I set up My Little Boutique after the magazine I was working for folded. I fancied being my own boss for a while and I loved the idea of being a 'buyer' and picking out a mix of jewellery and handbags for my own online shop. I used to sell my unwanted clothes on eBay and got a real buzz when I made a sale. I couldn't get the idea out of my head so I decided to take the plunge.
I opened in February 2009, just four months after I decided to open an online shop. My Little Boutique seemed like a great name – cute and personal, but also having the word boutique in the title was important for getting picked up on search engines such as Google.
I had a standalone website for five years (up until a couple of months ago). I used to sell jewellery by other designers but decided to sell to a wider audience on Etsy. With Etsy you can only sell the items you make yourself which suited me as now that I have a baby I don't have quite so much time to source jewellery from other designers and promote them.
In terms of selling through high street boutiques, I don't do this but I used to sell at craft markets in Brick Lane, Stoke Newington and Clapham. I hope to try and sell at at least one Christmas market this year. They are great for sales but also handing out business cards so potential customers remember you and check out your website.
My Little Boutique is about statement, fun, cute, kitsch jewellery. I check out suppliers who provide me with my raw materials and I take it from there. It's not about following the latest trends as there's way too much competition from high street shops, who mass produce their jewellery. My Little Boutique's jewellery is all handmade.
There were three main factors I would consider – quality, design and price. The original website was a "treasure chest of jewellery" so there was something for everyone, which meant I could experiment with different styles.
In terms of marketing, I have used Twitter, blogged about My Little Boutique, set up a Facebook page, used paid for advertising on Google and, in the early days, I also contacted magazines to get coverage – so I would get in touch with the fashion departments and send out press releases, images, etc.
A couple of my contacts helped me get some of the products in their magazines but mainly it was a case of persistently contacting fashion editors I did not know. My contacts could only help me if the products I had fitted in with the fashion pages they were working for at the time. There wasn't a huge amount of nepotism.
Don't go in too high with the amount of stock you buy - writing a business plan should help you set out clear goals and there are lots of resources online and free business seminars to help you do this. Spend time researching the market and your competitors so you don't get lost in a sea of retailers doing the same thing.
Social media wasn't quite so prevalent in early 2009 but I wish I'd not spent so much money on advertising in the early days. Now, with blogging, tweeting and Facebook, there's very little need to spend a lot on advertising a jewellery business at all.
I'm going to continue selling on Etsy but hope to expand the range whilst being a mother and returning to work part time next year.