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Turning your passion into a business

By Will Stevens - December 8, 2015

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.

Ready to start your own business? You can register your domain name right now.