Forging a successful enterprise isn’t an easy feat, but for female entrepreneurs the challenges facing them are often even greater, with everything from childcare, funding and a lack of high-profile female mentors to turn to within industry acting as obstacles.
With the spotlight firmly focused on the subject of quality and diversity, the British Government recently announced it was launching a review into the challenge’s women face, with further research finding that only one in five businesses within the UK are currently run by women. Yet the government-commissioned Rose Review also suggests that supporting female entrepreneurs could add as much as £250 billion for the country’s economy if we’d only increase support in access for funding, guide in risk awareness, primary care responsibilities and perception of skills.
In order to shine a spotlight on the many inspirational women in business that other prospective female entrepreneurs can look to for guidance, more successful women need to be publicly recognised. We met up with fantastic businesswoman, Anne Davies, Owner of leading online children’s bedroom furniture retailer Room to Grow, to discuss her rise into the world of business ownership and what motivates her to continue to strive for success.
From a degree in Economics, Anne worked in sales and marketing for 10 years in a B2B retail environment before taking time out to start a family. Over the years Anne had not only worked in retail but had many ideas of her own, always wanting to have her own business. Having looked at different opportunities from running her own PT business to setting up a luxury gift brand, Anne has always worked innovatively. She explains “I was in the process of designing and developing a woman’s gym bag when I started working part time as Marketing Manager for Room to Grow. It was then the opportunity presented itself to buy the business.”
When we asked about the journey from Marketing Manager to Owner of the business, Anne explains that it was back in 2012 when the business was put up for sale that she knew immediately that she could make a difference if she just took a chance. She understood the market and wanted to tap into the product selection, diversifying the variety of Children’s Bunk Beds from Room to Grow, along with additional furniture and soft furnishings. “I loved the business and the products. Helping parents choose the right bed for their child didn’t feel like work, the variety of products and the world of business really opened my eyes” She goes on to say “The website was outdated, and a lot of work needed to be done to really showcase the products that I had grown to love. It was a difficult time as customers were just getting used to making big purchases online and we had to build up trust when it came to ordering online, customers did not purchase online as readily as they do today”.
Since taking over the business, Anne has taken the operation from a home-based office through two office moves to the West Yorkshire based Ilkley team they are today. Sales have also seen huge uplift, increasing 6-fold over the past eight years, yet Anne has strong plans to ensure the business continues to not only stay relevant but progress within a saturated and ever-changing market. She explains “I attend trade shows and keep an eye on the latest trends so we can bring these elements into our photoshoots and on-site messaging. I work with our suppliers on new ranges and from listening to our customers can factor in their needs to new products.”
It’s Anne’s humble nature that makes her so endearing, it was not until the business hit a huge milestone, with sales reaching in excess of £3 million that Anne finally sat back and gave herself some well deserved credit. She says, “at this point I thought, the business is doing ok!”. When asked about what motivates her each day, Anne talks about her love for challenges and the support and inspiration of those around her, “Every day is different and new challenges lie ahead. I love the constant changes and improvements we are making, looking at different ways to make the UX better and deliver more to our customers. I enjoysourcing new products and finding new suppliers that will add something different to our product range. I have a fantastic team and they inspire me. Listening to our Product Specialists talk to customers always sparks new ideas.”
As not only a woman in business but a parent too, Anne has had her fair share of obstacles to overcome. When talking about the challenges women face on a daily basis within business, Anne explains her own experience, “The furniture industry is very male dominated and in the early days it was a challenge to be taken seriously. We are now in our 8th year and growing, so I feel I have now proved we are going to stick around!”. Having been asked what advice she would give to a fellow parent who is trying to balance owning a business and being a parent she says “I was very naïve and thought having my own business would give me the flexibility I wanted for raising my daughter. I was wrong. As for all working parents it is a constant juggling act. I rely on family and friends to help at times and I work at night when my daughter is in bed to catch up.” And though being a successful working parent can have its trials and tribulations, Anne sees the positives in the situation, “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love what I do and I hope I am a good role model for my daughter. I cherish the time I have to relax and spend with friends and family”
Offering advice to other prospective business owners is something that Anne prides herself on, she believes that being open and sharing your business journey will help those that are in a similar position. The advice is certainly sound, “I feel it is important to listen to those around you, your team, your suppliers, your competitors. The world is constantly changing, and we can never stand still. You can’t believe you know everything; you need to be constantly learning and evolving.” When asked how she dealt with the pressures of being an independent owner, she confessed that releasing control of some aspects of the business was hard at first, “I found learning to delegate difficult as I wanted to keep control of everything. Having a strong team and trusting people has made this much easier and now I know my team will always do the best for the business and we can chat through any challenges they may have.”
So, what next for Room to Grow? Anne outlines that she hopes to see the business prosper even further, “in this uncertain world we find ourselves in at the moment it makes planning for the future difficult. For Room to Grow we will continue to source new products and bring new ideas as well as continuing to develop the site. We are being cautious as all retailers are, but we cannot stand still. We have just taken on a Marketing and PR agency to help increase our brand awareness and spread the word even further. I want to see the business grow and for Room to Grow to become the go-to children’s bedroom furniture store”
And on a personal level, she concludes “For myself, I would like to spend more time travelling and embracing new experiences…..maybe one day!”