This Start-Up Story comes from Kate, founder of A Year Of Dates, who has a brilliant business that came from a very creative and personal gift….
Tell me a little about you & your family, what your business is, and the inspiration behind getting started…
I’m Kate, mum to Phoebe (4 going on 14!), wife to John, and owner of A Year of Dates, a retail business encouraging people to make time for each other in their busy lives.
It all started following a Christmas gift from John – a glass jar containing date ideas in sealed envelopes that I opened each week. So many friends and family commented on how they’d like to do something similar but didn’t have the time. This sparked an idea during my maternity leave and A Year of Dates was born!
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
After the lightbulb moment we both thought it was a good idea. I used to be a designer so I set up the logo, leaflets and cards. John works in IT so he built the website. We already had the domain name as I had been writing a blog about the dates we went on so that really helped!
We set a budget – using our savings – ordered enough for 100 sets and just went for it!
How did you get your first sale or client?
We got a few from friends and family but it got more exciting once the ‘real’ orders came in!
I was lucky enough to be told about a Pitch Up event in Manchester for Not on the High Street, it was only 3 weeks after we officially started, so I booked a space. We were lucky enough to be signed up as a Partner (I have since learnt that the number of people they accept is really low!) and once we were on there the orders started to come in. In 2 months we had sold the initial order of 100 boxes!
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
Not on the High Street really helped, we’d never have been seen by that large an audience without them. They continue to be our main source of orders and we have been lucky enough to be on their Business Development Programme and been to their Christmas party where we met my heroine Holly Tucker – and she asked us for a selfie!
We made the decision in 2018 that I’d quit my part time job to focus on the business, this was the best decision as I was really able to grow sales and get out to network more. Then this year John left his job and now we’re both here growing this together!
Possibly our biggest break is about to happen – we won Theo Pathitis’ Autumn Fair competition which means we get a free stand at the UK’s largest home and gift trade show… This is a huge opportunity for us!
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
I love the flexibility, we can pick Phoebe up from nursery and spend time with her and work in the evening if we need to. It’s given John the opportunity to be part of this too, something he always missed when he was commuting.
I love that I get the opportunity to do so many new things – host networking events, record podcasts and attend events for entrepreneurs!
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
Filing our first VAT returns – although John does this as I have no idea! Haha!
Standing up and speaking at an event when the business was a few weeks old was terrifying, I didn’t think I was really running a business at that point and everyone cheered me on and shouted that I was… I was buzzing afterwards – now you can’t shut me up about it!
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
I have met so many amazing women doing this crazy thing of running a business and it’s great to know they’ve got my back! Mama Tribe is a huge support network and I’ve met loads of lovely ladies in Manchester too, we might not see each other much but they’re if you have any questions of worries.
I rely on information from Facebook groups a lot – there is so much info out there and it’s great to get answers or help others.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
After a crazy Christmas sales period our next focus is Valentines day, this is always our busiest time of year and we have a few new things to launch this time. We have a list of products to develop so our focus is on growing the range and offering gifts to different audiences. We often get carried away, when we get a new idea we tend to run with it, we need to revisit some ideas we’ve put aside – some I’m really excited about!
We’d like to pick up our wholesale path and increase the number of shops A Year Of Dates is stocked in. 2019 threw up so many opportunities that we weren’t expecting, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!
On your own start-up adventure?
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