Small Business Saturday Blog

SmallBiz100 Julu on design, manufacturing, and building an online business with friends

Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 09:00

When many friends and family admired a wall hanging airerwhich Lucie Savidge had designed for her home, she asked her school friend,Julia Adams, to help her to develop it into a product and start a business,Julu Laundry Ladders. Both were involved with the design and development,taking Lucie’s concept idea and making it the Laundry Ladder with many uniqueselling points. Lucie now runs the day to day shipping of the product tocustomers and Julia manages the accounts and marketing. The Laundry Ladder isnow an award-winning product at the FSB West Midlands Awards, where they wonthe category for Business and Product Innovation. 
Julia has a background in sales and selling to retailers,and this knowledge has been helpful as it gave them the understanding ofpricing a product with wholesale margins included. However, with no previousexperience of running a business or developing a product, both directors havehad lots to learn along the way.
Once they had their intellectual property rights and TradeMarks pending, Lucie and Julia set about the task of finding reliable andtrustworthy manufacturers. Their first manufacturer came through a contactwhich helped open that first door, and once they had one manufacturer here inthe UK, they were then able to start the process of looking for one in Poland. Theyhave also found that having a sales history helps with negotiations, making theapproach to manufacturers a little easier.
Lucie and Julia say that they are still learning a lot aboutbusiness but have some great tools:
  • Cloud based accounting and other Cloud based systems help themeasily access accounts and files from any location, allowing them to work from homebut share files and information easily with each other and keep up to date withtheir financial position.
  • They have found great support in groups like FSB/Chamber ofCommerce in technical and legal aspects of the business, plus networking.
  • Their website developers also keep up to date withregulations and help them to renew their website, keeping it fresh andcontinually improving the SEO of the site. The internet is a constantlychanging beast, so having a team who know what’s changing and how to adapt tothose changes keeps their site high up in the searches, which is crucial for anecommerce business.
  • Through MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) they received agrant plus one of the contacts which eventually helped them to find their firstmanufacturer. The grant was given through a gateway process which gave them theencouragement that as they passed each gateway their business idea/product wasworthy of production. Part of the gateway grant was used to commission abusiness case study report which highlighted that the clothes airer market iscompetitive and largely dominated by big high street names at middle to lowerprice point, leaving a gap in the market at the higher end. They then set outto design the Laundry Ladder to be stylish and functional, giving it many USPsto place it at this gap in the market, where it stands strong and unchallenged.Their customer reviews prove that they have succeeded to create a well-received,innovative and needed product.
  • The internet has levelled the playing field for smallbusiness to compete: now with one’s own website, you can reach a vast and wideaudience from your home. With good SEO which is regularly maintained, you cankeep your business profile in view. The use of websites such as Amazon helpimprove your SEO and social media, and support you to grow your brand. Julu onlymarket here in the UK but sell all over the world, and this can only be donedue to their presence on other platforms.

Lucie’s top tips:

1. Being on other websites, even little known ones, canassist your SEO.
2. Lifestyle images are a must when selling a product forthe home. Even on a limited budget, Lucie and Julia managed to create differentlooks within their own homes in order to produce images for their website. Theyborrowed furniture, pictures and props from local retailers who they then linkedto from their website by way of thanks, which added to their SEO as well ascreating powerful lifestyle images to market their product.

Lucie’s best advice:

Keep asking, whatever it is you need. A manufacturer?Platforms to sell on? An accounts system? Consumer shows to attend? You willreceive many different answers but the right one will come along eventually. Don’tgive up.
Lucie says that she is looking forward to the Julu LaundryLadder becoming a piece of must have furniture in every home, and a successfulbusiness of which she and Julia can both be proud.
About the author: Lucie Savidge is co-founder of Julu Laundry Ladder. Find out more on their website here.


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