It’s been an action-packed week; it feels like we haven’t stopped running around. The biggest news was the arrival of our new catalogue. It’s the result of about three months of work –taking the photos, writing the blurbs, editing and proof-reading, which takes time because we do it all in house. We get 30,000 copies printed, so it was a very big lorry that arrived on Monday! Then it was all hands to the pump stuffing them into envelopes and sending them to our customers. We’re just starting to get orders back now, which is why we’re so busy.
We’ve also been out and about at horse shows. It was Badminton last week, so we took down our stall; it’s always nice to meet your customers, and lots of them are riders (or the daughters of riders). We also made sure we actually saw a horse, because normally we don’t get to see any! Most of us in the office (there are five of us here permanently) have a horsey background – it’s useful because we can guide our customers when they’re unsure what to buy.
Becky's top recession-busting tip: 'Never be afraid to do something different, especially during times of uncertainty'.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about other companies that we could do – in fact we have a new business that we’re setting up in the next few months. The idea is that our Utterly Horses catalogue is largely aimed at girls, but there’s nothing for the boys – so we’re launching Utterlysaurus, which will sell model dinosaurs, monsters, creepy-crawlies and so on. Whenever we have an idea, we always try to investigate it and run with it if possible, so we’ve been talking to potential suppliers about our product range, to magazine publishers about advertising, and generally tapping our networks. I find groups like Everywoman and Women on Top quite helpful: even if people there aren’t in the same market, they often know people who can help you – designers or copywriters or printers, for example.
Spending has been down a little bit in the last year, but it hasn’t stopped – people will still spend money, particularly on their children. And we’re just concerned about looking after our customers, because we’re here for the long haul. Utterly Horses is ten years old this year – but my ultimate aim is to have 26 companies, one for every letter of the alphabet! As well as Horses and Saurus, I also run Utterly Design, doing graphic work for other companies (and E, M and C have gone too, thanks to Utterly Extreme, Utterly Music and Utterly Chaos - three of my past ventures!).
Since I'm also a Special Constable with the Police, that means a lot of balls to juggle - but you just have to make sure you keep your eye on them all, especially when it’s busy!
Becky Benfield runs Utterly Horses, an online model horses retailer that she started in 1999, aged just 16. Last year she won the Artemis category at the NatWest everywoman awards, for female entrepreneurs aged 25 and under (and if you fancy your chances of following in her footsteps, you can apply for this year’s Everywoman awards here).