Our next #CanonSmallBusinessHero is award-winning entrepreneur, Eve Lodge, founder of the bespoke bunting company, Barmy. Beginning the business at just fourteen, Eve’s since seen it grow from strength to strength.
Barmy is a company that makes bespoke British bunting for all occasions: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, even May the Fourth. With customers from all over the world - from my home town of Barnsley to Miami - it started with a barmy idea I had at school when I was fourteen, and five years on it’s grown immensely. I’ve even sold bespoke bunting to popular TV shows!
I’m the founder and owner, meaning I juggle production (there’s a lot of sewing!), marketing, customer communication and businesses strategy. Fortunately, I can also rely on the support of my fantastic family who help out whenever they can.
As an ambitious fourteen year old student, I decided to enter a local business competition. I finished in the top three, winning £25 to bring my idea to life - and just like that, Barmy Bunting was born. I used social media to promote my idea, and through both word of mouth and recommendations I turned Bunting into profit.
After winning three awards at the 2013 IKIC Gala Night, I was approached by Barnsley Council’s Enterprise Young People project and given a grant to purchase a top of the range sewing machine and develop an ecommerce website. I’ve been making bunting ever since.
The biggest challenge for me has been juggling running a business with my studies - but I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’m a bit of a never-say-die grafter! I’ve made it through my GCSEs and A levels and I’m now studying marketing at the University of Hull. This is all whilst continuing to build the Barmy brand. It’s a busy life!
When I started out I began by doing a number of trade fairs and events to sell my bunting, but I quickly realised this wasn’t profitable. I realised that I needed to focus my attention on selling online, driving traffic to my website using social media. By doing this I could capitalise on the bespoke, personalised nature of my products whilst sticking to the mantra that ‘my price is my price’, rather than be bargained with as often happened when selling locally and at trade fairs.
Being young, people can also underestimate you, but once I talk to them about my brand they understand the passion I have for my products and business - they soon realise that age is no barrier!
My next biggest challenge is to ‘scale up’ Barmy and become a business that has different strands, expanding into personalised books, baubles, buns and biscuits. To do this, I’m aiming to employ more people and grow my brand in the next few years.
We live in a highly digital world and so technology is a key component of the Barmy business. The online side is vital, whether that’s orders coming through the website or spreading the word on social media, without being online my business would run very differently!
For Barmy, communication has become integral and a key part of this is speaking to customers – and potential customers – on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. I need to know what my customers like and dislike in order to make the bunting personal and special to them. I need to make sure that it’s not only something I’m proud of, but something the customer loves and wants to display in their home, office, or pass on as a present.
Social media provides the perfect platform to demonstrate your passion – it helps me engage my customers, and they feel like part of the business development. This is important because if you can connect with a customer, communicate with them and tell your story, then the customer is more likely to come back.
For me, it is important to keep admin at a level that I can cope with. On a daily basis, I try and plan my activities – ensuring that I give myself enough time to catch up on paperwork. My Canon MAXIFY printer plays a crucial role in speeding up Barmy’s admin system, quickly printing out things like invoices, personal notes to accommodate my products and new design ideas. It is a fantastic piece of kit - and the cloud functionality of the device is great – especially when you’re in a rush!
It would be a toss-up between my Apple macbook and my iPhone – both crucial tools for communicating with my customers. Or could my sewing machine count as tech?!
Believe in your product. Be confident and focused. Tell your business story. If you’re not passionate about your business, then you can’t expect others to be, so what’s the point? Give it all you’ve got, and be open to new ideas. That’s more than one thing – but they’re all so important!
I’ve invested hugely into the business, purchasing bespoke labels and fabric to ensure my products are the best, and I want people to know that when they buy them.
Therefore, success at the moment is Barmy’s strong growth, year on year - one day I want that to reach a level where it becomes a household brand name. Helping people has also been very much part of my own – and Barmy’s – DNA. I’m currently proud to be the ambassador for a business enterprise aimed at Primary School students, but looking ahead, I want to expand the Barmy team so I can spend more of my time encouraging young female entrepreneurs. If I can encourage just one aspiring business owner then that’s success to me.