Meet a fellow mum in business, Debra McVicker from www.hamptonblue.co.uk
My sister and I launched our gift website called www.hamptonblue.co.uk in June 2009. It’s an online boutique for jewellery, accessories and gifts. We stock everything from costume and semi-precious jewellery to occasion bags, scarves, photo albums, candles, gifts for children, men’s gifts – the list goes on. Hampton Blue is a one-stop shop for self-indulgent treats and all those gifts for family and friends.
As a mother of two young children, age 8 and 3 (and one more on the way) I was faced with the choice of going back to working as a Training and Events Coordinator for a major charity and having to pay childcare for two children or going self-employed and attempting to grow my own business. As much as I enjoyed my job, I had reached a time in my life when I wanted to have more control over what I did every day and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my two kids. Hence, the idea for Hampton Blue was born! I also managed to talk my sister, Tracey into coming on this little adventure with me.
When did you found the business?
After many months of research and a lot of hard work, we launched our website on 5 June 2009 (our mum’s birthday coincidentally).
What have been the main obstacles you have faced so far?
There is a huge amount of work and long hours involved in setting up any business and it is not for the faint hearted. Therefore, personally, it is sometimes a struggle to fit it in around family life and I find myself on the computer late into the night. We have loads of ideas for the business that we want to implement, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much cash in the bank!
Also, neither one of us has worked in retail, except from part-time jobs when we were younger, so it’s a steep learning curve. The whole domain of e-commerce is something else we have had to learn from scratch. We know our limitations and therefore, it was obvious to us to bring in the professionals when needed. Hence, we hired a graphic designer and web designer to design our logo/brand and our website. It was extremely important to project ourselves and our business in a very professional manner at all times and this begins with what people see on screen – the Hampton Blue website.
The main challenge of online retailing at this point is getting people to the site and impressing those individuals enough to want to buy and come back again and again for repeat orders. It’s not like a bricks and mortar shop, where you have an immediate passing trade. We need to raise our profile and let people know we exist.
Also, unlike bricks and mortar retailers, potential customers can’t touch and feel the products, so it’s imperative that our photos are clear and our descriptions as accurate as possible. Additionally, a number of individuals are still apprehensive about the security of shopping online, so it was our intention from the beginning to install secure measures on our website to help instil confidence in our website.
Potential customers want a site that loads quickly, is easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing and secure to shop on – we hope we have achieved this with Hampton Blue
What are your plans for the future?
We want to build on our product line and bring new and innovative gifts to the consumer. It’s a work in progress and we hope to add a wedding gift section, as well as offering gift vouchers very soon.
Also, consumers are becoming increasingly interested in where the products they purchase come from and how they are made and therefore, we would like to add more Fairtrade products to our website and are constantly on the lookout for new Fairtrade suppliers. Additionally, it is our intention to source local artisans for more individual and locally crafted products that we can offer on the Hampton Blue website.
What makes your business stand out?
We have created an online boutique that offers consumers an aesthetically and intellectually appealing forum where they are able to have a stress free and relaxing shopping experience and at the same time find unique and interesting gifts for any occasion. As a mother of two young children, I know firsthand how hard it is to manage everything on a daily basis – work, family life, social events, etc., so we hope that we have made life a little bit easier for the busy consumer.
We offer our customers a high standard of customer care and efficient delivery service. Our products either come wrapped in tissue paper with a Hampton Blue sticker or in a gift bag and we offer a wish list service on our site that individuals can use for birthdays, weddings, Christmas or any other special occasion. They can make their wish list and then email it to friends and family. There are many other ideas in the pipeline, but as a start-up business, funds are limited, so one step at a time!
Looking back at how much we have achieved in such a short space of time I am extremely proud and would encourage any individual with a business idea, but a little bit of reservation to take the plunge – after doing their research off course!
To visit Hampton Blue Click Here