Made In Britain: Jonny’s Sister

What does your company do? What products or services does it provide?
Jonny’s Sister designs, manufactures and sells personalised products through their website, national fairs and some third party sellers. We sell a range of products including our award winning Love Letter cushions, letter bunting, personalised enamel ware, signs, typographies and more.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
I had recently left London to move back to my home county of Dorset so that I could spend more time with my children as previously I had been in a position that involved quite a bit of overseas travel. I started looking into opportunities which allowed me to feel challenged yet be able to work from home so that I could still look after the children.

I knew there was a large and growing consumer demand for personalised products in the US, and felt confident that it would become as popular over here – although I could never have imagined just how popular it would become!

When did you start up, and what support were you given?
I started the company in 2005. Initially I got a like for like match grant from Business Link that went towards an ecommerce website. Then in 2012 I started taking on apprentices and got a lot of support from the National Apprenticeship Service. Jonny’s Sister now has a team of ten which includes three apprentices.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Growing the business by 51 per cent in 2013.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Getting the work / family life balance right – even now I have not conquered it, but I am working on it! Trying to keep the business running from our home is a challenge. As we continue to grow at quite a fast rate, we are bursting at the seams. We keep converting out buildings to studios and store rooms so that we can stay. I feel if we were to move to the nearest town and work from a unit it would change the whole ethos of Jonny’s Sister.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Our products are totally unique and our customer service is simply the best we can give. In this hugely competitive market you have to stand out (for the right reasons!) in order to survive. People are willing to spend money (and lots of it), but they hate being over charged. You don’t have to have the cheapest product in the market to succeed but you must have the best.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
To take on apprentices. As well as feeling passionate about what they can bring to a business, I also feel that apprenticeships at the right sort of company benefit hugely from learning on the job. It is definitely a win-win situation so long as it is done well.

Our apprentices are simply amazing. I hadn’t realised the importance to the company of their vitality and youthfulness. It’s something that I have not experienced before. They are open, fresh and they question things. And they make a real impact: I have removed products which I was convinced would sell, based on their reactions.

They are excellent on the phone with customers because they are so chatty and positive about life. They carry zero baggage, have a real ‘can do’ approach to everything – bringing about a freshness that money can’t buy.

Any business can take on an apprentice, and what’s more, you can even get help to do it. We accessed support from the National Apprenticeship Service. To find out how they can help you, visit, which offers information, inspiration and support for businesses to take the next step in their growth journey.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
I see us continuing to grow and taking on more apprentices. It works well for Jonny’s Sister and it seems to work well for the apprentices too as they never seem to leave!

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Not to dwell on mistakes. By all means learn from them but don’t let yourself get down about them. Talk to any really successful person and you will find that they have also made mistakes. What made them successful is that they moved on from them. I am a great believer in asking for advice. Don’t be embarrassed or worried about picking up the phone and asking someone for advice – what is the worst that can happen?

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
I love the whole journey of a product, from the initial idea right through to sampling, to it getting on the website and selling. I also enjoy teaching and mentoring the employees. I love watching people grow from being a shy, new person to really shining in their work and brimming with new found confidence.