Before starting your own business there are many questions that come into mind – like how do you go about starting off? Where do you start?
Many of us ask this question and it’s great to learn from those that have been there and done it. So who better to give you more of a perspective and tell you the story of how Shelfstore all began, than the man himself – Tony Fitz-Costa!
- When did you first come up with the idea for Shelfstore – was there anything particular that had inspired you?
I was a 21 year old junior retail manager working for Habitat and one day I noticed an advert for a manager for a branch of Shelfstore.
Shelfstore at this time had 4 stores in and around London controlled by a Swedish director who had brought the shelving system over to sell to British customers. I worked at all the four branches and approximately 5 years later the Swedish director wanted to release the ownership and return to Sweden.
I decided to take the plunge and raise the funds to run my own company. Shelfstore Finchley Road NW London became my business around 25 years ago (all the other 3 stores ceased trading at this time). I moved the business to Maidenhead in 2011 and closed the retail unit in London – and switched our focus from shop front retail to online retail – and therefore, needed suitable distribution facilities.
- How easy did you find it to move your business online? Did you feel you had to make any major changes before you did?
Initially I kept the traditional retail unit as a backup so customers could visit a shop – however, as our online distribution meant that customers from all over the UK could now purchase our shelves – the retail shop front because less important than the need for space to hold stock to supply online customers.
As to big changes, I had to seek help to seek help to produce a ecommerce website and online marketing and sales process; this is an area to is constantly under review. Our focus is on creating a great experience for our customers and making the purchase process as the selection of shelving as simple as possible.
- Setting up your own business is a big step – do you have any top tips for anyone starting up on their own?
Keep finances in order and ensure you do this on a daily basis. Cash is king – and so keeping on top of cash flow and ensuring you know where you are financially is key.
- What would you say has been your biggest achievement with Shelfstore and why?
- Moving the business from high street shop type retailer to successful online retailer.
- Moving out of London to Maidenhead without closing down the operation or delaying customer orders.
- Having an online business is great, but have you found any parts of being solely online challenging?
Providing the prospective customers with product information online when they cannot see the components. We sent samples to our customers so they can experience the quality of the pine we use – and we have a number of videos and images on our site so that customers can view other shelving systems. We have also developed our fitting instructions to online videos and now find this helps explain each component too.
- You’ve kept your business going successfully for a very long time – what’s you secret?
Adapting to suit economic climate and willing to change to improve. This is something all business owners need to consider – move with the times – and keep on top of new technologies and methodologies.
Now that’s inspiring! And if you haven’t looked for yourself yet, get onto the Shelfstore website and explore the customer friendly experience online – there’s never been an easier way to design and order a shelving solution for your home!
By Tony Fitz-Costa. Check me out on Google+