Our Businesswoman of the Month for August is Geraldine Grandidier, a violin maker by trade, who designed the Tidy Books bookcase when she couldn’t find anything suitable for her own children’s books.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
My company is Tidy Books. I design storage and bookcases for children that helps them pick and chose their books independently. All my designs are original concepts. I started in 2004 with £500 and now Tidy Books sells in places like John Lewis, our multi territory website and internationally.
Why did you start this particular business?
I’m a violin maker by trade and in 2004 I was looking for a bookcase for my daughter Adele. All I could find were adult bookcases dressed up for kids. They made no sense for kids. I wanted something where she could see her books and pick them herself and put them back.
So I made the bookcase I had in mind, and all my friends wanted one too. It soon became very obvious that there was a gap in the market. My simple concept fundamentally changed the way books are presented to kids in the home. I put a small ad in a parenting magazine and I couldn’t make them fast enough. Even though I had no business experience whatsoever, I secretly decided to grow a global business. I went from bespoke violins to large production. I have since developed other designs and I enjoy growing my company.
A good team.
Linking and growing each area of your business at the same time.
A product that people really need helps a lot too!
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
Don’t let anyone ‘take over’ your business at the start – just because they may have more experience. Be open, listen, but follow your instinct – you know what’s best for your business and it’s made of a unique fabric.
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
I’m good at spotting a gap in the market. I don’t let anything stop me. I started with £500. It never occurred to me that I would need more money, even though it was a product based business.
I had no business experience whatsoever. I was a craftsperson but I just got on with it. I didn’t think it mattered. I’m fully committed and have a strong self-belief. I knew where I wanted the business to go from day one, to grow a global brand – even if I didn’t know how.
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
- Think about the business model that works with you, your product, your family situation, style etc. Learn from others of course but don’t be tempted to emulate someone else’s business model, as it may not be right for you and could be a big time/energy waster.
- You really are the best salesperson, as you are fully committed and you know the business inside out. Once you’ve mastered that, teach others so that you can grow and scale.
- Be aware but don’t worry!
What difficulties did you experience setting up your business and what has got you through the tough times ?
Building my business whilst bringing up my children was tough, but they are also what has kept me going. My husband is self employed so it was pretty hairy at times with no family help. I had my daughter and my son was just born when I got started and I was working at night. I look back now and wonder how I did it!
What kept me going was that I wanted my business to help children. We’ve always given to kids charities and I want to do more using the business as a vehicle to make a difference. I am passionate about children. This is absolutely what has kept me going when I’ve had enough!
I also love the chance to create products, sales and marketing strategies.
Lots of things and nothing – because you really do learn from everything.
Starting a business can be all-consuming. What are your tips for getting the right work/life balance?
I think it has helped me to know what I wanted for my business from day one, to grow a global brand. You save time in heading in the right direction, even if it takes time.
I don’t know about balance as such but I had decided that I wanted to look after my children. I would be there for them. Being clear and true to what you want means you can still prioritise, even when difficult, and not have feelings of guilt etc. For example, even though I’m building an international business, and am very ambitious, I travel as little as possible and only when essential. It’s a choice. I want to be with my family, but I still find ways to make it work. And if it takes a bit longer … that’s what the internet is for! And I am grateful for that.
Do you have a mentor and when you need advice, who do you talk to?
I don’t have a mentor as such, but I have friends I talk with. Common sense can come from anywhere. I also talk with business peers a lot and we exchange information and insights which is really helpful.
What are your plans for the future?
I have new products coming in. Tidy Books will see a brand re-lift this year.
I’m also setting up a software business that is a spin-off of Tidy Books. This has emerged from a need within Tidy Books and is needed for other product based business owners. Within Tidy Books I’ve spotted another business opportunity.
Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start their own business?
Keep going and keep re-evaluating as you go along.
Trust your instinct.
Make sure you surround yourself with people who help you and are positive.
You and everyone else is here to serve the business best. Knowing this makes decisions much easier – is this activity or person serving the business?
Even when you look after yourself you look after the business better.
TAKE A LOOK AT ALL GERALDINE’S LOVELY PRODUCTS ON THE TIDY BOOKS WEBSITE BELOW …
Geraldine has very kindly offered members of The Business of Mums a 20% discount on ALL her products!
Simply enter the promo code BUSINESS20 for your discount.
And if you would like to network with other mums in business, join our lively and super-supportive private FB group HERE. We’d love to connect with you.