Cereal packet Christmas card holders, lists, a split office/home personality and learning the banking game; Kerri Middleton shares with us her story on how she has grown her thriving company from scratch whilst remaining happily married and raising three children. With determination, time management and her favourite list pad and pen, she shows us how, despite what you may believe, it actually is possible!
What was it that inspired you to start the business?
“It all began back in 1997 when I was travelling around Australia in an old VW camper van with my future husband Kieran. Trained as a product designer at Glasgow School of Art, I loved problem solving, and I had a ‘lightbulb moment’. Using whatever was to hand, namely some cereal packets and a pair of nail scissors, I made early prototypes of what would become a nifty little Christmas card tree holder. The following year I landed an order for 10,000 of them from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.”
What hurdles have you had to overcome along the way and how did you conquer them?
“Recruiting the right people and supporting them, getting the right people who will be great at developing your business with you is not easy, not everyone is what they seem in an interview and in the early days as a small brand no one has heard of, it’s quite brave of people to come into a small brand in the hope it will grow! I have had to learn a lot about not micro managing, as an owner manager it’s hard to let go of the detail sometimes – I’m still too nosey with my team, especially on creative side.
Learning how to deal with the banks to ensure we have enough funding in place at the right times to grow our stock holding – without enough stock we can’t grow our sales!
Finding an office in a part of town we could all get to (central Edinburgh) was challenging, we converted an old church hall building into an office/studio – bit of a labour of love!”
How have you managed to juggle the business with raising children?
“In the early years after my 1st two children I worked a lot at night, I learnt from a very busy lawyer friend in the same boat as me – working 3 days wasn’t enough and I spent a decade working 3 nights a week at home, sitting down after they went to bed for 3 or 4 hours. It was exhausting but it helped me feel in control.
After my 3rd child I had to change it, I was in my 40’s and the older two didn’t go to bed until 9pm! So I have had to do less nights!
I still only do 3 days but have a lot more people in my team now we are bigger which makes a lot of difference.
I like to have a plan, I’m a real list writer and I find some good, simple tools really help. I write lists, my work note book has everything in it. I use our family calendar (one of our best sellers) and an on line diary to manage my time at work.
One of my team once said it’s almost like they can see a switch flick from home to work as I walk in the front door – I can completely separate them and focus on work 100% when I am there.
I’m very determined and results driven. I have a husband who is happy to take equal share with the kids and a mum who fills in all the gaps when we can’t ….. I am very lucky and know without them I could never have kept going this long!”
Which person has had the most influence on your life?
“My mother and my grandmother gave me belief in myself, always taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to if I’m willing to work hard and learn from my mistakes (but that they’d love me no matter what I did as a job!)”
Which people could you not have reached this level of success without the support of?
“My husband, my parents and all the people who have worked for Busy B over the years – inside the business and external support, they have all contributed and added in different ways. It all counts.”
What item can you not live without?
“A pen and paper for writing lists! I am always using my Busy B Notebook and stylus pen.”
What, in your experience, are the 3 most important things you need to succeed in business?
- “You have to really want to succeed and do it against the odds, be willing to climb that mountain no one else wants to tackle”
- “Never, never, never give up”
- “Know your strengths, admit your weaknesses and hire great people more talented than you in those areas, its team work not a one man crusade that will bring success!”