knitting by tania ho http://www.flickr.com/photos/taniaho/45017331

Member Article

Ready, steady, knit!

After 30 years working in the health and social care sector as an Occupational Therapist (OT), Pauline Edwards felt that she needed a complete change of direction. The final impetus to start her business came when her two children left home to start jobs and university, meaning that although life was changing for her, retirement was still a long way off and Pauline now had the time to do something for herself.

The inspiration for Pauline’s new venture came from a radio talk show when she heard an entrepreneur discussing ways of generating business ideas. He suggested that people should consider turning their hobbies into a business, so Pauline who had always loved knitting and craft, immediately realised that there was a gap in the market in her home town of Prudhoe and decided to open a wool shop there.

Pauline’s many transferable skills and previous experience proved invaluable as she started to progress her idea. These skills include expertise in various crafts such as knitting, sewing, weaving, patchwork and quilting gained from her traditional training as an OT and her personal interest in crafting. She also has admin and bookkeeping experience from helping her husband who previously ran a small vehicle repair business, and working for the NHS gave her people skills and knowledge of matters such as health and safety.

However despite her broad range of skills, Pauline felt that she needed professional guidance to help her develop her business idea, so she approached NBSL’s Hexham Business Advice Centre for support and was given assistance free of charge to enable her to continue on her enterprise journey.

Pauline worked with several advisers at the centre over a period of many months and felt that she benefitted from their different skills, qualities and approaches. She also attended a number of free workshops covering topics such as marketing and finance, and was given practical support to enable her to carry out market research and cash flow forecasting. As Pauline observed,

“NBSL was good because it was local, travelling to Hexham was cheap and convenient and the advisers helped me focus my ideas and progress them too. I would go to a session with a list of questions and ideas; they would answer some and send me off with an even longer list of questions and so on. They kept me focused to calculate the break even and viability. By the time I came to rent premises I had already made contact with suppliers, knew who my market was and had lots of ideas for marketing. They also helped me recognize which would be the quiet times of year so I didn’t panic when the sun came out last week and sales slumped!”

Like anyone trying to set up a new business Pauline faced a variety of barriers including raising the finance to start up and finding suitable and affordable premises. Finally she located an empty shop that was in line for demolition in a few years time when Prudhoe town centre is redeveloped and she managed to negotiate a reasonable rent on a short term lease. As Pauline said, “I hope this short lease will be an opportunity to test the market and hopefully expand into larger premises in the future”.

Pauline finally set her business up (as she describes it) ‘on a shoe string’ in April 2012 with practical support from all her family. Her daughter was responsible for planning the décor and logo, her son has been her IT consultant and her ever patient husband has provided handyman services – although the problems experienced with the uneven shop floor nearly caused a divorce!

Although it is still early days, Pauline already has regular customers who say how nice it is to see a wool shop back in the community again. The only thing limiting Pauline now is the need to take time out to sleep! She is full of ideas and enthusiasm for the business and works all hours, both on and in it as she is determined to make it a great success.

Ready Steady Knit can be found at 17b Front Street, Prudhoe, Northumberland, NE42 5HN (to the rear of 17 Front Street) where the shop stocks Sirdar yarns, patterns, knitting needles, and haberdashery items. The shop is open Tuesdays to Saturdays 9.30am – 5pm and a ‘knit and natter’ group has recently started up too. Contact details are available on the website at www.readysteadyknit.com and Pauline can be emailed at wool@readysteadyknit.com

For more information about NBSL’s services for people who want to start and grow businesses, and to contact us to see how we could help you to achieve your dreams, go to www.nbsl.org.uk or telephone us on 01670 813322.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Phil Langton .

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