What does it take to set up and run a successful business? Maybe you want to develop your ideas into a product or service to be able to add to your income or work from home, but don’t know where to start. Do you ever wonder what goes into the process, and what helped an entrepreneur get to where they are now? Well, I’ve got the opportunity to ask just those questions to some real-life small business starters and share their answers with you!
I’m very pleased to be able to kick off this new series of interviews with my friend Amy Deveney, founder of Amy’s Organics & Naturals. Amy’s story is even more interesting than this little interview can convey – she’s overcome many challenges even before setting up her company, and has thoroughly impressed both myself and Lord Balders with her preparation and professionalism.
So, over to the Q&A!
L. Amy, I know you’ve been interested in organic and natural living for some time now. What made you decide to go that step farther and open your own business?
A. Well, when I came back to work after maternity leave, I went from being a full time employee to working two days a week, which is a big drop in wages. We needed more than that coming in to pay all our bills and ongoing expenses, so I decided to set up something I could do in my own time – something that mattered to me. I had been using soapnuts and organic shampoo bars and other bits myself around the house, and would tell people about it very enthusiastically. As I was telling my midwife about how great the soapnuts are for my baby’s skin she said, “you’ve sold them to me!”
That got me thinking, “maybe I could sell them!” So it started with soapnuts, then became bigger and bigger, until I brought out my own brand of natural soaps. I had quite a nice variety, so I created my website to make them widely available.
L. You mentioned maternity leave. Whilst your baby daughter, Iona, was the catalyst for setting up your business, it must have been hard work… babies are enough work on their own! What difficulties have you faced in starting a business with a young family?
A. Well, there is always the time thing. I’ve done most of it while my daughter was asleep, though being a light sleeper, she did not give me much time. With determination and perseverance I hacked away at the task everyday… I have also had much help from my husband, who is also very enthusiastic about what I am doing.
L. I do remember the feeling of trying to set up a business whilst my son was asleep! So, since time has been the biggest challenge, how do you continue to manage your time when it comes to running the business and looking after your family?
A. My priority has always been my family – my daughter and husband are at the heart and soul of all I do. Having a husband who has been prepared to spend hours with me getting everything right has made time management much easier!
L. Now, this is very different, but did any of your formal qualifications or education help get you to where you are now?
A. Well, I actually do not have any qualifications! I finished school at 14 when my dad passed away and finished my education taught at home. I did not sit any GCSE’s or any other tests, so I’m a little thin on the ground there! I went on to cleaning at a hotel, cleaning at a high school, being a window cleaner, subcontract cleaning at care homes, and then I landed in an office job at an embroidery company where I slowly learned different aspects of the business – mainly customer care, and how important a customer is.
So really, with only the above mentioned experience under my belt and no certificates or qualifications… my qualification is my passion for what I do and refusal to give up!
I believe if you really tell yourself you can do it, you can! You may not do it well or you may do it amazingly; the point is you will never know which it is if you do not try and give it your all. So that’s what I did, I gave it my all.
L. I’m impressed! Window cleaning is a lot tougher than anything I’ve ever done! Now, we’ve had a lot of chats about eco-friendly products and minimising chemicals in the home. For everyone else, what are your favourite products in your range, and why?
A. My favourite product has to be the soapnuts! They are amazing and so versatile, and work out soooo much cheaper than your usual goods from the supermarket. They are organic, hypoallergenic, perfect for those who have sensitive skin and suffer from skin conditions. They can be used in the washing machine and dishwasher, as slug repellent, fertilizer, shampoo and all purpose cleaner, and in loads of other ways too!
My other is, I must say, my own brand of 100% natural all over body and hand soaps. They are amazing! The room they are kept in smells so wonderful, every time I walk in, it makes me smile. And they are packed with goodness from essential oils that benefit skin conditions, have health benefits, lift moods, and loads more.
L. Thanks Amy – the midwife was right: you’ve sold it to me!
Now, I’ll happily disclose that Amy is a personal friend of mine. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing lots of ordinary people all around the world who are setting up their own income streams based on things they’re excited about, and I love being able to share my clever friends’ stories with you. Plus, it also helps that I’ve always had a soft spot for eco-friendly living and making my own toiletries, even if I’ve never been able to fully keep up with it!
Like I said at the start, you’ll want to know more about Amy’s story – read more here.
You can now buy Amy’s products on eBay!
Find her on the web: