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Go Global New York – Maria Allen

Maria Allen started making gift cards as a child and began selling them to local shops when she was 14. As a graphic design student in Brighton she turned to making her own jewellery and shortly after she graduated she was able to move out of her parents’ house and into her own studio. She now has eight staff and sells a wide range of personalised gifts online.

On the recent Go Global New York trade mission, organised by small business advice and support group Enterprise Nation, she told us what running her own business has taught her.

Maria Allen

How much of starting a business is playing it by ear?

When I started at 14 it was very much about that and gradually as the business has grown, I’ve made sure I try to get good advice from all possible sources to check out my views and broaden my knowledge.

 

Did you have a business plan, and if so, have you stuck to it?

Not when I was starting, except to try to anticipate cash flow – I have one now but I can also summarise it in one page and this is important to me so that I can clearly communicate plans and goals with my team.

 

What advice would you give a younger you?

Don’t rush it or expect things to happen really quickly after launching or graduating. Most things take longer than planned so give it all time and be patient.

Go Global presentation

 

What was your biggest mistake?

I wouldn’t say it was a mistake, but I sometimes wish I’d hired help in my business earlier. It’s one of the best things I’ve done and has enabled the business to grow and develop.

 

What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

The freedom – I love being able to create a vision for my business and then working hard to make that happen. And developing new products – we’ve expanded into accessories, gifts and homeware as well as the jewellery that I started with and it’s so exciting taking it from an idea to a physical product.

 

What area of your business would you invest your first £500 in if you started again?

I’d pay to get my products professionally photographed – it’s so important to customers shopping online.

Maria Allen's personalised cufflinks

 

How has technology helped your business?

We’ve used technology to develop systems that are crucial to our success including order and despatch management, data analysis, product development and finance. We’ve also invested in an engraver for metal jewellery, so we can engrave personalised messages on the back of our jewellery products.

 

How has Enterprise Nation helped you?

Since I graduated I’ve found Enterprise Nation brilliant. They’ve given us the tools we needed to make long-lasting contacts and develop new business plans as we work to increase our international sales. Their Go Global New York trade mission was the perfect opportunity for us to assess a new market first-hand while feeling safe in the knowledge that we were being guided by a team of knowledgeable professionals.

At the Etsy offices

 

What was the best thing about Go Global New York?

The three days were packed with amazing talks and networking events from business professionals in the e-commerce, finance, marketing, social media and export sectors, and it was a great opportunity to network with other, incredibly inspiring small business owners.

But the best thing was our trip to (online selling platform) Etsy HQ in Brooklyn. Etsy is a great sales channel for us so it was amazing to meet Linda the COO and talk about the growth potential for our business as we work to increase our US sales and customer base.

 

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.

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