It’s Small Business Update – and today we’re chatting to Kath Kilburn from wool shop from Three Bags Full, who is one of our newer interviewees, although she’s been in business for a while. We first met Kath in June 2014, when she was having a bit of a tricky time, having had to move locations, and start to rebuild her trade. We don’t have a lot of shop owners on here, and it’s not an area I know much about, but it’s easy to see that this will have had a massive impact on the business, and require an effort akin to starting all over again – a very big challenge. This is what Kath had to say about her upcoming year in her last interview: “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!” Let’s check in with her and see how she’s doing now …
Hello again, Kath? So, the big question: are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I did hope that we’d be a bit further along the road to recovery by now. It took till February this year for us to start regaining ground lost with last year’s move. (This was much worse than it would’ve been had we moved to a place with a high street shop front – we’re a bit hidden from view where we are.) It’ll be hard to tell really how things are going until after this year’s annual summer slump.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
What has changed – we’ve expanded our list of classes and I’ve started teaching more of them myself in small groups. I’m hoping to expand the range even further with the coming autumn season. I also made online contact with some other lovely bricks and mortar shop owners and that’s been nice, hearing that we all face the same issues and can support each other when needed.
What has stayed the same – our stock is pretty much as it was, although we’ve fine-tuned it as and when necessary – due to identified gaps or lines being discontinued by the supplier. We’ve also modified the stock a little to allow for the fact that we don’t get many tourists in our new location. Some lovely, local customers have also ‘stayed the same’!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’m learning all the time – about people, about wool and knitting, and about running a business. It’s a slow process and I think if I had the shop till I was eighty there’d still be lots I didn’t know. And of course, all the while you’re learning new things, they’re changing and you have to keep up – with new trends, new business practices, new companies. There’s been some bad stuff happen this last year – very bad service from the company that dealt with our website card payments, for example – but I’m not sure knowing in advance would’ve helped.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I think it’s vital to diversity to stay in business: we’re selling more on eBay these days and I’m still intending to set up folksy and etsy shops for finished garments as soon as I can. And if I had space I’d also stock fabric in the shop, as there’s a lack of shops selling fabric locally, but I think it’s something you have to go into full-on or not at all. People these days want to see a massive choice as well as good prices.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Well, I hope that in a year’s time we’ll be back in our old location welcoming customers old and new; we’re currently waiting to hear the terms and conditions the new owners of our old building will offer returning traders. So, for us it’s make or break time – next year we could be back in business and enjoying a boom time or we could be operating online only or we could be retired. At the moment we really can’t call it. We’re living in interesting times.
Gosh, that’s the most diverse range of options I’ve seen in one of my interviews, and I really hope that it’s the “back in business and enjoying a boom time” option that prevails. Talking about diversifying, Kath’s right, of course – whatever line of business you’re in, keeping things diverse makes sense, as you can weather the drops in particular kinds of business and optimise your workflow and income (I blogged about this a while ago). Best of luck to Kath and I hope we have a cheery update next year. Maybe you’d like to support her by having a look at the online options on eBay, etc!
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.