Sam’s wonderful start-up story is a great reminder to be persistent in pursuit of your goals – you’ll find the right support and get the breaks you need eventually! Its also another fantastic franchise that’s currently growing its reach, just like the recently featured Get Ahead VA.
Tell me a little about you & your family, what your business is, and the inspiration behind getting started…
My name is Sam and I live in Southfields, a lovely family-friendly area in South West London, with my husband and two daughters, Cecily and Meredith, who are now 9 and 7 years old.
My business journey began after I had Meredith and decided not to return to work. I knew I wanted to work for myself, so that I could fit working around family life, but didn’t have a clear vision of how I was going to achieve this! Inspiration struck during a particularly frustrating trip to buy new shoes for my then toddler. There was nothing enjoyable about shoe shopping for them and soon discovered I wasn’t alone in feeling this way!
I started training as a shoe fitter and began working on my business idea for a mobile children’s shoe fitting service, which I eventually named CeCe & Me, after my daughters.
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
My USP is my shoe fitting expertise. The training and work experience I undertook is the foundation of the business. This took six months, during which I also conducted market research, met with potential suppliers, looked at hundreds of little shoes and developed my business plan.
How did you get your first sale or client?
I invited friends and neighbours to a launch party at home, where I made my first sales, and they helped spread the word. My initial concept was shoe fitting parties, like a 1970’s tupperware party, but uptake wasn’t great, so I began to adapt my approach.
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
Some of my suppliers have been a great support. They took a risk, as my business model was new and unproven, and without their belief in my idea I wouldn’t have got it off the ground.
I have found this willingness, or not, to support a new idea is a common thread, and I am sure it is something that anyone starting a new venture will experience. I have just learnt to move on when it’s obvious someone isn’t on board and look for the next opportunity.
Most of my new ideas, inspiration and opportunities come through networking, and my customers. I can not put a value on how important it is to get out and meet people, make connections, talk about your business and always have an open mind.
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
There is so much I love about what I do! My customers, big and small, are fantastic, and quite often hilarious! I love the support I get as a small business in my local community and building relationships with local families. I love that the children call me The Shoe Lady.
I love that I am creating a more convenient, relaxed and less stressful shoe shopping experience and that parents trust my advice. It is incredibly satisfying to see little feet walking away in a pair of shoes I know fit well and that they will enjoy.
I love that, while the balance is not perfect, I am achieving this working around my family.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
There is an Eleanor Rossevelt quote, “Do something every day that scares you”, and I think that’s really good advice. You have to keep pushing yourself, not too far, but gradually stepping outside your comfort zone. I am always thrilled with the results I achieve and the support I receive when I have the courage to do something that makes me anxious.
There are many challenges in running your own business, some things I know little about and I am the only one here to deal with them. If I don’t pull my finger out and do what needs to be done, the business is likely to suffer, and I can’t let that happen! I guess that’s the scariest thing, knowing it’s success rests solely with me!
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
My dad has been my greatest supporter and cheerleader. He is the wisest person I know and I always listen to his advice.
Since starting CeCe & Me I have been lucky enough to meet and become friends with a number of local business owners, most of whom are also mums building businesses. I am a great believer in collaboration over competition and that is certainly true of this wonderful group of people.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
CeCe & Me is now four years old, which I find difficult to believe! I have learned a lot about running this business and am convinced there are other areas where a mobile shoe fitting service would be a welcome addition to the community.
My ambition is to develop a network of CeCe & Me shoe fitters, providing a service valued by parents and supporting each other to grow their businesses.
I am working on setting up CeCe & Me as a franchise opportunity and aim to find the right person to be my first franchisee in the next six months. I am super excited about this next phase in my business journey and to welcoming some more people along for the ride.
Are you self-employed?
I’m a certified Coach, and I support women who are setting up and growing creative, independent businesses. I offer coaching, training and support for getting your ideas off the ground and making things happen in your business. Interested? Click below to find out more about what I do.