“Live, breathe and sleep what you’re doing”: Crafter's Companion founder and Dragon Sara Davies shares her recipe for success
Entrepreneur Sara Davies has had quite the year.
Joining series 17 of BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den as its youngest ever judge has catapulted the North East native to national fame, and her story has become well-known.
The founder of craft retail concept Crafter’s Companion, Sara famously grew the brand from a one-woman venture in her university bedroom to a multi-million-pound international business.
I had the opportunity to chat with Sara, and gain some insights on her opinion of what makes a successful entrepreneur, her commitment to the North East region and her top tips for pursuing ambitions and overcoming obstacles.
Based on your experience, what - in your opinion - are the characteristics that an entrepreneur needs to have in order to be successful?
“Being an entrepreneur is much more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.
“My parents are both entrepreneurs and I’ve come to realise that you have to live, breathe and sleep what you’re doing to make it happen. Obviously, the rewards for setting up a business, if successful, can be amazing.
“I would say that to be an entrepreneur you have to be confident in what you’re selling, you have to be tenacious, determined and resourceful.
“While your business may be your baby, you also need to be able to know when to ask for help and accept that you can’t excel at doing everything that the business needs.
“You can hire talented people to help you take your business to the next level and you can focus on the areas where your strengths lie.”
Being from the North East originally, and with Crafter’s Companion based in County Durham, what do you feel the region has to offer entrepreneurs and businesses?
“Apart from the fact that the North East is home, I think that the area is a fantastic place to do business and a great place from which to start a company.
“The North East has such a rich industrial history, we’re surrounded by ports to transport goods and the region has one of the largest growing manufacturing sectors in the country, with new firms emerging all of the time.
“Crafter’s Companion’s head office is in Newton Aycliffe but we also have a store next door and a warehouse close by in Spennymoor. We are also able to manufacture a large number of our products at the plastic moulding firm I am a shareholder in, which is next door to our warehouse.
“Everything is within a 10-mile radius because we have so many resources readily available to us. No matter what space a company requires, whether it’s an office space or a warehouse, the North East will have it.
“As an employer and a business owner, I’m proud that we’re able to employ so many fantastic people in the area.
“We have a pool of talented, skilled people on our doorstep and providing a place where these individuals can grow and flourish is very rewarding.”
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced when scaling up your business, how did you overcome them, and what lessons did you learn?
“Crafter’s Companion has been fortunate to experience a lot of natural growth but the company has also gone through periods of rapid growth, which has sometimes put a strain on operations.
“For example, at the end of 2018, we had to relocate our US office to a larger premises ahead of schedule, as sales had increased from $12m to $22 throughout a two-year period.
“We had not anticipated that we would need to locate another facility which would house all of the warehouse and office capabilities that we would need and choosing a suitable space proved to be a challenge.
“Also, upheaving staff to another office temporarily affected productivity and we had to recruit for staff in customer services and a senior appointment to meet the demand of the growth.
“On a whole, the company’s growth has meant that employees’ roles and responsibilities have expanded, which in busy periods has increased the workload for staff, until suitable candidates have been found to fulfil additional roles.
“Therefore, Crafter’s Companion is currently undergoing a recruitment drive to help ease the demand and to ensure that the business and staff are being supported.
“This has proven to be another challenge as the company is constantly on the lookout for new people to join the team and has on occasion had to outsource from beyond the North East area to find suitable people.
“However, a number of people have taken advantage of the company’s flexible working policy and have worked remotely from home or have relocated to the region for the role, boosting the local economy.”
With Crafter’s Companion continuing international growth and you gaining acclaim as an entrepreneur, what’s next?
“This year has been so exciting for Crafter’s Companion. We’ve hit 200 employees, our exports in markets like Germany, Holland and Australia are gaining momentum and we’re looking at new geographical areas of the business for opportunities.
“We are still undergoing a recruitment drive to support our growing business, we’ve invested in our TV capabilities, which has led us to bolster our Facebook Live selling and we have started producing our own Monday morning craft show, Monday Makers.
“It’s unbelievable to say but in October we’ll celebrate our 14th Birthday Week, which is the anniversary of the launch of the company’s first-ever product, the Enveloper.
“Birthday Week is a crazy time for the business and it grows in size every year so I can’t wait for some of our newer members of staff to experience the madness!
“My personal progression as an entrepreneur has enabled me to spend time with some fantastic companies in a variety of different markets.
“I’ve been looking at development opportunities and supporting the business with marketing ventures in addition to establishing future sales plans and I have loved every minute.”
How do you think entrepreneurs and SMEs can ensure their proposition stands out in a fast-paced and competitive market?
“I’ve come to understand that behind every great success - whether it’s a company offering a product or a service - is an outstanding entrepreneur.
“I firmly believe that a brilliant entrepreneur could carry a mediocre idea but even the most innovative creation wouldn’t get off the ground with an uninspiring entrepreneur.
“It sounds like common sense but the best businesses offer something that solves a problem.
“If you know that this is what your company can offer, make sure that your message is simple but effective. If your marketing materials don’t get this across in the right way then sales could prove to be difficult.
“Entrepreneurs and SMEs can stand out from the crowd by making sure that the product or service they sell is being presented on the best possible platform.
“For example, if a product is brilliant but it’s a bit more complex and needs a demonstration, then TV shopping might be a more suitable alternative to a store’s shelves.
“Try not to pigeon-hole your company into one stream of sales and look at the bigger picture.”
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