Home Business Heroes: Hannah Needham

Home businesses generate £284bn of the UK's GDP, making them the true heroes of our economy. So to continue Smarta and Viking's celebration of these brave entrepreneurs, we tracked down This is Your Kingdom founder, Hannah Needham.

Name: Hannah Needham

Location: London

Business: www.thisisyourkingdom.co.uk

What is your business?

A niche lifestyle website for women, www.thisisyourkingdom.co.uk (TiYK) is a trusted insider's guide to the UK's loveliest places to eat, drink, walk, think, potter, ponder, snuggle, shop and sleep.

We have a passionate online community of people who enjoy sharing and discovering lovely things to see and do on their doorstep compiles the site. From gorgeous shops and cafés to walks and workshops, we pride ourselves on seeking out the very best insider information with a focus on places and things that are independent, home-grown, unique, delightfully British, beautifully made and created and run with love and passion.

TiYK was founded in 2010 by me and my business partner Rebecca. We met at school in Devon and have always shared a love for seeking out lovely things to see and do.

What were you doing before?

I was a corporate lawyer at a large City firm.

How did you come up with the idea?

I'm a bit of a stickler for seeking out lovely things to see and do. When I was in my old job I'd spend hours researching places to ensure my weekends and holidays were packed with lovely spots to explore and discover (and then share with the girls of course).

It frustrated me that I could never find what I considered one central reliable source from which to locate this type of insider information. And, being someone who likes to be 'in the know', I believed there would be a real value in providing such a service, both for local folk and those holidaying in the UK.

This was really the seed of the idea for TiYK. By persuading well thought-of local folk and small business owners to divulge their favourite local place we provide unique insider information that will encourage our readers discover new lovely places across the UK, fly the flag for small local businesses and showcase all the brilliant inspiring folk making baking and creating across the UK.

What's the business model?

Our audience is at the heart of TiYK. We are currently very focused on building a loyal and dedicated community and are very conscious of adopting revenue models that add value to their TiYK experience. Options we are exploring include:

  • A "loved by TiYK" by-invitation-only directory full of the places we think are the loveliest to eat, drink, walk, think, potter, ponder, snuggle, shop and sleep across the UK;
  • Display advertising/advertorials with select advertising partners that appeal to our community.

How did you get started?

I was lucky to get a generous redundancy package when I took the decision to leave my sensible job to start up TiYK and I used this to fund the business.

I started on the business plan and got cracking on finding the right people to build, and illustrate the site - something I'd identified as key to the success and appeal of TiYK. This took much longer than I'd expected and I'd say it was the toughest part of my journey - there were many dark days when I really questioned my decision to leave the law.

However, thanks to a fantastic site called studentgems.co.uk I discovered two amazing illustrators and a brilliant designer and was able to start really creating TiYK. To complete the picture, I managed to persuade my good friend and co-founder Rebecca to come on board and take the lead on the editorial side of the business.

TiYK co founders

We launched the site in April 2010 and we quickly gained a loyal following of dedicated readers who each benefit from its unique content and trusted voice by visiting the site and/or receiving local newsletters.

The last six months has seen readership soar and TiYK firmly establish itself as a trusted guide for those seeking out unique and lovely things to see and do as well as evoking a strong sense of patriotism and community spirit. We've had some fantastic press including pieces in Red magazine, the Guardian and the Independent and we were even selected by The Good Web Guide as one of their top 60 sites of 2011.

Who writes for you? 

We have a fantastic team of regular contributors - a mixture of bloggers, small business owners and passionate locals who all fly the flag by sharing their favourite places and discoveries. On each piece they share, we include links to the site/blog/social media and this provides them with brilliant visibility among a loyal audience of similar minded people. 

Along the way, we have formed long-lasting friendships with many of the small businesses we seek to promote and regularly invite them to share their favourite local things to see and do in return for a full accreditation.

We are always on the look out for new contributors so please do get in touch if you'd like to join our team.

Why did you decide to work from home?

The nature of our business provides us the flexibility to work from home - I am based in London and Rebecca in Hampshire. When we started out this was a bit of a no-brainer in terms of cash flow, however as we grow and our team here expands I think we will need to consider other options that will allow us to work from the same space a few days a week. There are fantastic flexible office solutions available for small start-ups in London - we're lucky to have use of the exchange at Somerset House through School for Creative Startups.

Where in your home do you work?

I work from our spare room complete with Cath Kidston floral bedspread and china trinkets.

Do you set yourself hours for a working day?

Yes, I begin work when my husband leaves for work and I'm pretty much always still at it when he returns.

How do you start the day?

I begin the day by checking emails and looking through my to-do-list, prioritising tasks and making a bit of an action plan for the day ahead. I was told by someone that the first few hours of the morning are your most creative, so I always try to use this time effectively by writing a press release or a guest blog or do some work on our new designs for the site.

TIYKDESK

How do you manage yourself to ensure you don't get distracted by household chores?

By trying to stick to a rigid timetable whereby household chores are allocated to lunch times and evenings. I can't say this works too well - though depending on how much I have on, work generally always takes priority much to my husband's disdain.

Do you find it easy to be distracted?

I did initially, but I actually think I work much better from home now as there are far fewer distractions than you'd find working in a busy office. It's quiet and peaceful and I can generally get my head down and crack on with the task.

Do you ever go a whole day without talking to anyone?

Yes and I have learned this is not the secret to a successful marriage. Especially when my husband returns home from work only to be subjected to my exceedingly dull banter which usually involves me talking about my food consumption for the day with or the amount of washing I have successfully processed.

What's the hardest thing about working
from home?

The proximity of the fridge.

Do you ever feel lonely?

I am lucky in that I enjoy my own company and I quite like spending time in my own space. I have a great network of small business owners on my doorstep in Clapham whom I regularly meet for coffee, lunch and chats so I never feel isolated or alone. In fact, if anyone would like to join our little network please do get in touch.

Do you find it hard to switch off at the end of the day?

Yes, I always make sure I have at least one hour before bedtime to read, watch telly and generally let my brain rest and unwind - failing to do so usually results in very little sleep.

What's the best thing about working from home?

Not having to battl e to the tube or getting drenched on my bicycle in order to get to work when it's cold and wet.

What's the worst?

I suppose the challenges that working remotely anywhere brings - such as lack of camaraderie with colleagues and general office banter. Skype is a fantastic tool for bridging this gap but, in my view, there is nothing more rewarding or motivating than working in the same space with a fantastic team of people all passionate about achieving the same goal.

What would make your home-working life easier?

A Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 'Mike TV' type devise that allowed you to jump through the screen to join who ever it is you are skyping. That would be truly amazing.

Hannah will be speaking on 11 and 12 June at Creative Country Business, the new course from Doug Richard's School for Creative Startups (www.schoolforcreativestartups.com). To book your place, visit: www.creativecountrybusiness.com/book

Home Business Heroes, in association with

Vikingnew

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