When he was made redundant just before his wedding, John Westward-Hill knew he had to cut costs as much as possible. That meant a do it yourself approach. The cake, the invitations and even the hats were homemade. And out of this money-saving project grew the seeds of a new business.
John became passionate about millinery – the craft of making women’s hats- and enrolled in a course to develop his skills further. Upon graduation he launched JWH Millinery and began selling his creations to the world.
“I started my own business because when I graduated in millinery, I didn’t want to work for anybody else,” John said.
He added: “The best thing about running your own business is you can do what you want. One day you can decide to bring a new idea into your work and give that a go. If that doesn’t work, you just try again. You can set your own hours and days – it is one of the best things ever, really.”
However, John knew that just starting his business wasn’t enough – he needed a way to make sure people could see the quality of his work, that’s where 123-reg came in.
He said: “It is incredibly important for a business owner to be online. [My website] is my showcase. I can’t always go around with a logbook. Being online means that anybody from around the world can find me go on my website and find out what I do.”
And getting online was nice and easy: “I knew I needed a website and went on to Google, 123-reg came up. I don’t have time, I clicked on the site and everything looked good. I managed to get my website up within a week – no hassle, just quick and easy. And that suits me fine.”
For John, the importance of being online is driven by the fact we live in a digital age – when people have a need for a product, they search for it online. That means if you’re not online, then you can’t be found by a huge number of potential customers.
“My customers expect me to be online. Everybody is online these days. Anybody that doesn’t have a website for their business is not doing their business well. The first thing you do is go online and do a search for that specific idea or category. It would be stupid for me to not have a website,” John said.
But with all businesses clamouring to grab a slice of the online market place, it’s also important to stand out.
“My website is different to others because I look at everybody else’s to make sure that I am not doing what they are doing. So I try and set mine apart, even down to how I stage my mannequins. People do them on models heads – I don’t. I do all of mine on mannequins – to set myself apart and be different,” John said.
John also makes sure his product itself is suitably different from what his competitors produce – he has a strong focus on 3D technology and printing and is even looking at introducing wearable technology in a future collection.
So what would John say to anyone who is planning on following his example and turning their passion into a business?
“The advice I would give somebody setting up a business would be do your research first of all. Make sure that what you sell people want. Secondly, make sure you get a website because it doesn’t matter what you’re offering or selling; you need to let people know who you are and why you’re actually selling it,” he said.
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