How I Started a Successful
Headbands and Accessories Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Lisa Smith and I am the founder of the online headbands and accessories brand, Evelyn & Rose. We specialise in those really detailed and hard to find headbands and accessories that truly make a statement and make you feel utterly fabulous when wearing!
On a full-time basis, it is just me running the business, however I engage with third-party suppliers and outsource work as and when required, such as for our distribution, professional product photography and website development. I am responsible for all aspects of the business, such as marketing, social media, customer communications, buying and supplier engagement.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I left school at 16 and got a full-time job as a mortgage advisor (pre-credit crunch!) when the industry was booming for building societies. I took the professional route over the academic route and completed a number of professional qualifications enabling me to offer financial advice to customers.
After the credit crunch, I switched to risk and compliance related roles, with a primary aim of ensuring businesses manage their processes in line with regulatory expectations and treat consumers fairly. Doesn’t sound very exciting right?
Working professionally from a young age enabled me to buy my first property in my early 20s and a second property a few years later. Having so much financial responsibility made me think I could never leave the industry I was in (golden handcuffs) and I quickly became miserable with regret that I had missed out on experiences such as attending university and taking a gap year.
I am a very creative person and that side felt suppressed for a very long time. By 2019, I had enough money saved to quit my job for good and travel around SE Asia for five months, not having a clue what I wanted to do! Along the way, I met so many inspiring people who had quit their 9-5 and started their own online businesses, and I joined a co-working space in Canggu, Bali called Dojo. I stayed in Bali for three months and learnt so much about business there.
I’ve always had a love of headbands and accessories, but it was always so difficult to find those really detailed ones, the ones embellished with crystals and pearls. There was definitely nothing like this on the high street and while there were a few online boutiques, their prices were ridiculous, their websites weren’t user friendly and their social media content wasn’t appealing.
I remember thinking “I could do this so much better” and from there, I was determined to find a supplier to help me make them cheaper.
Once I found a supplier, I asked them to ship hundreds of headbands to the UK. I was still in Bali at the time, so my dad ended up receiving a lots of deliveries on my behalf (sorry father!). Once I was back, I actually didn’t like a lot of the headbands that had been made! And since I would never sell something I genuinely wouldn’t wear myself, a lot of them didn’t make the ‘cut’.
Whilst in Bali, I had also been lucky enough to meet Michelle, from Mish Digital, who offered to build my website and I was so impressed with her results, that we became very good friends! I launched the website at the end of August 2019 and had my first sale a few hours later. What an incredible feeling!
Since then, my business has been booming. I think my time working in compliance has really helped me in terms of being able to effectively manage relationships with third parties, getting things done quickly and being able to think like a businessperson.
It’s quite simple for me, you need to make the customer the forefront of everything, treat them well and they will keep coming back. I have over 70 five star reviews on Google and Trustpilot and 8000 followers on Instagram.
On a personal level, I currently live in London and have been here for six years after moving from Wiltshire. I couldn’t think of a better base to open a new business from. There are so many beautiful places and parks, I am also an avid cinema fan and proud owner of the Cineworld unlimited card! I’ve really gotten into Pilates recently and try and get out for a run three times a week, I am no marathon runner though! I think the most I’ve ran is 4 miles!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
It is always a risk when working with new suppliers, (especially from abroad) to meet with and build a relationship. Since all of the headbands and accessories are handmade, I sometimes have to wait 2-3 weeks for the finished product.
There are a couple of competitors who launched before me and they already have a large customer base. I just have to be confident in myself and the brand, and ensure that I keep designing products that my customers will keep coming back for.
In terms of finance, I’ve been lucky enough to always be in full-time work on a good salary, so I had a bit of a head start in terms of finances and I haven’t needed to borrow money or sell equity in the business. Any profit the company makes is put back into the business. I want to keep re-investing into it and develop it into something bigger and better.
My advice would be if you’re not an expert in a particular field, outsource it! I am very honest about what I am and am not good at (SEO for example!) so I simply pay someone else to do it.
Who is your target market?
Women between the ages of 21-45 are my target market. The majority of my customers have come from Instagram. I am somewhat of a social media ninja! I dedicate a lot of time to promoting our product there and so the conversion rates are quite high. We also sell on ASOS Marketplace, which gives us quite a lot of sales.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I have not and do not plan on paying for influencers to promote products. I have sent my headbands and accessories to them in the past, although there is no guarantee they will post. If they love the product they will usually do so anyway. In all honesty, I don’t want to work with people who don’t love my products enough to pay for them.
Pop-up markets are also a great source for finding new customers. On Black Friday 2019, I setup a pop-up store in Chelsea, London. We did extremely well there, both in terms of interest and actual sales.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The customer is super important to me and my business. I try to build personal rapport with as many of them as I can via social media messaging and email.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since I work alone, there is no culture except my own: hard work and intense passion for my product!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I am still learning every day! Things take time. It takes time for your business to be noticed and it’s not an overnight success. So many hours are required into social media, it cannot be underestimated!
Potential customer contact is key. When I first launched, I would message every single new follower personally, thanking them for following me. In addition, I would say going with my gut for the types of people I want to work with. If the person and I connect, I know I can trust them and vice versa. A lot of my decisions are made on what feels right for the business, over financials – which I’m sure is a good and bad thing (my accountant please close your ears!!)
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom, flexibility and being able to inspire others to do things their way and get out of the rat race!
What is your least favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Not being able to take sick days!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Expanding the product range is a top priority. Being able to offer different styles of headbands and accessories to suit a larger target market is also key. I would also like to expand internationally. We’ve really seen a spike in international purchases in the last few weeks, so I am keen to figure out why this is and how it can be increased.