Our latest ‘Fabpreneur’ Lynn makes and sells beautiful dolls- I have been totally captivated by the images of them so I asked Lynn to share her story about her dolls and the business she has created.
I am Lynn Ede of http://www.FloraLilly.com and live in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, UK. I have three wonderful grown-up sons, the youngest of whom, 20, lives with me.
What prompted you to set up a business in your 50s?
Being 50 should not stand in the way of a good business idea; age isn’t important. In many ways, being older gives one more general knowledge and experience which is useful for such a venture. I set up FloraLilly – so named after my grandmothers Florence and Lillian – after making things for my home and friends and getting their positive responses, especially after making the dolls, leading me to think the products could really sell well. The current emphasis and drive to produce ‘Handmade In Britain’ items is also an incentive. The recent publicity around this, from Mary Portas and others, is encouraging. It seems a shame that so much of our country’s production was going abroad. Let’s make and buy British!
What did you do prior to setting up this business?
I also have a photography business at http://lynnede.redbubble.com so that comes in useful photographing my products. Prior to that I have worked as an artist (exhibiting & selling original paintings), in journalism, sales (art & cars) & as a barristers’ clerk – very varied but mostly creative areas.
Handsewn gifts, such as bags, pearly jewellery, cushions, iphone/laptop sleeves & of course my unique & elegant soft dolls which are ornamental and quirky to place around the home. I have made them so they bend at knees and elbows so you can place them in attractive and amusing positions. I hand-dye the fabric so various skin tones can be achieved. They look charming; seem to take on a personality as I make them! No two gifts are the same at FloraLilly. The dolls are so collectible and are becoming very popular.
Why set up a business making dolls?
I have sewn in the past and used to make things years ago – it was merely a case of returning to a loved craft, thinking outside the square and knowing that when I am choosing a gift, I want it to be different, unique – and pretty!
What new skills have you had to learn?
Business procedures have been a learning curve. I have experience in sales, marketing and PR so that has helped in getting the word out there.
What challenges did you initially face?
Finance is a challenge, to get things set up, purchasing stock and marketing costs. Advertising is expensive.
What help did you need most and how easy was it to find?
Business start-up advice was most useful – I can recommend Gloucestershire Enterprise. Asking friends for advice too has helped. My son is helping me with the website.
Did you receive any grants/funding?
Yes, a small start-up business loan.
Have you had a business mentor/role model?
Certainly there was no-one I personally knew operating a similar business, but generally watching other businesses of all types to see how they operate, how successful they are, which avenues they choose to follow, is a good thing to do.
What was your first ‘success’/achievement in your new business?
Selling! That is the ultimate success benchmark of a product, and knowing clients are delighted with it is hugely satisfying.
How have friends and family reacted?
Fantastically! I had such encouragement when I first started to make the bags and dolls. Friends reacted well, bought the dolls and told their friends, which gave me the confirmation I needed of the dolls’ appeal to the public when they are seeking gifts or a treat for themselves which will not be found exactly the same anywhere else and being handmade is appreciated.
Has the use of social media sites helped your business, and if so, in what way?
Yes it’s really valuable. Having a Facebook business page provides another online presence, Pinterest is a visual bookmarking facility which helps to further advertising and networking, but far ahead of all, in my opinion, is Twitter. In 140 characters you can describe your product, link to it with a picture, advertise your profile, answer queries and network. On Twitter for my dolls, bags & cushions I am @FloraLilly and for my photography, media networking and personal I am @LynnCherylEde
What lessons have you learnt in setting up your business so far ?
Do lots of research! Watch markets and be led by what is proving most popular – for me that is the handsewn dolls. Along with bespoke ornamental dolls for the home where clients can choose colour of dress and hair or other requests – recently I was commissioned to make a tarty doll for someone writing a humorous blog entitled Tina The Travelling Tart! – unusual, my dolls are normally very demure! She was fun to sew. I can also make dolls which reflect style of other businesses and professions and make great corporate mascots/gifts. These ideas are already proving popular, for example, I have in the pipeline ballerinas, legal dress dolls, school uniform mascot dolls and so on.
Has the business developed in the way you anticipated?
FloraLilly is very new and is certainly showing promise and all is going well at present – so yes! Very excited for the future!
New designs for more dolls, sourcing new fabrics, including beautiful lace for a wedding line I have planned – brides, bridesmaids… so many ideas for FloraLilly !
Only not doing it sooner! Sometimes it takes a while to find the right business idea though and all the previous experience gained is useful and ongoing in so many ways.
What 3 tips would you give other women over 50 looking to do the same?
Think. Plan. Do!