Snugtums founder talks frankly about setting up a new business single-handed
Hi there. I'm Kate, owner and founder of British-made baby clothing company, Snugtums, and I thought I'd share a bit about how I started from scratch in the world of baby clothing.
When I first came up with the idea for Snugtums I had no idea about how to set up a business, let alone having something manufactured. The whole thing was pretty daunting but I was determined to give it a go. At least if nothing came of it I could tick ‘owning my own business’ off my bucket list.
I was on maternity leave with my first child when I came up with the idea to make tops that look like a t-shirt with the added functionality of a bodysuit.
There are so many lovely t-shirts on the market for babies and toddlers, but if you don’t put a vest or bodysuit on underneath, their nappy wiggles about causing all sorts of havoc (and mess)! And as parents we all know little kids move about constantly, so wearing just a t-shirt means their tummies are always on show or getting chilly.
There are clothes on the market that solve this problem but I found they were mostly double layered – so we made our tops with just a single layer of material with an extra bit that flaps over whatever your little one is wearing on the bottom, so toddlers and babies don’t get too hot. And I really wanted to make something I thought would benefit other parents too.
When I first came up with the idea I dusted off my sewing machine and had a go at making some myself, to test on my little girl and my friends' children. Once I’d made some really rough versions, sewing existing tops and bodysuits together, I found a wonderful local lady who made some samples for me. They were perfect, it was just unfortunate that I couldn’t get her to make the quantity I needed to set up shop. So I trawled the Internet to find a baby clothing manufacturer who could make bigger quantities.
Here are some shots of my little girl wearing the first prototypes!
Manufacturing in Britain
I found a company in the north of England – they had some great suggestions about the product and really helped with sizing. It wasn’t for the fainthearted though – there was so much terminology that was completely new to me, and I had to rely heavily on the manufacturer to walk me through the processes involved. They're used to dealing with big companies manufacturing huge quantities, so at first they assumed I knew my stuff.
Even once you've agreed what the product should look like and which fabrics to use, you get separate prices for fabric per meter, a cost for the manufacturing process per item, as well as printing patterns on fabrics, and ordering branded labels. Then you need to tot everything up in order to see whether you can actually make any profit per item.
You can't imagine how excited I was to receive my first order of brand labels - the ones we sew into the side of our tops with our name on.
I found manufacturing in Britain is generally more costly than buying abroad, but it’s always been really important to me to have my products made here wherever possible.
And our products are made from a good quality and super soft cotton, which is also a really important feature when you're producing clothing for little ones.
But making the actual product was just the tip of the iceberg as I soon found.
There’s so much more involved in the administration side of a business - branding, marketing, trademarking - just to name a few things. It’s easy to get disheartened too, I won’t lie. There have been many times where I’ve thought about giving it all up – trying to hold down a busy full-time job and raise a young child doesn’t leave much spare time for developing a business of your own.
So what advice would I give to any budding entrepreneurs?
Having short and long-term goals with timelines is vital because it’s so easy to get bogged down in all the little details, get side tracked and then lose sight of where you want to get to.
And don't be afraid to ask for help. We can’t do everything on our own – marketing, sales, accounts, design, copy writing etc., even though you probably want to because it’s your baby, so to speak.
Don’t keep tweaking – decide who and what you are and what you stand for. If you aren’t sure and keep changing things customers won’t trust you.
Be prepared to put in a lot of time and emotional effort for not a lot of return in the early days. But I can guarantee the feeling of achievement will be well worth all the time and effort you put in.
Check out my blog on top tips if you’re thinking of setting up your own business - I really hope it's helpful and can at least give you a bit of insight into the challenges I faced.