1. Tell us about yourself. Well.. In short… but never easy to talk about… I was badly bullied all my life; through school, in relationships and also in the workplace, and alongside that I was going through a divorce and suffering acute anxiety and panic attacks.
Things came to a head and I was forced to sell my house, which was the catalyst, and I FELL!!!
I ended up absent from work, suffered a breakdown and was prescribed an Anti-depressant to help control the attacks and to regulate my sleep (I was an active, healthy body and minded woman before).
3 years passed, a cancer scare, tests and a big operation to rectify my medical issues, and then I felt ready to come off the tablets with my doctor’s guidance after moving house (yes it was actually easier than I thought after 20 years in the same home) and finally finding some peace. A few months along the road of being almost tablet free I slipped into what is called ‘anti-depressant withdrawal’; memory loss, slurred speech, inability to walk except to the right, cognitive loss and focus were slipping away fast plus a whole host of other terrifying symptoms.
Post stroke symptoms were present, despite not having had the stroke itself, and it is widely known (except I hadn’t heard about this myself) that origami is a very successful therapy to alleviate many of the ‘post stroke type’ symptoms associated with withdrawal of this kind... and so I began book origami, having heard about it and being curious enough to try it (plus any form of origami would probably help I was told so why not!)
And so Jen’s Books on the Bay was born. Accidentally, after just simply posting 3 photos to a gardening group on Facebook the demand for my books began and I was so pleased that something I had made was popular and people wanted to buy them. Who would have thought!
My handmade gift business not only brought me back to full health but is now my unexpected little business dream, in reality.
2. Tell us about your business. My business is named Jen’s Books on the Bay and is an online gift shop; our main product is the book art/folded books that are made to order and can be gifted for any occasion you like. You can custom order any word, name, date or year and many picture silhouettes. We also stock inspiration LED trees and make custom baubles containing swirls of paper that are printed with anything you like i.e. Quotes, names, national flags, language symbols or pictures of choice. Also we have a range of Paper Mache figures including musicians and animals and custom orders are also welcomed.
3. Why did you start your own business? As the story above tells, my business was born accidentally and has got to be one of the best things that ever happened to me by accident. I was originally beginning a brooch/button wedding bouquet business which was launched JUST BEFORE I became ill with anti-depressant withdrawal so it is not something that is mentioned very often, as books keeps me so very busy, around my full time job as a Headteacher’s P.A. but it IS still something that I will be looking to reintroduce as an available service once I leave my day job, to work my dream as a full time venture.
4. How did you choose this particular niche? I didn’t choose my niche, health needs made it fated to be the path I would take and I certainly don’t have any complaints about how things have turned out. I truly now do believe that everything is meant to happen to us for a reason.
5. What do you like most and least about being your own boss?
I like being my own boss because I can choose how, when and where I spend my working day and each day is different. For example, if I have spent the previous day measuring and prepping books to be folded, I will go and place myself somewhere public during the folding process so that conversations can be started and future sales.. People love seeing the books being folded and ask questions during the process so I can do this in various places i.e. cafes, public gardens and parks and will be doing this more in the future once working my business full time. I am fair to myself and don’t suffer from the influences of others who maybe don’t have my best interests at heart which sadly has been my experience in the past. The only thing that springs to my mind as a ‘down side’ to being my own boss is that sometimes working from home can be isolating but only if you let it. For me it is also something that is necessary for health reasons and will become my full time way of life in September.
6. What personality traits and skills are needed to run a business? To run a successful business I believe self-discipline is an absolute must and you have GOT TO keep pushing yourself forward, and out of your comfort zone a little every day to progress. I strongly believe that no matter the pace or speed it takes, progress IS progress so it is important to remember to keep going and that it will take time. Organizational skills for both hands on and your time are CRUCIAL in any business and it is something that I don’t struggle with. I am used to multi-tasking in my day job and a busy environment where calm is the ultimate key to success.
7. What has been the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur, although it is still early days for me, I feel is the unknown financial implications this can have. It is a safe feeling when you have a regular amount of pay coming in when you are in a day job working for others and the unknown income from working for myself full time is something that will take time to adjust to and hopefully it will settle into a pattern of income that allows some peace of mind.
8. Do you have any resources that you have used to build your business that you would recommend? The education/training platform that I use is my biggest resource; alongside my own life experience and support from others that I have met along the way. Coaching or mentoring is something that I will be looking to take up next to give me professional help with structuring my business and forward plan its growth. I can also call on my life experiences for resources too and this will help others as I can relate to many issues by calling on personal challenges I have faced already.
9. Do you have any tips to share on promoting yourself? Attraction marketing is definitely a tip I would give to promote yourself. Meeting people and starting conversations are key as you never know where they will lead. I use interactive posts and paid ads on my business pages to spread the word that we are there and ready to help make gifting easier. I will also be very keen to share with others the things that have helped me to get healthy in both mind and body and using my online business as the platform for this too. Also, don’t be scared to try and REACH.. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it is life and it is a learning curve for us all so no one expects perfection all of the time.
10. What other advice would you like to share with someone starting their own business? To anyone out there who is thinking about starting their own business I would definitely firstly say to them STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND JUST DO IT. I wish I had done this earlier and that it hadn’t taken me getting ill to spark my dreams into reality. If you are worried about the money then work it in your free time, around your work and family, with whatever time you have spare and go from there. This way you are at least starting to do it, meeting people and gaining skills that will stay with you and help you progress. I will also be very keen to share with others the things that have helped me to get healthy in both mind and body and using my online business as the platform for this too. In my heart I know that looking back on this next year, I will wish I had done it sooner. I love the quote I saw recently which says ‘you are NOT too old and it is NOT too late!’
11. How can we contact you to learn more about your products and services?
I am reachable in many ways and the links are below:
https://www.facebook.com/Jens-Folded-Books-on-the-Bay-341276282664026 to order your gifts from me, including custom orders
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/JensBooksOnTheBay1 for faster ordering with click and buy
email@example.com for absolutely anything and to say hello
firstname.lastname@example.org for help with mindset, encouragement and anything that will help to get you started in business
https://www.instagram.com/jenlamb247 to follow us on Instagram