In our “Inspiring small businesses” series we want to share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who took their idea to the next level and set up their own business. Starting your own business is a huge step, no matter how small your business is, so by bringing you closer to the great minds behind some very inspiring businesses, you might find some motivation and ideas for starting yours and if you are already on your journey, some of these lovely people might have some great survival tips.
This week we have spoken to Katie Isherwood, owner of Hid-In, a company designing accessories for people with diabetes:
What is it that you do?
As an experienced lingerie designer and insulin pump wearing Type 1 diabetic I found myself in a unique position to design a range of accessories to help address some of the problems caused by wearing an insulin pump every day. As well as selling this range of discreet, stylish and comfortable body bands and underwear, my website, Hid-In.com, also offers helpful tips, tricks and styling advice to help to subtly hide and/or access devices in real life everyday situations. This helps to take away some of the anxieties about wearing a medical device and can even be the inspiration some need to make the life-changing decision to move from multiple daily injections (MDI) to the more effective pump therapy option.
What inspired you to start your own business?
As with many businesses it started with a problem that it looked like no-one was properly addressing. When I first got an insulin pump my health improved immediately and the more I learned the better my control got. The only problem was where to put it? Accessories on the market were either for kids or very medical looking and made the pump more rather than less visible and bulky. I do a lot of presenting for my job, and wear dresses a lot so I needed solutions where to put my pump so it wasn’t the first thing people saw.
I started playing with designs to help me to tuck my pump away and slowly built up a range of garments that really helped. I decided that if they helped me, they might help others too, and that there were a lot of great ideas and tricks that I had picked up that might be useful to others too.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?
The production and manufacturing side can be tricky, especially when the order sizes that I need are for a specialist market so quite small which means prices go up and you run into MOQ (minimum order quantities) and “small order charges” a lot. It is difficult to keep prices low for the customer whilst trying to offer choice and variety. The distance from my Far East suppliers can feel very far and even with experience so much can get lost in translation. Protecting your design ideas and IP whilst trying to get your business seen by as many people as possible is a tricky line to walk.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
Feedback from happy customers keeps me going (see testimonials). There is no-one else out there offering this sort of service. Seeing the response to new ideas and products and being able to talk directly with my customers is very inspiring. Also, the flexibility that working for myself allows me. I wouldn’t say that I work less hours (I sit here writing this from my desk in my empty shared studio on a Saturday!) but I can move my hours around to suit me.
What are your lessons learnt so far?
Being a small company is hard but the bigger you grow the easier it can get. You really do need to speculate to accumulate and to be prepared for the fact that a lot of what comes in to your business at first goes out. Thinking outside of the box and not giving up is essential. When factories couldn’t make my small test orders I employed a brilliant seamstress here in London to bridge the gap, and when I couldn’t initially get the great quality fabrics that I needed to make underwear I bought M&S XXL size vests and cut them up to make into underwear until my order sizes got larger. When I needed to stick on 1000’s of stickers to promotional postcards I got my friends involved paying in endless glasses of wine! You always need to think creatively and have a plan B and C.