How we started our online business (5 lessons we've learned)
In the six years since we founded The British Blanket Company we have learned a huge amount about how to set up an online shop and how to start a business from home. The time has really flown by and sometimes it’s hard to find the time to step back and reflect on our biggest achievements and challenges.
In today’s blog for National Siblings Day, my brother and I catch up on how we founded our company together and share some important lessons we've learned along the way.
How it started…
The British Blanket Company was founded in 2015 by me (Bethan) and my younger brother (Joe). I’d built a career as an interior design journalist in London and Joe was working in Newcastle in e-commerce development. We realised we were both looking for a change of direction and aspired to start businesses of our own. We decided to bring together our skills and passions and an online shop selling home accessories seemed the perfect mix! We decided on blankets because we wanted our shop to specialise in one product with a broad range of designs. I’ve always loved textiles and especially styling my home with cosy blankets, so we decided British-made wool blankets were the product for us!
… How it’s going
Six years after founding our online shop from our kitchen table, The British Blanket Company is the best place to buy wool blankets from the UK and Ireland. We have over 150 colourful blankets in stock and have designed some beautiful special edition blankets that are becoming collector’s pieces amongst our amazing fans. Most importantly to us, our thriving business means we can make a real difference in our mission to revive and sustain the weaving industry in the UK and Ireland, providing stable jobs and preserving valuable craft skills. And to top things off, we’ve been names Family Business of the Year in The Great British Entrepreneur Awards!
5 tips for starting a successful online business
1. Give it time, success won’t happen overnight
Creating an e-commerce website is pretty easy, especially using a platform like Shopify or Wix, but that’s only the first step! Building your website it into a successful and profitable business needs an investment of both time and money. Be prepared that it may take several years before you can make a living from your online shop.
2. Be proactive in your marketing
Think about how you will reach potential customers from the very beginning. You will need to be proactive to help customers find your online shop as very few customers will reach your shop by accident. There are so many online marketing options out there, from social media and PR to pay-per-click and affiliates. Be prepared to spend (and lose) money working out which marketing methods work for your online shop.
3. Be honest about the skills don’t have
Being the owner of an online business, you must be prepared to wear many hats! As you build your e-commerce business you will often feel like a jack of all trades and master of none. This is a valuable learning curve, but identifying big gaps in your skill set is crucial to avoid costly mistakes. Remember, there will be people out there who love the tasks you don’t, from accountancy to admin. Hire them as soon as you are able to, so you can focus on the things you do best.
4. Plan for scale before you need to
Fulfilling orders from your garage is fine in the early days of running your online shop, but what will you do when you achieve success? Try to always keep an eye on the future and plan early if your growth could get out of control. Achieving scale in your business is fantastic and you need to be able to pursue success without your logistics or processes holding you back.
5. The right customers will love you (and that’s not everyone)
It’s so important to build a business with strong values and believe in yourself and your mission. In building The British Blanket Company, we have had to learn that some people simply don’t like wool, and not everyone is prepared to pay a premium for products made in Britain! It’s hard not to take this personally but stay authentic and trust that a good business will attract customers who share your values. Be open to feedback, but don’t be swayed from your purpose.
More online business tips from Bethan and Joe
We share lots of behind-the-scenes insight into The British Blanket Company on our blog, from business advice from our founders to tips for buying products made in the UK. We love hearing from you with questions and comments so follow us and join the conversation of Facebook and Instagram – we look forward to meeting you!