Small Business Saturday Blog

Monday Seller Success Story with eBay: Giddy Goats Toys

Saturday, October 08 at 20:58

Each week we will be celebrating an amazing small business in the run up to 10 years of Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday & eBay have visited the small & wonderful businesses of the UK to hear how they started, scaled their business and share their success.

This week we would like to introduce you to Giddy Goats Toys based in Manchester, founded by Amanda Alexander:

Giddy Goat Toys is a traditional independent children’s toy shop and we’re based in Didsbury, south Manchester. We have an array of toys, books and games for kids of all ages, and, like Small Business Saturday, we are also celebrating our 10th birthday this year which is quite a milestone.

Like many people I fell into running my own business having worked initially as a Customer Services Manager and then General Manager in the watercooler industry for 10 years, but then children came along, and I didn’t want to work long hours. I did a variety of low-level boring admin jobs before going to work for a friend who had an online toy business helping her pack orders. She then took on first one shop then another and eventually I bought one of these shops off her. I learned a lot from my friend about running a business and about the toy industry and will always be grateful to her for starting me on the path to where I am now at the helm of my own toy shop – a job which I absolutely love.

In the early days most of the takings were ploughed back into stock. I had a few part time members of staff but paid myself a pittance of a wage so that I could invest in the business and so took on another job doing data entry part- time to make ends meet whilst I built up my stock. (The irony is not lost on me that in trying to reduce my hours post children I was working two jobs but that said it was still hours to suit me and not the crucial tea-time/bath-time/story-time/bed-time shift).

Five years on and I had paid off the bank loan I had taken out to set up Giddy Goat, given up the extra job and started to pay myself something nearer approaching the minimum wage and we had a good loyal local following of customers. However, at this point I was also struggling with health issues and I had a few years of battling chronic fatigue - which anyone with chronic fatigue, ME or long covid will know is both debilitating and depressing. Not only did I lack energy, but I lost my Tigger bounce and became more of an Eeyore. I could get through the day but then would flake out when I got home. I never once had to close the shop but there were a few occasions where between customers I had to go lie down in the stockroom, scrambling to my feet when I heard the door opening. This dragged on for a few years but happily I did make a full recovery and by 2020 I was ready to do Couch to 5k and I’m now fully recovered and as my kids don’t need my time anymore (just my money!!) I can now not only run the shop but consider other challenges as well – both personal and professional - and I’ve a cracking bunch of friends in the same boat with almost grown-up kids who are up for nights out and weekends away.

So here we are celebrating 10 years. We’ve survived covid (so so grateful that I’d already started selling on some marketplace platforms when lockdown happened and was moving us onto a big girl epos system rather than our 1960’s push button fisher price style till) so we were able to move to being an online retailer, which essentially kept us going through the long long covid lockdowns (and bear in mind Manchester was closed down and in Tier 3 for months on end – remember the mind boggling tier systems on top of everything else we had to figure out). So, despite everything the last few years have, business wise, been good years. The downside was the isolation which came from having to furlough all the staff and work alone in my closed shop, so it was really lovely to be chosen as one of the 2021 Small Business Saturday’s SmallBiz100 and feel a sense of connection and community. I’ve enjoyed engaging with other small businesses on Facebook and at the networking events at the House of Lords and the recent Blue Tie event plus it was just lovely to get that recognition and support from such an amazing organisation. The information provided from the Small Business Saturday & Small Business Britain team via emails and webinars is fantastic and after attending the eBay Business Roadshow in Salford I joined eBay and we’re on their new seller programme where they work with you to develop your online shop and already seeing steady sales coming in.

The new seller programme is perfect for helping you move onto eBay as you are assigned an account manager to talk you through the process of uploading and then optimising your products. Our account manage was incredibly attentive & patient with us, there is a lot to navigate when setting up on eBay, so having someone on hand was invaluable. Our eBay sales started almost from day one of uploading our products and have grown steadily since. As a small business it’s really hard to get found online and this is where a platform like eBay comes into the fore as they are putting your products in the front of customers.

I think the two main differences in selling online vs offline are that you don’t have the same rapport with your customers. I have had some customers who have been coming into my shop for years, I know them by name and I can order products in especially for them and you have a relationship with them and that creates customer loyalty. It’s difficult to get that with online customers. I genuinely feel the customer service we give to our online customers is as good as to our shop customers, in as much as it can be with limited contact, but it’s simply not possible to engender the same relationship when it’s a digital transaction.

I think that’s one of the key things of running your own business. You can’t ever sit back and think ‘right that’s us, we’re doing well’. You can’t ever take your customers for granted, you can’t take anything for granted. The last few years have demonstrated that only too clearly. You have to be actively seeking new sales channels, new customers, new ways of selling, new ways of engaging with potential customers or new business opportunities. But the good news is there are lots of people, organisations and communities who are able to help and who want to see you succeed and Small Business Saturday is definitely one of them.

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