Maria Allen – Maria Allen Boutique
26 year old Maria Allen tells The Business of Mums how she started her business before she’d even left university.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
We make hand crafted products using reclaimed British and sustainably sourced wood. I started it back in 2008, while I was at university. It was mainly jewellery at first but I have since extended the range to include accessories, homeware and wedding décor. Many of our products are personalised and custom made, helping customers to make the most of special occasions and moments in their lives.
What made you want to start this particular business?
Mainly it was because I couldn’t find jewellery that I really liked, so I taught myself to make it and then friends and family wanted me to make them some. The business grew very gradually and as I was also studying at university, I didn’t have a lot of spare time! But I loved it and I wanted to see how I could grow the business when I graduated. I started in my parent’s house but when it started taking up most of their rooms, as well as the landings and loft, I moved into a studio space. And that’s when I started hiring staff. We now have a team of 5 full time and 3 part time/seasonal members of staff and have moved into a bigger studio.
What do you think it takes to succeed in business?
Motivation, a positive outlook and resilience.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
That if something doesn’t go as planned it doesn’t mean you’ve failed – it’s means you need a change of path, and very often there are even better things around the next corner.
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
I don’t give up and I didn’t want to work for anyone else! It also helps that I love the products and am very excited by the ideas and possibilities
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
1. To aim high with my goals and not be afraid!
2. To delegate sooner, to help me work ‘on’ my business more often, rather than ‘in’ it
3. To step back and regularly acknowledge and appreciate all of my achievements so far
As someone who started a business at a relatively young age, did you ever feel that that put you at a disadvantage in any way?
No, not at all. I have done a huge amount of learning as I go along and I am still learning now. But I love what I do and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
I would say to myself not to rush things or expect things to happen really quickly. Most things take longer than planned and so it is important to give it all time and be patient!
Do you have (or did you have) a mentor and, when you need advice, who do you talk to?
When I was at college I got some great advice from one mentor during an enterprise competition that I was entering. She said to imagine exactly where you want to be in 10 years time, right down to details like what the room that you work in looks like. Then work backwards from there and break it down. What do you need to do in the next 5 years to reach that dream? In the next 2 years? In 1 year? And so on. I recently found what I had written down then – 8 years ago – and it’s amazing to see how much of it is now a reality! I have updated my goals since then, so that there are always new things to be working on!
Talking things through with people in my close network has also helped me hugely – mainly with my husband, close friends and family. Also for specific business advice I often turn to friends who run their own business, it is great to share tips and experiences and help each other.
What are your plans for the future?
To keep on growing the business and to expand our product range. There are so many more products that I would like to develop! I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work, and to be able to carry on feeling like that about my job would be brilliant.
I have also really enjoyed creating and building a fantastic team and I couldn’t have grown my business without them. They are brilliant to work with, it is a great atmosphere in the studio and I would like to continue to build my team.
And do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start a similar business?
I think it’s important to just get out there and start doing something, even if you just try it out on a small scale. If you overthink the situation and wait for the ‘perfect’ moment you may never actually start.
Test the market with your new idea, see what feedback you get from customers. Don’t be afraid to try out your ideas, or approach new people or shops. The worst that can happen is that they say no!
And once you find something that works well and you are busy, don’t be afraid to delegate and hire staff, as it’s a massive help and means that you can continue working on developing and improving your business.
SELLING HAND CRAFTED PRODUCTS
According to The Crafts Council, the market for crafts in England is substantial:
16.9 million adults in England have purchased a craft object
5.6 million craft pieces are purchased each year
A conservative estimate of the total value of these annual sales is £913million
Report from The Crafts Council, covering subjects such as the size of the craft market in England, characteristics of craft buyers and potential consumer trends relevant to the craft market:
Research into creative industries from gov.uk:
See also Creative & Cultural Skills for their articles on :
Books : Your Craft Business – A Step By Step Guide by Kevin Partner (specifically written for the UK market)