Hello and welcome to a brand new Small Business Chat with Susannah Davda from The Shoe Consultant. We encountered each other through a tweeting hour organised by Enterprise Nation, who are great at supporting small businesses, and seeing as how we have a lot of business attitudes in common, we got talking and arranged for Susannah to become part of the interview series.
I’m not sure I’ve had an interviewee before who has taken the path Susannah has, starting off raising awareness by blogging and then moving into a full-time business, so that’s certainly an interesting way to do things and one we can all learn from. Authors are certainly advised to build a “platform” well in advance of launching their book, and it makes good business sense to hit the full-time life with lots of awareness and attention. Let’s see exactly how Susannah did it, and what her plans are for the next year …
Hello, Susannah! Thank you for joining us in the interview series. First of all, what’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Hi, Liz. My business is The Shoe Consultant Ltd. I started blogging as The Shoe Consultant in October 2011, and have been running the business full time since April this year.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I wanted to help women to make better decisions about the footwear they buy. I also provide training and consultancy for footwear businesses. The mission of The Shoe Consultant Ltd is to promote shoes which are both beautiful and comfortable.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I have 17 years of experience in the footwear industry, so it made sense to use all of this knowledge to start my own enterprise.
Had you run your own business before?
No, never, but it had been a dream for some time. I love working with other people, but I also have quite an independent streak.
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 blogged anonymously as The Shoe Consultant for 3½ years whilst working full-time for a footwear brand. I saved enough money to support myself for a year before taking the leap to turn my hobby into a business.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Give yourself time. Don’t expect every element of your business to take off from the start.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Planning is all-important. Don’t panic and try to do everything at once. Divide your time wisely.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I splurged on some very fancy business cards early on, which in retrospect was a bit extravagant for a start-up.
What are you glad you did?
Joined Enterprise Nation and attended lots of their events and courses. It’s important to meet other people in the same position as yourself, and each session always contains excellent information and advice.
What’s your top business tip?
Spend time on your LinkedIn profile, website and social media presence. Use these platforms to market your business rather than spending money on advertising in the early stages.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
Since working on The Shoe Consultant Ltd full time, I began to focus on the comfortable and beautiful shoe mission rather than covering all women’s footwear. At the same time, I have expanded my range of services to include VIP shoe shopping trips, training, consultancy and guest speaking, in addition to the blogging and book writing I was doing before. Losing my anonymity and freeing up my time has enabled me to offer these additional elements.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I’m excited to see which of my services take off and can be expanded upon, and which need to be altered or moved away from. My aim is to be able to take a salary from the business by this time next year.
OK, so I didn’t start off anonymously, but what we have in common is working hard and saving up before taking the plunge, doing some training first and being open to seeing which directions our business will take us, as well as using social media rather than paid advertising to do our marketing – so I hope Susannah has as good a time freelancing over the next five years as I have had! I have no idea where she’ll be next year, but with a super website and lots of ideas, plus great social media savvy, I’m sure it will be somewhere interesting!
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.