Hello there! After a short hiatus, Small Business Chat is back, with lots of fab new interviewees joining the roster and hopefully updating us for a few years to come. Unfortunately, a few of the original interviewees have gone out of business or just dropped out of touch (I do put a note on the last interview after a suitable period of time, so my readers or anyone searching for them know what’s happened), but that did mean that I was able to open up some spaces for some brand new interviewees, some with very new businesses, so you’ve got something a bit different to read and some more people to find out about.
Today we’re chatting to Kath Kilburn from Three Bags Full, who’s bought the wool, bought the shop and written the book! Kath started her business just under a year after I launched Libro, and I have to say that if you can run a successful business during an economic crisis, it gives you hope for the future! Kath had been pondering branching out on her own for some time, but, as for many, it took redundancy to make her launch her new business.
Hello Kath! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
We started Three Bags Full in June 2010, towards the start of the economic downturn..
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’d thought about starting a wool shop two decades earlier but it didn’t happen for various reasons. In early 2010 I was made redundant from my teaching job. With little prospect of finding another, we pooled our – mostly my husband’s – finances and the shop was born.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I’ve always loved wool, loved knitting and crochet and loved dealing with the public so it seemed like the perfect job for me. I’m also not very good at having a boss…
Had you run your own business before?
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
We started full-time. I’m in the shop five days, but Mike’s retired and he covers and helps out when necessary.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Well, whatever they’d told me I’d probably have listened politely and then done my own thing anyway, but maybe some advice about the importance of location for a shop would’ve been useful.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
I’d tell myself that Ravelry – a website and forum for knitters and other fibre artists – does not hold as much sway in the UK as in the US. And it holds relatively little sway in Halifax.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Very little. We made a lot of mistakes but that was inevitable as initially we were just feeling our way. We make fewer wrong calls these days but sometimes you just have to make a judgement and it’s not bound to be right. You can only, as a shopkeeper, try as hard as you can to provide the stuff that local people, and tourists if you get them, wish to buy. Knowing what that is comes from experience.
Our mistakes have actually had a beneficial spin-off for us, insofar as I wrote my e-book, “So You’d Like to Open a Wool Shop…“, based on the premise that we made the mistakes so other potential shop owners wouldn’t have to. I’m pretty upfront in it about things we could’ve done differently.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad we bit the entire bullet but, specifically, I’m glad we embraced some things I was initially reluctant about, for example, taking payment by PayPal and, more recently, selling some items on eBay.
What’s your top business tip?
Unless you love bookkeeping and are good at accounts, pay someone to deal with your books for you. (This doesn’t excuse you from keeping good records though.)
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
We’ve grown, but not really diversified, except in a small way.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
Unfortunately last year the council closed our building in a very clumsy fashion and we consequently lost quite a lot of trade, so we’re now in a new location and slowly re-building our clientele. I’m hopeful that by next year we’ll have regained the ground we lost!
I wonder if any of us would be very good at having a boss now … Anyway, it sounds like Kath is good at pulling success out of adversity, using the lessons she’s learned to put together her book, for example, and I’m sure that the new premises will work out well for Three Bags Full in the next year. I look forward to reading the update! And here it is for 2015!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.