Name: Ann-Maree Morrison
Ann-Marree launched her business after she had a brainwave when picking her children up from school. It's now an international company with websites in five countries and worldwide distribution. In 2011 she won Entrepreneur of the Year in the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards.
We sell name labels and ID bands primarily for 8-12 year olds. But they are useful for other things too. We get orders from businesses and care homes, or companies wanting ID tags. We have a website live in five countries. The only thing holding us back is finding enough people to do the work. We're trying to franchise.
When my child came home with one shoe in one size and another two sizes too big. When I asked where his other shoe was he said, "I can't find it." I went to look but I didn't know which one was his as all the shoes were the same and no one had their names on them. So I started to look around to buy some nametags and couldn't find anything. Then I did two years of investigation into how to make my own. I had to work out who could produce the nametags and how much it would all cost.
I eventually found the suppliers through searching the internet and networking. Picking up awards for the business really helped too. I won the entrepreneur of the year award in the Specsavers everywoman awards in 2011. After that, I had people contacting me, asking to get involved and be our suppliers. I think entering competitions really helps you in business.
It was just me from home; I got a web developer to build me a basic site with a really basic shopping cart. It looked professional to our customers, but it caused me quite a lot of problems because to keep all of the details of our customers, I had to manually type them in. After a while it just grew so quickly that I had to get upgraded to a proper website.
I was working from our dining room table. There were wires everywhere, our dining room was one that has double doors that open into our front room and patio doors the other side that open onto our garden. So the kids were always running through and tripping over wires and I was always running to answer the phone before anyone else; as I would worry that it would be a customer. We ended up building an extension on the side of the house and I work from there now.
It's difficult not to be distracted, maninly by housework. I have to make sure the kitchen is tidy becasue the staff all eat their lunch there. I have to tidy up otherwise I can't relax at work. If the weather's nice, I also think, 'oh, I might just put the washing on' or do this or that. This ends up taking you away from the desk for an hour or so.
I took on staff after the second year when we got temps in from the university. Then the year after we decided to take more full-time people on as taking on temps all the time meant we were always having to train people up, who would leave after their degree finished. Working with the university was great though; we even took on some international students to help us with translation too.
We have one room where we store all the labels and we have some in the room we work in too. But before that, when we first launched, we had boxes of nametags everywhere. They were all around the dining room, covering every wall.
The worst thing is that people think you're not working. The classic is when my husband comes home and asks, "what's for lunch?" People think because you're at home you're free to do whatever you want. They don't realise I'm working all day and looking after three
Money, convenience and I wanted to work from home and do something that was good for the kids' school hours. It's great because when you have kids you want to spend as much time with them as possible. They're only young once.
The every woman retail awards are currently open for 2012. Nominations close on 14 May. Head to www.everywoman.com/retailawards for more information.
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