Name: Katie Mowat
Company: Grannies, Inc. Ltd.
Established: June 2009
1. Describe your business in one sentence
Grannies, Inc. is an online knitwear company offering customers the opportunity to design their own knitwear accessories and have them hand knitted by a granny of their choice in the UK.
2. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I've always known that I would start my own company at some point and after two and a half years in a high-powered city job I decided to take the leap. I learned to knit during a university year abroad in California six years ago, where it had become a craze amongst celebs. The girls in the apartment opposite mine would always be knitting and were happy to teach me. I soon picked it up and have been knitting ever since. I am also a very keen skier and passionate about fashion on the slopes so I always used to knit my own beanies (and for friends). This is where the original idea came from. We launched with just beanies as our product but expanded to other knitwear accessories last winter season, allowing customers to create one-of-a-kind knitwear designs that really makes them stand out from the crowd.
The idea to employ grannies to knit the products came from when I was looking for knitters for the company and it seemed most of them were of the older generation. I wanted to develop the company into a ethically British brand, promoting British wool and manufacture in the UK so having a team of grannies hand making our products was a great fit. It offers grannies to opportunity to earn extra income from doing exactly what they love and customers the knowledge that their product will be lovingly hand made for them by an expert knitter.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is sourcing a yarn that was suitable for our product and was available in a good, wide range of colours. Many yarns are only produced in a small range of colours and I knew it was essential to offer my customers as many colour choices as possible to support the ‘design your own’ feature. After much searching I decided I’d have to bite the bullet and have my own yarn range spun. I found a charming mill in Devon who now produce all of our 100% merino yarns in 24 beautiful colours.
I have so far completely self funded Grannies, Inc. with savings I put aside while working in my last job. Our first year was fairly low in terms of outgoings since I built the website myself and didn’t need to buy much stock up-front due to the custom nature of our products. The second year, however, has needed more investment that the first, with a new website design and our own range of merino wool yarn, and was funded purely with the profits from the first year.
Mainly online, through social networking, email marketing, Facebook and banner advertising. We also have exhibited at the Ski and Snowboard Show at London Olympia the previous two years to get our name and concept out there.
6. What are your plans for the future?
Our plans for the future are to expand the range of hand knitted, custom products we offer on our website and are actually about to launch a small children’s accessory range. We are also very excited to be in the process of writing a ‘Grannies Inc Guide to Knitting’ book which we hope will launch us into the craft market and will be accompanied by a range of Grannies Inc yarns. We are really hoping to grow to be a strong British brand, reinvigorating the age old craft of knitting and educating the nation on the value of ethical fashion.
The only thing I think I would have done differently is to have launched our children’s range earlier, ideally this time last year. The first six months where an absolute whirlwind and although I was very aware of the seasonality of the products we were offering on the website I didn’t prioritise combating the low season early enough.
8. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs based on your business experience so far?
I think one of the most important things I’ve learnt so far is that networking can be one of the most invaluable tools in business. I try to attend as many networking events as my schedule allows to build a network of diverse people around myself and my business. As well as personal motivation (I currently work alone, from home) the people I have met during my short entrepreneurial career have been one of the greatest assets to my success so far in terms of advice, contacts and support. I always try and think of how I can help other people I meet in business and this has resulted in me receiving a great amount of support back in return, it’s a two way street.
Secondly, I would definitely advise others to review and adapt their business plans on a regular basis. I do it once a year and it gives me time to assess how well I’ve done compared to how I thought I would do and reconsider where the business should be heading based on the results. It hasn’t always been pretty but it really does focuses me on growing the areas of the company which are working well and reassessing those areas which haven’t proven so successful.
About Dan Martin
Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.
After three years working as a researcher for Sky News, he joined BusinessEurope.com as a reporter. This was followed by two years working as news editor for Startups.co.uk during which time Dan also contributed to Growing Business magazine. In 2006, he joined Sift Media as business editor before being promoted to editor of BusinessZone.co.uk. He also has responsibility for UK Business Forums, the UK’s most active online forums for small business entrepreneurs. In addition, Dan founded The Pitch, BusinessZone.co.uk's nationwide competition for small business owners. He host the grand finals in 2009 and 2010 in front of an audience of 300.
As well as interviewing many entrepreneurs, Dan has written content for leading business organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business, Investors in People and Business Link for London. Among the publications that have quoted Dan are The Times, Mail On Sunday, Financial Times, Personnel Today and Bristol Evening Post. His articles have also been published by publications including eGov Monitor, Virgin Express in-flight magazine and Personal Success.
Dan regularly speaks at events about small business and social media issues. Among the events he has presented at are the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies' annual conference, Learning Technologies, Publishing Expo and World of Learning. He has also chaired high profile debates featuring senior representatives from Business Link and the Federation of Small Businesses and Dragons' Den judge James Caan.
Dan was named the 10th most influential political blogger on Twitter by the Independent and won the public award for best B2B tweeter at the Golden Twits 2010. He also organised the Bristol Twestival, part of a global Twitter driven charity initiative, in February 2009 and March 2010. Volunteers from 175 cities around the world organised events using the social network. In total, $350,000 was raised for charity: water in 2009 and $500,000 for Concern in 2010. In Bristol, £1,500 and £5,600 was raised.