Small Business Saturday Blog

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

Thursday, June 21 at 09:00

When many friends and family admired a wall hanging airer which 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 unique selling points. Lucie now runs the day to day shipping of the product to customers and Julia manages the accounts and marketing. The Laundry Ladder is now an award-winning product at the FSB West Midlands Awards, where they won the 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 of pricing a product with wholesale margins included. However, with no previous experience of running a business or developing a product, both directors have had lots to learn along the way.
 
Once they had their intellectual property rights and Trade Marks pending, Lucie and Julia set about the task of finding reliable and trustworthy manufacturers. Their first manufacturer came through a contact which helped open that first door, and once they had one manufacturer here in the UK, they were then able to start the process of looking for one in Poland. They have also found that having a sales history helps with negotiations, making the approach to manufacturers a little easier.
Lucie and Julia say that they are still learning a lot about business but have some great tools:
  • Cloud based accounting and other Cloud based systems help them easily access accounts and files from any location, allowing them to work from home but share files and information easily with each other and keep up to date with their financial position.
  • They have found great support in groups like FSB/Chamber of Commerce in technical and legal aspects of the business, plus networking.
  • Their website developers also keep up to date with regulations and help them to renew their website, keeping it fresh and continually improving the SEO of the site. The internet is a constantly changing beast, so having a team who know what’s changing and how to adapt to those changes keeps their site high up in the searches, which is crucial for an ecommerce business.
  • Through MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) they received a grant plus one of the contacts which eventually helped them to find their first manufacturer. The grant was given through a gateway process which gave them the encouragement that as they passed each gateway their business idea/product was worthy of production. Part of the gateway grant was used to commission a business case study report which highlighted that the clothes airer market is competitive and largely dominated by big high street names at middle to lower price point, leaving a gap in the market at the higher end. They then set out to design the Laundry Ladder to be stylish and functional, giving it many USPs to 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 small business to compete: now with one’s own website, you can reach a vast and wide audience from your home. With good SEO which is regularly maintained, you can keep your business profile in view. The use of websites such as Amazon help improve your SEO and social media, and support you to grow your brand. Julu only market here in the UK but sell all over the world, and this can only be done due to their presence on other platforms.

Lucie’s top tips:

1. Being on other websites, even little known ones, can assist your SEO.
2. Lifestyle images are a must when selling a product for the home. Even on a limited budget, Lucie and Julia managed to create different looks within their own homes in order to produce images for their website. They borrowed furniture, pictures and props from local retailers who they then linked to from their website by way of thanks, which added to their SEO as well as creating 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 will receive many different answers but the right one will come along eventually. Don’t give up.
Lucie says that she is looking forward to the Julu Laundry Ladder becoming a piece of must have furniture in every home, and a successful business 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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