“if You Love Something, Then I Think You Can Make It Work, I Think You Really Can” Helen From Lente Designs
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“if You Love Something, Then I Think You Can Make it Work, I Think You Really Can” Helen From Lente Designs

Ecommerce business Lente Designs has been running for over 6 years by herself with casual staff over busy periods, Lente Designs started very slowly running 3 days a week. The couple not happy with their day to day jobs decided to plunge into making their own business. Taking a risk and taking out money on their credit card and buying fabrics to make their own designs for the niche market of iPad & tablet covers, designed by themselves along with help Lente Designs aims to provide quality cases for a little cost as possible.

Hi everyone, Helen from Lente Designs shares her incredible journey on SellingOnlineToday!

Some thoughts from the interview

“The business started very slowly to begin with. I was working 3 days a week in a facilities managing role which I was hating, my husband wasn’t very happy in the job he had and we kept looking at each other and thinking we really need to do something. We had been talking about setting up our own business but being quite risk adverse so we just delayed and delayed.”

“We took some money from the credit card and we invested in some fabrics and linked up with other businesses and other factories and basically worked really hard to set up the business.”

“The first year is really horrible. It is really exciting and really horrible as well because it is really hard work. Somehow you are working to midnight seven days a week and you don’t notice it as much because you are excited and trying to push the business.”

“It was very long days and we did it weekends. I guess one of the things to say to people is make sure you love it before you commit to it because it you don’t love it; it is really going to tire you out.”

“I have always wanted to do something creative, which this gives me the chance to do.”

“My husband is the technical person he does a lot of the technical side of the design but I get to design the fabrics and the colours and I spend many an hour with a piece of canvas on my desk with a lot of pantone colours trying to work out what is fun.”

“When we started 6 years ago we really didn’t have any competition at all. There really was a gap in the market because the iPad 1 was out but the iPad 2 was just being released and Amazon was just releasing the Kindle e reader called the kindle keyboard and they were kind of pieces of technology that women were saying actually I want to use as well. In the past technology has been very male dominated and I think these particular products have appealed to the female market as well. Yet all the products out there were fake leather or faux leather or being called leather when they were really not and were plain colours. I thought well if I am going to have my first iPad I want to cover it in something nice, I don’t want to be plain and boring.”

“If you spend a lot of time decorating your house and you put your iPad on the table and it is in a cover you hate and that might work for a lot of people but some of us want it to look nice; it is part of our outfit, it’s part of our interior design. We want it to stand out, be fun, make us smile when we pick it up so I think those were the kind of things that were flowing through our personal mind.”

“I ran a business centre in Chiswick for 12 years and it was helping start-up businesses. So I got to talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and you can almost tell which ones are going to succeed as soon as they walked through the door, some people have really got it. They have the drive, the aspiration, the passion and the reason for doing it.”

“Too be honest I wish we had more money because it doesn’t matter if you have a Nexus or Samsung or Kindle or iPad because there is so many products being introduced every year it makes it a little more difficult year on year on knowing which way to go.”

“The things that we struggle with the most it is working out which ones to go with and sometimes it will be customers that will literally be calling or emailing saying come on I need this one.”

“You have to wait and see what the feedback is on the tablets because you can’t be an owner of all the tablets and make good use of them so as a small business try to pick (the best seller.)”

“I think one of the hardest things I find is self-promotion. It’s a horrible thing to do and it is not something I do naturally but my husband was pushing and the product was receiving such lovely feedback from the customers that we wanted the business to expand, we wanted to capitalise on what we were doing. How could we do that in way that didn’t involve me too much? So it was all about selling the products and making sure that people could see these products and I think you go through a phase that you are trying to test the various markets trying to see what works for you and because of my age I thought that magazines would be appropriate. It is still for my generation something that we are still very much part of so I thought it was important to see whether we would garner interest through that medium, whether it was right for us or whether we are just literally an online business.”

“Sometimes you think you are knowing what you are doing but sometimes you need to test the waters around you.”

“There is always somebody at some point that is willing to do a deal on an ad. Especially in the last couple of years with people struggling they are going to be people that pull out late and if they know you and they trust you and you can respond quite quickly. We have a couple of good relationships with people in the marketing of those magazine.”

“I was pushing myself on Amazon a little bit because we were feeling a little bit frustrated about the amount of kindles that were being produced and how the market was changing. It was becoming quite a turning point for the business as to which way do we go, how do we differentiate our products and with some many kindles being released within 12 months there were serious business decisions to be made. I tried to talk to as many people as I could there and I didn’t give up.”

“If you get a bad review you take it personally and I have had tears at the desk thinking that you haven’t even talked to me.”

“(FBA) is brilliant especially if you are trying to mix many roles. The beauty is we actually went away for the week with our son and I could still let the business roles. Amazon was able to fulfil those orders for me. As long as I plan and as long as I have the stock there.”

“You learn over time to test the waters with your product and try to say ok we are doing 3 or 4 of these but who else is doing it and how best can I set the product up to maximise the exposer.”

“The thing we have amongst most other suppliers is 1. they are different, 2. they are designed in the UK and 3. we really do care. At the end of the day sometimes it is not about making money. If we have made a mistake we ship out straight away. I make sure the customer is happy even before I as what is wrong with the old case.”

“We have been selling on eBay from the start as well. The first thing we did was our own site and Amazon and then we moved on to eBay. Unless you have masses of time or a big team you can’t do everything at once.”

“You have got to manage all the software, all the ads and all the promotions and each system that does is differently. You can buy software to do it all in one place.”

“I remember how happy I was getting our first 10 orders, running around the house smiling, being so excited. As you grow your needs change and you will need more but when you are starting out you will use Amazon for Amazon stuff, eBay for eBay stuff and your own website which is the best way as you paying everyone else commission.”

“It is such a massive platform, the amount of people who just use it, it becomes so much part of shopping online. You do an Amazon, like Google it has become a phrase”

“In order to make yourself stand out amongst everyone else your feedback and your reviews are absolutely critical.”

“Try and do a little bit of research.”

Best Advice: “Always make sure you have cash in the bank.”

What do they offer?

“Our gadgets should be chic and shouted about, not covered in cheap plastic!” Lente Designs think there’s plenty of middle ground for cool, original accessories that aren’t made of nasty black fake leather and don’t cost a fortune. Covers and bags for phones, ebook readers and tablets that make people say “Hey, I love your cover, where did you get it from?”. It’s time to get creative – life’s too short for fake leather.

Listen online here.

Listen on iTunes here.

Street Talk

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