Award-winning entrepreneurs Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish founded notonthehighstreet.com from a kitchen table in 2006. The table still exists (it’s in one of their meeting rooms).
Their founding ideal is one that they still stick to today: to hunt out the most original items from the best creative small businesses, and bring them together in one place, making it easy for people to browse and buy. In this blog post we hear from Founder Holly Tucker, who has kindly shared some of her top tips to help out other people thinking about starting up their own business.
You are co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com, so how did this all come about?
Before notonthehighstreet.com I founded Your Local Fair; a series of fairs held in several locations in and around West London - Notting Hill, Chelsea and Richmond to name but a few. The fairs provided a base for local, creative businesses to sell their products in one place. In total we hosted around 10-15 fairs before realising that running events dependant on the weather being good meant that the financials could be a little unpredictable.
Even so, the feedback we received from sellers was incredibly positive - they appreciated being surrounded by other local sellers of a similar standard yet facing the same difficulties of selling to a market that was being dominated by the high-street. It was these comments that stuck with me; I couldn’t shake them off! Eventually I realised that there was a solution - what if I was able to create an online curated marketplace for all of those talented designers and makers to trade more efficiently, and provide them with a platform to realise their potential?
I knew Sophie well, having worked with her in advertising, and I knew that our individual skills would be extremely complimentary in business. It was then that notonthehighstreet.com was born.
What tips would you give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Know that you are doing it for the right reasons. Running your own business can have a lot of perks, but it ultimately means you have the toughest boss of all - yourself! I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur, but I have always been passionate about small, creative businesses, and have been told that I have a naturally creative flair and business acumen. I don’t know how much of that is true, but I do know that if you feel strongly about something then you shouldn’t be afraid to at least try. There are no mistakes, just learning curves. The biggest failure is fear. For me, I saw hidden talent everywhere and I was determined to shine a light on these sellers.
Also a keen supporter of the Small Business Saturday initiative, notonthehighstreet.com was founded to help take the products of independent designers, entrepreneurs and makers, priced out of a homogenized high-street to a global audience. Since launching its very first site in 2006, the impact notonthehighstreet.com has had on the small business community within the UK has been phenomenal and continues to surpass our original expectations:
In 2013 notonthehighstreet.com saw six of its Partners turn over in excess of £1million, and this is predicted to increase to twelve Partners by the end of this year.
notonthehighstreet.com launched in Germany during the summer and hopes to repeat the boosting of small business there, too, helping them to achieve similar levels of success.
To coincide with the date of Small Business Saturday, notonthehighstreet.com joined the tour bus to recruit and inspire small businesses locally. The bus travelled across the UK throughout November and will continue to do so during December. We joined the bus in Southwark on 3 December and Camden on 4 December. Hopefully, you got the chance to come and say hello.
How do you balance your work life and your family life?
I’m not always the best at switching off; I’m passionate about the business and the work we do, but holidays are wholly my time and when I try to completely switch off and dedicate myself 100% to my family. We’ve travelled to some amazing destinations together and my partner and I truly value the life lessons we are teaching our son, Harry, and the memories we take away with us. It’s those precious moments that make the intensity of work life completely worth it. We try to take at least a couple of holidays and several short trips throughout the year - it really helps to recharge the batteries and get ready for the next onslaught of work.
What can we expect from notonthehighstreet.com in the next 12 months?
What’s not to expect?! We’ve set the wheels in motion for our busiest year yet - we have new category launches to come, International development and expansion, and a series of new TV and other advertising campaigns.
From its inception, notonthehighstreet.com has focused on championing unique, original and high quality products, and one of our most obvious ambitions is to continue to delight customers on a daily basis and inspire them with our extensive product range. notonthehighstreet.com dedicates itself to promoting€˜a life less ordinary’ and this is what we want to bring to our customers - beautiful products that will enhance their lifestyles and make them just a little more extraordinary.
You are co-author of the No 1 Sunday Times bestseller Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table, so can you tell us about this too?
Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table is very much focused on the start-up phase of business, drawn from our experiences founding notonthehighstreet.com. It highlights all of the things we had to learn the hard way during those early years, from Beta to Investment. We cover it all in manageable chapters, from writing your first business plan to handling finance, PR and HR. In writing the book, our hopes were that it would prove to be a vital business bible, ensuring that anyone starting up an enterprise, or considering starting up, is completely and utterly prepared.
What is next for you?
Global expansion is a hot topic for notonthehighstreet.com - we’ve already launched in Germany and are now focusing on wider International expansion plans across other territories.
Travel - always! I love to travel as much as I can and I have a map in my home office that covers an entire wall. It’s on this map that my son and I like to chart all of the destinations we have been to, as well as pinning the places we’d like to travel to in the future.
Charity - I have recently founded my own charity The Happy Bricks Foundation, which is aimed at providing education for disadvantaged children around the world, as well as putting in place support networks to enable them to sustain a better way of living. We’re currently at the last stages of a school build in Tanzania, which will provide education for up to 300 children and generations to come.