Following last week’s announcements of the 2011 Mumpreneur Award winners, this week’s business mind is none other than Maxine Lewis from London, winner of this year’s Best Start-Up Business Award, which we sponsor.
After being disappointed with the lack of variety in the UK children’s market, Maxine started Gander Kids, an importer of quality toys and play furniture.
Kimberley Watts-Fitzsimmons, corporate responsibility manager for Yell in the UK, said: “It is so inspiring to read about the hundreds of parents who have taken the steps to successfully start their own businesses at the same time as raising a family.”
For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
Gander Kids import branded high design children’s furniture, toys and stationery and distribute to retailers in the UK. We currently represent the US brand P’kolino and the Turkish brand IVI.
Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
You can find us online at ganderkids.co.uk, our offices are based in Greenwich, London. Greenwich actually chose us, we were offered some space in an office and since it was local it was a no-brainer. Greenwich is a fantastic place to have a business with great transport links, restaurants and of course the Royal Park.
What inspired you to start your business?
I needed flexibility, as I have a young family and having looked around I couldn’t find the types of products in the UK that I wanted for my children. When I was made redundant, I knew that if I didn’t start the business then, I never would.
What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
My philosophy over the years has changed, but it has always been along the lines of if you don’t try you will never know. I think what makes me stand out is my persistence. I have a fear of failure like most people, but I don’t allow it to rule me. The more people that tell me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to prove them wrong.
Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
We import our products from overseas and introduce new brands to the UK. We have chosen brands which are established in their home countries and are parent run businesses. We sell our product wholesale and drop ship to independent retailers and more recently mid and larger sized retailers. Our business is different from our competitors because our products are very unique and exclusive to us. We also like to build strong relationships with our suppliers as well as our retailers and actively invest in consumer marketing and PR to boost the brand recognition and aid retailer sales.
Do you have a signature product/specialism you could tell us about?
Gander specialises in childrens products that enhance a home aesthetically, are functional, playful and most importantly affordable. Both of our current brands fit this specialism and I’m always keeping an eye out for other products to add to our portfolio.
What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Persistence and patience. My advice is be brave, willing to take a risk and above all be persistent and patient.
Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
I’ve recently discovered a business called Sophia & Matt who sell lovely bags, purses and accessories all made in London.
I love Greenwich Market, particularly the food market and Mogul restaurant. I’m a bit of a foodie!
How did you hear about Mumpreneur & why did you enter the competition? Were you confident you’d win?
I knew about the awards through various other parent run businesses. I entered as I figured I had nothing to lose and felt confident at the time. When I checked out the other shortlisted businesses, I admit I had a crisis of confidence and pretty much talked myself out of the pole position.
How does it feel to have won your Mumpreneur award?
Fantastic! In my old professional career the most recognition I received was through formal appraisals and promotion. This feels one hundred times better than that because I have built the business from the ground up.
If you could give one piece of advice for an anyone considering entering next year’s competition, what would it be?
They should enter! The event in itself is great to be a part of and if you’re lucky enough to win it is a real confidence boost.
Finally, following the Mumpreneur win, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
As well as introducing some new products to our existing ranges with P’kolino and IVI, I’m also on the lookout for the next innovative brand to introduce to UK parents.
Congratulations to Maxine and all of this year’s Mumpreneur 2011 Award winners!