Welcome to another Saturday small business chat. Today I’m thrilled to announce we’re talking to Jane Badger, of Jane Badger Books, who sells pony books online. Jane also has a fab blog, which features book reviews, daily countryside walks with Jane’s dog, articles on the history of pony books (about which Jane is also about to publish a book) and marvellous archive clippings from pony magazines about outlandish outfits and fancy dress competitions. Jane is the person who found out the outcome of the Win Flicka competition I found in the back of a paperback, so she’s a useful person to know!
Jane’s another person who set up her business to fit around her family, and she’s another example of learning as she goes along, having had an early experience involving eggs and baskets, and now being suitably diversified. Let’s meet Jane …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Jane Badger Books – I started off in 2004.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
Royal Mail Consulting, for whom I used to do a lot of freelance writing, closed down, and I needed something I could do which fitted in with my children.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Running a book business is always something I’d thought of doing, and I could manage to fit it in round the children. I started off selling children’s books, but specialised in horse and pony stories as it was a genre I’d always loved myself, and no one else was specialising in it.
Had you run your own business before?
Yes, I had. I’d spent some years doing freelance computer training, which had morphed into writing training manuals and courses.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I started off part time. I was also working part-time in the local library, which kept me going until I could afford to move full time to the book business.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, which I did with Royal Mail because they gave me so much work. When they closed the consulting arm, I was sunk. My other clients had all gone off and found other writers. We’d also moved out of London by then; I was really struggling to find childcare and it was all distinctly hairy for a bit.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
As above, and also to focus. Decide what the main focus of your business is and don’t let yourself get side-tracked. I read a while ago in a book sellers’ magazine that whilst research was all very interesting, it was not time selling books. That is absolutely true.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Despite the above, I don’t regret moving into researching authors. Originally this was done to add value to my website, but it did rather take over. As a result, I’ve been able to move back into my first love, writing. I was approached to write a book on my speciality, the English language horse story.
What are you glad you did?
Started my website.
What’s your top business tip?
Get out there: network, make friends with other business owners. Do what works for you: Facebook, Twitter, business groups. There is such a lot you can learn from other people, and when things get hairy you will have a support network. These days, you can’t just sit there and wait for customers to come to you. You need to build yourself as a brand.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
My original plan was to grow the book business much more than I have. I’ve diversified into writing.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
A very good question. My current plan is to concentrate on high-end and harder to find stock, which should sit better with carrying on writing.
Not only another person who started their business part time, but another person who worked in a library while they did so! I’m looking forward to buying Jane’s book when it comes out, and of course wish her a happy and successful year. And here’s what happened next …
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