Home Business Heroes: Anouk Skurek

How did the Stripy Company start?

My sister and I came up with the idea as we wanted to work for ourselves and we wanted to work from home. We liked the idea of stripes and we decided to do nursery accessories - the whole range you have to buy when you have a child, from baby grows to bed linen and blankets. But we realised it was too expensive, we were going to have to borrow money and we wouldn't be able to have our products made in Europe.

Did you have any experience of running a business?

We had no background in fabrics or babies. I had a painting degree and my sister had a background in IT. To be honest, if we'd known how hard it was going to be, we probably would've never started. The learning curve was so steep.  We went to a textile tradeshow in Germany and that's when we realised we had no clue about fabrics. We didn't know the difference between knitted and woven, the cost of things or the minimum orders required. But now we've learnt almost everything, so we can at least talk the talk and sound like we know what we're doing.

How did you fund it?

We used our own money. It was all our savings and it was still done on a shoestring. It was tough at first, but we found a manufacturer in Portugal that said they would produce 30 of each of our colour ways. That was a major breakthrough and it was great that someone would take a risk on us.

How did you get the Stripy Company known?

We started with just a website and thought people would find us that way. But of course we put it live and didn't hear from any customers. So then we started ringing people and we also went to loads of networking events. But the biggest breakthrough came when we rang shops and they agreed to take our blankets. The third shop we rang just said, "great, we'll have it."

Where did you start the business?

It started in my kitchen and my office is still in the kitchen. I love being based there as it means when my kids come home I can be in there with them and they can look at my designs.

Surely you must get distracted?

Not really. I make sure the house is totally tidy in the morning and that I've got nothing else to do. Once all my jobs for the day are done, I get going. I also think it's easy to focus, as it's my own business. If I'm not working on it, then no one else is going to.


What are your hours?

I drop the children off at school then I get back and sit at my worktop until 3pm when I go pick up the children. It's stressful at times as I have to post all the orders at the local post office, and I have meetings in my front room. But because we work in a baby related industry, nearly all the people we meet with are women with children. So they understand if there are toys around or there's a telephone call or crying children.

Do you get lonely working from home?

No I don't get lonely as my husband works from home too and I have my sister here as well. She does things that I couldn't, and I do things that she couldn't. To run a business completely on my own would terrify me.

Do you have anyone else working for you?

We have a seamstress that I met at the school playground; she cuts up our spare blankets and makes accessories out of them. And we have another mother from the playground who's a professional photographer, so she takes pictures for us. Playgrounds are a pool of knowledge - there are so many skill sets.

Where do you keep all of your stock?

We have a spare room that we use as a stock room; I've taken it over.  When customers ring up, they probably imagine we're based in a big office block with stock elsewhere. So if I answer the phone, and have to check the stock I have to try hard to sound normal and not out of breath where I've just run up the stairs. People want to think you're a bigger business than you are as they have more trust in a larger company.

The key to being successful when working from home is just being organised.  I have to think in advance and plan. It means I'm able to change at the drop of a hat. If the school ring and my child is ill, I can drop what I'm doing and go pick them up.

What's the best thing about working from home?

The flexibility. It allows me to be with my children and work at the same time.

What's the hardest?

Being tidy. I end up with a pile of paperwork or designs and I need to make sure they are tidy so they don't get ruined by children or clutter up the kitchen.

Where do you hope to be in five years time?

In five years time I hope we'll be too big for the kitchen and we will end up in an office with storage of some sort. We want to see our products around and become a household name.

For more information on the Stripy Company visit: www.thestripycompany.co.uk

Home Business Heroes, in association with Vikingnew

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