I wanted to create a gorgeous site where women could buy fabulous and affordable scarves and accessories that they would love to wear and enjoy. Or buy for gifts for their family and friends.

From that point I became committed to producing my own label cashmere scarves that had to be under £100. I set myself that challenge as I wanted my products to be perceived as affordable, but made with high quality materials and lots of care. I then searched to find other stylish accessories to sit under the cashmere scarves and provide my online store with a range of products, prices, brands and fabrics.

Scarves remain at the forefront of my store, however. But I felt it was important to have some stylish hats, warm gloves, comfortable vests and even umbrellas – we are in the UK, after all!

In addition, I have always been like a magpie for all things sparkly, so I brought in jewellery collection with inspired pieces that I invest a great deal of time sourcing and buying. To get those ideas, I look at sites like Net -a- Porter and Fenwicks to see what’s trending and then I try to find similar looks but at a more affordable price. My Stella diamond and rose gold hoops have been a best seller as they are so stunning on with the diamonds running throughout the inner circle as well as the outer and cost £33.

I know to survive this tough online world I have to keep innovating, to stay current but also most importantly to keep my pricing sensible. This has always been a challenge because I won’t stock nor accept inferior quality, but it’s only getting harder and harder to keep the balance right.

Other problems I have encountered include the fact that many wholesalers are now retailers too. It means the margins I can work to are so tight that sometimes there’s just no point buying the stock to make just a few pounds profit.

I went to the Copenhagen Fashion Week last year. It was fantastic, I love the Scandi culture way of dressing. I met an exciting new brand, Stylesnob, who I now stock. They have created super soft, high quality faux fur pieces in bold colour combinations. But I still find it a challenge selling faux fur online. Perhaps it’s something people prefer to go into a shop and try on?

I also invested in hair accessories from a funky Scandi brand called Suiava. What a disaster that has been!. Don’t get me wrong I love the products, sparkly hair clips with words like LOVE, HAPPY SUNSHINE. I was counting down the weeks until I received them. What I hadn’t realised was many of the UK high street brands also launched with very similar hair accessories and were charging less than I had paid at the wholesale price!

Nevermind, (that’s what I say today. I was sooooo cross and upset at the time) fortunately it hasn’t had a big impact on my business. In fact it made me sit back and look at my business and how it had evolved over the year. Perhaps I was starting to carry too many ranges and products and variations of products.

So six months ago I changed my advertising messaging, on Facebook and Instagram, to focus on scarves, really due to my success with SEO and having been ranked sixth on page 1 for ‘fashionable scarves’. I then started to buy larger quantities of my red cashmere scarf, as well as other colour variations of the same scarf. That’s pretty much where I am today. Having had my year end accountants meeting where you see in black and white ( it’s so scary) all your figures, I knew in order to develop and grow my brand I needed to sell more of my ‘key piece’ in order for the business to support the lower value accessories underneath.

Instagram was an incredible success for my brand in the early months. I remember starting with a few followers and then all of a sudden with the help of hashtags and some cool photos I was at 500, then 1000 then 2000 then 5000. Then nothing happened!.

Nothing really happened for 7 months. I am hovering at 5750 ish followers. They changed the algorithm which is stopping my feed reaching potential new followers. They now want me to pay to boost posts. I try it occasionally but to be honest it’s not been great so far. Instead, the power of Instagram lies in my network of gorgeous influencers who give ‘shout outs’ from products I send to them. They are also some of the most interesting and thoughtful women I have met in years. This side of having my own business is wonderful. I do genuinely feel part of a fun and happening community.

Anyway, that’s it for now, I need to get on with some work! Good luck to anyone else out there who is running their own business or about to start. Keep going and stay positive!

Love Gem x

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