14 October 2019 01:47
A Newcastle entrepreneur has revealed how she turned a £45 loan from her mum into a £25m fashion business. Pink Boutique founder Alice Hall was a teacher who was struggling so much, worked in a bar at night and did weekend promo work just to pay the bills. But after spotting a gap in the market for what she calls "glam fashion online", The Mirror reports she was so determined to make a change she used £90 - half of which she borrowed from her mum - to start the business on eBay. Seven years on from launching the firm, it is now racking up sales of £25 million a year. Alice says that the fashion websites around at the time were missing the mark, showing models who looked very natural wearing party dresses. "I am from Newcastle upon Tyne, the party city where the girls love tan and make-up." She had an idea for doing things differently, but Alice admits that she endured a couple of failed starts as a result of poor quality samples.
"I was really struggling for money, so I begged my mum to lend me £45 so I could afford a £90 pack of six dresses." Recruiting a friend from the bar as a model, she listed them on eBay, and they all sold very quickly. Alice had been using her lunch breaks from her regular job to handle posting out her orders, but before long that break simply wasn't long enough. So teaming up with her mum Jackie, she went full time with the business, Alice handling the creative side of buying, selling and marketing, while Julie took on the admin and finances. Alice graduated from university with a journalism degree, but had no prior business knowledge, so she had to learn everything about running a business. Timing helped with spreading the word too, as she set up a Facebook page for the business just as the feature was launched on the social media site, and it quickly built up interest.
PinkBoutique's unapologetic love of all things glam has helped the business take off at some rate. That initial £90 spend led to a turnover of £500,000 by the end of year one. And now the business is on track to bring in £25 million in sales, with 2,000 garments a day being shipped out from its Newcastle warehouse. Alice says: "It's surreal that a business I started in my living room has gone this far." PinkBoutique was a family affair from the very beginning, but Alice has also had to grapple with the challenge of running a business while starting a family. While she says she struggled to get her head around the change that her daughter brought to her usual schedule, she has now found a better work/life balance. What's more she reckons that motherhood has actually helped the business, as it's made her more single-minded at work, focusing on just one or two big things for Pink Boutique to achieve each year. "I completely take my hat off to anyone who has young children and starts their own business! Luckily we had scaled our business to the point where I was able to take maternity leave, but I know this isn't always possible for people with small businesses," she said. "Having an online business that's open 24 hours is like having a baby that doesn't sleep. Clearly not all start-ups will enjoy the sort of prodigious growth seen by Pink Boutique, yet Alice believes there are lessons others can learn from her experiences. She says: "Try to learn as much as you can in the beginning when you're small, but then don't be afraid to pay for experienced staff when you can. A TEACHER has revealed how she started her clothing business from her living room after borrowing £45 off her mum to get her started. Alice Hall, 31, now employs 70 people seven years later and racks up £25million of sales a year through her website selling glam party dresses. 4 Alice started the business with the help of her mum Julie Credit: alicepinkboutique/Instagram After graduating from university with a degree in journalism, Alice struggled to find a job in the industry. She ended up taking on a full-time role as a cover teacher while also working nights at a bar. Then, she spotted a gap in the market for what she calls "glam fashion online", inspired by her hometown of Newcastle. Alice realised that many fashion websites showed natural-looking models wearing going-out dresses. 4 Pink Boutique sells glam party dresses at competitive prices Credit: Pink Boutique But, girls out on the town in Newcastle like to wear fake tan and make-up when they were partying. So, she set about starting her own business selling party dresses, but using girls with gorgeous tans, make up and styled hair as models. She told The Mirror: "I was really struggling for money, so I begged my mum to lend me £45 so I could afford a £90 pack of six dresses." 4 The company is still based in Newcastle where it employs 70 people Credit: alicepinkboutique/Instagram Using a friend from the bar she worked at as a model, she posted the dresses on eBay where they quickly sold out. "When they sold, we reinvested and bought two packs, then four packs and so on until Pink Boutique was born." At first, she was using her lunch breaks at work to post and process orders, but she soon took the business full-time with the help of her mum. By the end of year one, that initial £90 spend had turned into £500,000 in turnover. 4 The secret to Alice's success was using social media to promote her business Credit: alicepinkboutique/Instagram Today, the company employs 70 people and ships over 2,000 garments a day out of its Newcastle warehouse. The secret to her success has been social media - Pink Boutique has nearly 1.6million likes on Facebook and over 466,000 followers on Instagram. Her advice to others seeking to start a business from scratch is to learn from your mistakes early on. She said: "Try to learn as much as you can in the beginning when you're small, but then don't be afraid to pay for experienced staff when you can. Our business really changed gears when we brought in a management team." If want to start a company just like Alice did, read this 17-year-old millionaire's tips on starting a business in your spare time. 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