Research your market and write a business plan to ensure the business is viable, plus it will focus the mind. Initially keep investment to a minimum so you can ensure the idea is big enough before you have blown thousands of pounds…Believe in yourself.
Your name: Katie Malkinson
Names and ages of children: Max, age 5 and Amelie, age 3
Business: Little Big Sports Ltd
Location: Hildenborough, Nr Tonbridge, Kent
Tell us about your background:
After leaving university I by chance fell into a career in media. Not the natural progression after a degree in ‘Anatomy and Cell Biology’ but as it turned out a world that was very suited to my strengths. It was all about relationships, persuasion, hard work and organisation.
Over the next few years I worked for several agencies. It was a good time to be in media as clients were spending money and new media channels were starting left, right and centre plus I was young and it was fun!
I then moved client side in a bid to understand more about what was driving the business decisions. Over the next few years I built up a department and when I left I was managing many talented individuals and 70 million pounds worth of expenditure. The role was challenging, fast moving and very interesting. It taught me many lessons that I have been able to apply to my own business.
During this time I married and had my son and daughter. Just before I was due to return to work after the birth of my daughter, she was diagnosed with very severe, life threatening allergies. Getting to the bottom of this and keeping her safe became my priority. So I made the surprisingly easy call to walk away from my nicely paid job and become a stay at home Mum. Focussing on my family gave me the headspace and the drive to set up Little Big Sports.
What made you start your business?
Little Big Sports was established as I found it difficult to find the right sized sports equipment for my sports mad, then 4 year old son. The light bulb moment was when my Mum bought my son a cricket bat he could hardly lift, let alone hit a ball with. In fact when observing other children, many were playing with tennis balls that bounced over their heads or footballs that were too heavy to kick. It was obvious to me that in order to ensure sport was fun and for children to lead an active lifestyle it was vitally important that they needed to play with equipment that was especially suited to their age and ability. It was hard, however to find age specific sports equipment and little advice was given about age suitability by online retailers.
Plenty of research and business plan writing followed. Thankfully it became clear there was a potential sizable market for an online retailer specialising in kids sport equipment. So in August 2011 www.littlebigsports.co.uk was launched
What do you do on a typical day?
Lots of juggling! The majority of mornings I take my son to school and then come back home with my daughter. Depending on my schedule I either then welcome my childminder or I have the morning with my daughter before she goes to preschool. Afternoons and evenings are spent working with a break for kids tea and bedtime routine. We tend to have dinner late and then either collapse in front of the TV or return to work. So very hectic but lots of flexibility and as I am passionate about the business it is enjoyable rather than a chore
What projects are you working on now/have you worked on recently?
My priority at the moment is to continue to expand our product range in line with customer demand. I recently bought my winter stock of snow related gear including snowboots and insulated wellies to keep active children warm during the winter months. Moving forward I have lots of plans to widen our offering potentially into sports like cycling and horse riding as well as introducing some clothing. I am also in discussions about some potential joint ventures.
In addition to the ongoing running and Marketing of the website a big drive at the moment is to grow our affiliate network of sports clubs and schools.
How do you manage your working day with your childcare arrangements?
I have a great support network of my childminder, who is known affectionately as “spare Mummy”, my husband, my Mum and wonderful friends. I tend to plan my diary a couple of weeks ahead. I group meetings together to make best use of my time particularly if they are in London. I ensure I have a couple of long working from home days each week and at least two mornings free with my daughter and a couple of afternoons after school with my son.
What is your greatest achievement?
Business wise it is getting www.littlebigsports.co.uk to market from concept to reality and now making a profit on an extremely limited budget, with the demands of balancing work and children.
On a personal level it is my children. It still amazes me how my husband and I have two such wonderful but different kids.
Who or what inspires you?
My Mum has always inspired me. She has a wonderful work ethic and positivity about her. Working for myself and seeing the business grow and the orders build is extremely motivating and inspiring.
What do you hope to be doing in five years time?
Still running the company and being proud that Littlebigsports is the leading specialist in kids sporting equipment with quality products, service and advice for parents in the UK.
What do you do to relax?
Spending time with my family, socialising, eating, exercising and watching sport but not necessarily in that order!
What advice would you give to other mums starting a business?
Research your market and write a business plan to ensure the business is viable, plus it will focus the mind. Initially keep investment to a minimum so you can ensure the idea is big enough before you have blown thousands of pounds…Believe in yourself!