From Side Project to £5M: My Journey in 3 Stages
Taking a business from a tiny side project to a company with almost £5 million in turnover doesn’t happen overnight. One founder who made the journey describes the different phases of a growing startup.
By Rebekah Monk (Co-Founder, Bathrooms.com)
Over the years I have seen more and more media interest around startups, whether it be investment funding, unique concepts or tips and tricks on how to make it big.
I have to hold my hands up and say that there is no secret recipe for success, I cannot admit to having all the answers, but I can share my story with you.
I am the co-founder of online retailer Bathrooms.com, which all began in 2004. Originally it was a side project (just selling mirrors) for me to work on whilst I was at home looking after my first child. I never imagined it would grow in to what it is now, with over 50 staff across three continents and an annual turnover of almost £5 million.
The initial concept of selling mirrors led to research into why the cost of amazing looking items were so unaffordable to the average person. It then occurred to my husband Ian and I that we could source well-designed pieces without adding the luxury price tag. Over time we branched out into bathrooms.
As the business began to take off Ian became more involved, utilizing his background in finance and running businesses. Together we worked around the main phases of scaling a business.
The Inception Years
The early years were about long hours, late nights and making mistakes. Getting off the ground was difficult and meant I needed to work almost all of the time. I found that this was the time when we needed to get things wrong in order to correct them and build a better future. The main concept to keep in mind here, is to be work smart. Although working all the hours in the day is to be expected, you still need to be spending time on the right tasks and prioritizing responsibly.
The Evolution Years
This is when we began hiring a small task force and establishing the company culture. This is a stage in the business where if we could do it over again, we would change things. At this stage we were working out of a portable cabin in a small village in Bedfordshire. When you only have a handful of staff it is important to take on talent that will drive the business forward, whereas, at the time, we were quite concerned with not overcommitting on things like wages and office costs.
The Scaling Years
A major advantage to us was Ian’s experience in IT, which we used to our advantage in establishing functional workflows. This move made our growth in later years a dream, we could scale up without losing control of the process.
Once we had all our key processes in place, we then moved on to scaling the business. This can be the make or break time for SMEs and this was the case for us. Having set the right processes in place earlier on, we were then able to just increase the numbers of staff alongside demand from customers. The scaling years are definitively the period that will vary most from business to business and may never really stop. We have found that alongside growing we have also changed and developed along the way, tweaking and improving as we go; but we have kept our core brand mantra.
I think overall, one of the most fundamental things to formulate is what your company stands for. Strength in your core brand values will keep you on track with what your customers want and retain the people that make it so successful.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED SIMILAR PHASES? IF SO, WHAT STAGE ARE YOU AT?
About the guest blogger: Rebekah Monk is co founder of online retailer Bathrooms.com. Her background in teaching gives her great communication and people skills. Rebekah is centered in maintaining the core company values and participating in board decisions. When she’s not hard at work, Rebekah enjoys Zumba, dance classes and baking with her kids.