One sunny August day in 2005, Sally Hurst was sitting on Bantham Beach in Devon with her 5 children surrounded by carrier bags containing wet swimmers and picnics. She started thinking that there must be something better than all those plastic bags. What she needed was a practical, strong, fun beach bag. Later that day she went home and designed one! The minimum order from the manufacturer was 6000 bags so Sally took a leap of faith and ordered the 6000 bags. She travelled all over Devon selling the bags and managed to sell 5000 in that first year.
The Old Bag Company has gone from strength to strength. Thanks to Sally for taking time out from the busy summer season to answer the Prowess 2.0 Q&A.
What is the business?
I am a woman and a mum who designs bags for women – the bags are designed in England from our offices in Churchstow, Devon with multiple pockets for women on the go and for women who need a practical bag for all occasions. The Old Bag Company now has a range of bags to choose from all stemming from the original beach bag I designed in 2005.
I found that starting a business after having children was perfect; I was at the right stage in my life. My five children have been my inspiration for my original products. [quote]Each product has been named after each of my five children with little personal message written by them in their bag.[/quote]
I have found that running my own business has given me flexibility, which makes balancing my work and home life easier. It is also great to be the one who makes the decisions about the business. I cannot begin to describe the feeling one gets when I see one of my products in magazines and when I spot a member of the general public with one of my products!
I try to live my life through 3 key values: Passion, hard work and self-belief. I truly believe that more women should be empowered and work, we make fantastic entrepreneurs. I love to inspire and encourage women to get back into the workplace.
The 3 main places I advertise my products are:
The Old Bag Company Shop
I have just opened a retail shop in Salcombe where I was inspired to follow in the footsteps of big brands such as Fat Face, Jack Wills and Quba Sails who all started life in Salcombe. I have found that having a shop is a great window for my products and for moving old stock on.
Our Ecommerce website
Having a website to sell your products on is fundamental in this day-and-age. If you invest time and money in your Google presence you will see a big ROI, especially if you can get in the top 3 positions on the first page of Google for key search terms.
Getting your name in newspapers and magazines is a great source of publicity and needn’t cost a thing if you are savvy. People like to buy into a story, a brand and a person. If you have an article including these three things you will get an increase in sales and brand awareness.
Top business tips
When I say self-confidence I am not referring to arrogance, I mean be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. You are providing a service and making your consumer’s life better by providing them what they need. All too often I hear women apologising for winning an award or being embarrassed that they have been called inspirational. Stop that disbelief; you are both inspirational and brilliant. You would not have won an award without people voting for you and your products, therefore, what are you worrying about?
The best way to give yourself a pat on the back, boost your confidence and market your business is through entering awards. They are free to enter and you have absolutely nothing to lose but a lot to gain from the experience. Not to mention that if you were shortlisted or won your category what a fantastic marketing opportunity it is.
Women we make brilliant networkers! Networking is a brilliant way to spread the word about your business, make great contacts and gain knowledge from sharing experiences. From my experience I have found women to be open about their experiences during networking sessions so make the most of these sessions to get to know fellow business women.
Business funding is a resource that is under-used and one that can give your business the boost it really needs. There are local, regional and national organisations available who want to help fund your business start-up. Especially as a woman, you will find there are lots of help available – the UK is trying to get more businesses run by women started.
Sally Hurst is the founder and owner of The Old Bag Company – the award winning women’s bag company.