Whilst I have co-run our other business (a design consultancy called The Click) for eight years, this is a professional services business. I had a limited amount of retail experience from my university days but I’d never run an e-commerce business, let alone exported or managed production.
It’s fair to say that my first year of running Nor–Folk has been a huge leap in to the unknown and presented some massive challenges to overcome. At times I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve spontaneously broken down and started to cry but it’s been exhilarating and exciting at the same time. I love my ‘job’.
I draw most of my inspiration from people – whether that be their drive, enthusiasm or creativity. But, being the Creative Director, I can’t do it all and I rely on working with some great people. It is so important to surround yourself with likeminded people. The following businesses and people are the team who keep me and Nor-Folk going.
I’ve been working with Eastern Screen Printing (ESP) from my first day as a business. I actually found them via Instagram which feels pretty apt. I tend to text/call/email the owner, Andrew, most days. Like all of the people I work with, ESP are based in Norfolk. ESP push the boundaries when it comes to inks and and are now overseeing the production of our latest t-shirts made in a factory here in the UK. Andrew and his team, are more than suppliers, they are our friends and when I needed their help, they were there for me. Andrew even helped move my stock into to our new fully automated warehouse. As well as being great screen-printers, out the back, they also house the only indoor skate park in the city, which is pretty cool!
I get some really nice feedback about my website, but I wanted to let you into a little secret – it is actually just a theme/template I chose (and have subsequently customised). The current site, is the third theme (since we launched) and, by and large, it’s capable of doing most of what I need my website to do. I’ve been working really closely with Hyper Pixel this year to not only optimise my site but they’ve also enabled me to understand the behaviour of my consumers. Behind the scenes we’ve made tweaks and are regularly reviewing and testing my site. We actually work just down the corridor from Hyper Pixel, at Fuel Studios in Norwich. Being able to pop down the corridor to ask the owner, James, and his team a question is invaluable (because, as James will attest, I’m quite adept at braking my site). Like Andrew, James, has become a really good friend and has also become a bit of a mentor (and coffee drinking partner).
Coming from no formal commercial background, when I launched the business, I spent hours watching YouTube to learn from successful fashion and export businesses. One of the resounding pieces of advice was to outsource your shipping or ‘3PL’ as I soon learnt. For a year we worked with a warehouse but, as the business and challenges grew, my demands and expectations were unable to be fulfilled. So, last month, we moved to VDepot (just outside of Norwich City centre). I now have a dedicated account manager, Tash, and when she’s not in, Iain, their general manager is on hand to assist. I know Iain is incredibly busy but the sign of a great manager is not to let the ‘customer’ to feel like they are a burden and Iain definitely doesn’t do that. Moving to this depot has allowed me to fully automate my consumer sales and, in a couple of months, the wholesale website (which I’ve been developing with Hyper Pixel, and will work in the same way). This element is going to be life changing (for me), so as a result of my extra time, expect to see a whole load of new lines and products launch soon. I’m definitely edging closer to a better work/life balance.
With a business that is solely online and largely virtual, these guys keep me motivated and on track.
If you’re in business or about to start one, my biggest piece of advice is surround yourself with good people. With the right team and experts in their own respective fields by your side, you can figure everything else out as you go along!