Made in Britain: Fantastic Ribbons

What does your company do?
Fantastic Ribbons import and export ribbons for consumer, trade, craft and textile markets.

What products/services does it provide?
We specialise in supplying rolls of ribbons and craft buttons. Fantastic Ribbons has a prolific presence in exhibition hobby shows, seeing over 500,000 visitors pass our stands every year, but we also sell online. As the boom in home crafts in the UK has continued, Fantastic Ribbons has felt the benefit of more crafting projects such as knitting, stitching, textiles, card making, cake decorating and gift wrapping.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
Originally we were florist wholesalers selling everything from display foam to vases and ribbon. However, we saw the demand grow in one area and decided to diversify.

When did you start up, and what support were you given?
Fantastic Ribbons was originally established in 1999 in wholesale florist supplies. However, we identified a market for rolls of ribbon to be supplied directly to the customer. So, in 2009, we launched a craft division and have since seen demand increase year on year.

Throughout our journey we have had a great deal of government support from Business Link and very helpful advice to support our business plan which assisted in cash flow and sales forecasts. We are now supporters of the Business is GREAT Britain campaign, which aims to help more businesses like us, access the support they need.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
We are only a small family business based in Exeter, and there have been many achievements over the years. However, a highlight has been seeing our turnover and profits grow from nothing to a thriving enterprise. What’s more, our customers are always satisfied with our service, prices and products.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Initially cash flow was our biggest challenge – trying to grow without the correct investment stalled the business until we got proper advice from our bank and business experts. Finding the correct market place to position your products, and ensuring the right price points and profit margins, are also crucial.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
I would say stick to, and specialise in, what you know. Also, strive to be the best in the market. We have lots of competition but we knew early on in this business that it would do well on the web. Also, investing heavily in an efficient IT system is key, it can save time and team resources.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
Moving with trends and keeping one step ahead of what’s next. Stagnant pond water does not smell too good! Keep evolving, and finally taking that leap of faith and investing in your business to allow growth.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We predict increased growth and profit margins through gaining market share. Also, we hope for increased social media presence and leading with effective communications to our customers by embedding videos in our emails for our data base marketing. The more we can demonstrate our products to potential customers, the more we success we will have.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Research your markets (this may take months), explore your competition thoroughly, learn to give your customer what they really want NOT what you think they want. Listen more, speak less – use your mouth in proportion to your ears. Keep asking questions, use as much social media as possible, give excellent service – we ship first class within three working days first class postage. Use surveys on line to establish your trends and feedback from your customer. Finally, maximise your site engine optimisation.

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
I love the freedom of what we do and when we do it. When we first started this business it was really hard on both the mind and body, but with time the business is now maturing and with that comes freedom of choice and a great lifestyle.