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Cocorose – how an idea became an international business

Janan Leo was a busy executive working in London when she had the idea that would change her life. But starting a small business isn’t easy, and with a little help from Enterprise Nation (plus lots of inspiration and hard work), she’s built her innovative folding shoe firm Cocorose from a one-woman operation into a thriving international small business.

Janan Leo, founder of Cocorose

“It was as I was trying to navigate my way down Highgate Hill in my heels on my morning commute that I suddenly had this lightbulb moment – a pair of shoes you can wear to work, then fold them up and put them in your handbag, and even wear them later if you’re out in the evening. It seemed obvious, but when I looked, no-one seemed to be doing this. And once I had the idea in my head, I just couldn’t let it go.

“I didn’t have a shoe design background but I had some experience in product development so I knew I could do it. This was in 2007 and it took me about a year to get it going, initially funding it through my salary and a £3,000 overdraft from my bank, though they did turn me down initially until I came up with a business plan that they liked.

“When I look back now I wonder how on earth I managed to do it with such a small amount of money, but I did. From 2007 to 2010 I carried on with my full-time job, working 18-hour days but just based at home in the mornings and evenings outside of my day job.

“Working from home became a nightmare though, my entire house was just filled with boxes of shoes so we eventually got a studio in north London, surrounded by other creative small businesses, and that’s where we’re still based today, though we’re starting to look around for something a bit bigger.”

 

Help from Enterprise nation

“Since the early days, Enterprise Nation has been fantastic for us. Being able to tap into their resources, having someone to ask if I was doing things right, and knowing that we’re not alone, that there’s a community of entrepreneurs out there who’re willing to help, has been really valuable.

“There’s so much information on the website which is ideal for new business start-ups and growing businesses like mine. The little bits of advice that I can listen to or watch on-the-go are so valuable because I’m always moving and multi-tasking. Then there are the events, the Go Global trips abroad, webinars and other resources which have been fantastic.

“I feel like I’ve got my own little built-in support system that I can just tap into. And that support has been constant. As we’ve gone from starting a business to growing a business they’ve been there to help.”

 

 

Staying connected

“As a small business we have to be flexible and nimble. We don’t have the luxury of a large team to handle individual tasks so it’s great that we can all be connected and work with each other wherever we are.

“Social media in particular is increasingly important for us. In the beginning I outsourced it but I soon found that for social media to work it needs to be authentic. People want to know what goes on behind the scenes and who better to say that than the people behind the brand. So I started doing it myself and now we all get involved in it – I’m on my phone more or less constantly.

“We now also have a partner who manages our Chinese social media profile on Weibo and WeChat. We’ve just started working with a distributor out there so we’re working hard on brand awareness. It’s amazing that a brand as small as ours can tap into such a massive market.

“Looking ahead, we’re focusing on digital, wanting to grow our website as an ecommerce sales channel. We’re also going to focus on new markets, like China, but also Japan – there seems to be a very keen market for a prestige British brand that’s associated with institutions like the Royal Ballet and BAFTA. I think we’ve got a very bright future.”

 

Enterprise Nation launched in 2005 and has since helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder Emma Jones MBE, it’s also a leading campaigning voice for small business with the Government. See more Enterprise Nation stories

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