Welcome to my third post in my small business blog series 'Show & Tell'. I am SO excited to be able to share the knowledge and experience of the super-talented Heather Moore who runs Skinny laMinx.
I have been a long-time admirer of Heather and her fab business, and have loved watching it grow over the years with a really authentic and consistent style.
How long? I started the Skinny laMinx blog and Etsy shop in 2007, as a bit of a hobby, which soon got out of control to the point that we opened the doors of our brick-and-mortar shop in Cape Town at the end of 2011.
Who? I'm outrageously lucky to have a team of 10 to do the following: manage finances, run production, create and refine systems, manage PR, do graphic design, figure out wholesale logistics, manage online orders, as well as the day-to-day running of the shop. We also have a team of cutters and seamsters who do all the manufacture and quality control in the production studio upstairs from our shop.
All of this help allows me to get on with my side of things, which is coming up with ideas for designs, as well as creative concepts, branding and marketing plans, and content for our blog and Instagram. It's been a long journey from the days when I did everything myself, and am grateful that I'm increasingly able to focus on the creative side of things.
Products? Skinny laMinx is in the business of taking shapes and colours from the past and translating them into patterns for the future. All our textiles, pillows, bags, trays and other household products have designs inspired by Scandi simplicity, the palette and shapes of the mid 20th Century, all rolled together with a good dollop of South African style.
How it’s sold? We sell our products in our shop at 201 Bree Street, which is a very well-situated spot in Cape Town, and in our online shop too, at skinnylaminx.com. We have a number of wholesale partners in South Africa and across the globe, who sell our things in their shops. We also sell fabric by the metre in our shop as well as through a couple of fabric agents both locally and abroad.
Did you create a business plan before you started out?
There was absolutely no plan. I must admit that the fact that I own a business at all continues to surprise me.
How did you fund your business at the beginning? (no obligation if too cheeky a question)
Not cheeky at all! In fact, with all the focus on how people ought to be entrepreneurs, I think there should be lot more talk about how important it is to have access to funds, which is not always something people talk about.
My story is that about 10 years ago, I co-wrote and illustrated a set of reading books for schools, which ended up selling well. When I started getting royalties on these, I had the freedom to start trying new things that were not necessarily immediately financially rewarding, so that's when I started Skinny laMinx.
What small thing that you do has made the biggest difference?
We do a LOT of small things, like wrapping our parcels beautifully, always making sure people are happy with what they buy, taking any kind of critical feedback very seriously, and thinking all the time about what our customers want and how we can better serve them.
But when it comes to building a reputation, especially at the beginning, good press is vital, and we've always been good at having great images in a well-kept filing system, and well-written copy is very useful to have too. Well-written copy, to the point and sent within deadline is definitely going to make a journalist's life much easier!
What have you learnt the hard way about your business?
I have such a bad memory for these things, so I can't think of any sad stories to share!
What piece of advice or guidance were you given has been the most useful?
Right at the beginning, when I didn't know what I was doing and kept second-guessing myself, my husband told me that I have good instincts and that my first choice was usually the best one. I took this to heart, and it really helped me just get things done instead of agonising and wondering if someone else could do it better than I could.
What sources do you use for business advice / learning / support?
Oh, this gets embarrassing, because I seems to ALWAYS be reading some or other motivational email, but I am very grateful for the support and advice I get from my daily email from Seth Godin, as well as the weekly episode from Marie Forleo. I love reading email newsletters from fellow business owners like Wendy from MOOP, and Ariane of Aolidia, and I'm a huge fan of the 'Lapsed Anarchist's Guide to ...' set of business books by Ari Weinsweig of Zingermans.
Apart from these helpful strangers, over the last few months we have been working with a consultant who is helping us strategise to increase our profits, which has been very interesting.
If someone gave you a small lump sum to invest in your business right now what would you spend it on?
Over the past 5 years, the space in our production studio above the shop has become fuller and fuller as the team has grown, and there's nowhere nice to sit and have a cup of tea. If the lump sum was big enough, I'd buy our building, but if it was more modest, I'd love to make a shady, leafy roof garden for our team to enjoy.