Learn to walk before you can run. That is the advice Ruth O’Sullivan has for the owners of start-up companies.
As owner manager of the Travelling Potter, a mobile ‘paint your own pottery’ studio, O’Sullivan said that running a business the right way often came down to pacing yourself.
‘‘Looking back, I was so eager to start the ball rolling that I jumped in to it without doing enough research on the available supports. For example, my website was nearly finished and had been paid for, when I realised I could have been eligible to receive Enterprise Board funding if I had applied earlier. If I were starting up again, I would find out more about available supports for new businesses.’’
The Travelling Potter
O’Sullivan established the Travelling Potter in late 2009, operating out of her home near Stepaside, Co Dublin.
‘‘I had been looking for a business idea which would ap- peal to me,’’ she said. ‘‘My previous childcare experience, combined with being amumofone, meant I could develop a good rapport with kids. ‘‘My qualification in IT [BSc in Computer Science] means I know how to easily edit the www.travellingpotter. com website.
O’Sullivan researched her market carefully before setting up her business with her own money.
‘‘I looked at the demo graphic I felt comfortable covering, speaking to party providers and mums about what they wanted. I realised there was a growing desire for home based parties for children and also that ‘staying in is the new going out’. I also made several trips to Britain, where I did a number of training courses using the kiln and discussed my requirements for equipment, supplies and continuing support.’’
Testing the waters
O’Sullivan advised the owners of new start-ups to test the waters by selling first to family, friends and their extended networks.
‘‘Before the business was properly established, I was asked to do a number of commission pieces, which included personalised wedding plates, hen party plates and Christening plates. As word started to spread, party and workshop bookings began to come in,’’ she said.
According to O’Sullivan, first-time business owners can benefit hugely by networking with other start-ups and sharing their experiences.
‘‘I found the isolation of working alone and not being accountable to anyone but myself challenging at first,’’ he said.
Getting the support
‘‘There was a brief period of questioning myself. Women in Business events, in particular, have been great for meeting other business owners, chatting about experiences and also relieving the feeling of isolation. My family and friends were very supportive, but more of this type of networking whether in person or online would have helped in the early days.’’
The web provides a host of useful advertising and marketing opportunities for new companies. ‘‘I started advertising baby and child pottery products in the free classifieds section of a parenting website and the orders started coming in. Facebook has brought in quite a lot of business. I am now starting paid advertising and expect this will increase bookings even further,’’ said O’Sullivan.