Liz Phillips has been running her home furnishings company Phillips & Cheers for 5 years. What started with small steps and has grown into a successful venture. Here Liz shares with us some of the hurdles she has faced, and gives invaluable advice to new business owners:
Self-confessed textile enthusiast and life-long creator Liz Phillips had often dreamed about owning her own creative business. With much of her career spent around museums and historic properties, her love for unique fabrics had blossomed into an extensive collection. Following a redundancy, she took the opportunity to work on her upholstery skills, and soon began a side business reinventing furniture using her one-off fabulous fabrics.
Since then, Liz’s vintage and designer home furnishing business Phillips & Cheers has grown year on year.
Liz cites the lack of support for female business owners, running a business through the menopause and a changing economic climate as just a few challenges she is tackling. She confesses that running a business is hard work, but loves the creativity and flexibility it affords her.
As we do, Liz believes in the opportunities self-employment presents for women and wants to spread the word.
For those starting out, what are the first steps you took to start your business?
Firstly, I took the pressure off myself stressing about the long list of things that I needed to do. I can be over critical of everything I do. I knew this could work against me at the start!
I kept it simple. I made some products (mainly cushions and lampshades) and I put them on Etsy. I set up my social media accounts. I paid a friend of a friend to create a basic logo that would ‘do for now’ and I made some business cards.
It felt very exciting to take my first steps towards my own business. I will never forget the feeling when I got my first sale.
What steps did you take to grow the business?
As soon as I had finished setting up my own website I decided to register my business. I kept my Etsy shop running alongside my website while I was still building an audience. If you have a product to sell, you can use one of the big sites to dip your toe in the water and use it for market research.
I took stands at some fairs and began to build a social media presence. As I ran my business from home I worked hard to reduce my overheads. I actively approached magazines and soon my products were featured and have now been in many magazines including the front cover of Period Living Christmas edition!
What challenges have you faced as a female business owner?
I struggled to find business support/advice for someone who is at this stage of life. There are plenty of opportunities for young people to start up but I felt rather excluded, and didn’t quite ‘fit the criteria’.
Thankfully I got help from The Women’s Organisation which has been a godsend. I feel very passionate that women in midlife have a huge amount of skills and experience that would make them successful business owners, yet perhaps are not seen as an important part of the business community and economy that need to be nurtured and supported. It can feel very lonely.
I also found that struggling through the menopause while building a business has been a massive challenge. It’s meant sometimes getting things done at a slower pace than I would have done them previously…..and keeping LOTS of lists!
Largely though this is down to getting the right support/advice for symptoms. If we can bring change to support women through menopause then this can only have a positive effect on the economy. Many women leave their jobs because they can’t cope during menopause or their employers are not supportive. Being self employed may be a much better option for them and this needs to be more widely known.
What support have you accessed via The Women’s Organisation?
After an initial phone discussion, I was assigned Paul Rittenberg as my business mentor. He is really helpful to bounce ideas off and helps me identify things that I might want to focus on, or how to approach something. Paul has helped me complete my business plan and has signed me up for some of your courses. I have recently attended a social media morning which was very useful indeed.
What does the future hold for your business?
My business is growing but the market is a lot more challenging now as non essential spending is squeezed. As a business owner you can’t be completely blinkered about the direction you’re going in. Adjusting/evolving is important for your growth and that of your business.
Sewing and crafting is massively popular these days and I want to expand into this area with more in house designed fabrics. I have my first fabric now for sale on my website and a second fabric design in production at the moment, one that will tap into the Christmas market so fingers crossed! I have also just made my first sewing YouTube tutorial teaching people how to make things for their home. I like doing them and hope to grow this part of my work.
Do you have any advice for new business owners?
Take opportunities even if you don’t think you’re ready. Early on in my business on the spur of the moment I applied for the Liberty London ‘Open Call’ and I ended up presenting to the Chief Executive and the head of buying! While my dream didn’t come to fruition in the end it was a huge boost to my confidence that they liked what I did and it spurred me on.
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