Business where the personal Stamp is essential
Andrea Martin and partner Tori Higginson run a business selling promotional printed products and feel that building a rapport with customers is vital. Stamp Promotions can only benefit ...
Andrea Martin admits that she and her business partner Tori Higginson run their Holywood firm Stamp Promotions differently because they are women - though it is not at the forefront of their minds.
"We probably do," she agrees. "We are more sympathetic with the people we deal with and take things more to heart.
"We are always there for clients and we don't really take a hard-nosed approach to sales. Every order is important to us. We try to treat everyone equally. The person placing a £100 order today may place a £2,000 order in the future."
Tori stresses that this commitment to giving clients respect and time lay behind their decision to set up in business selling promotional printed products. They launched in January this year.
"Both of us had worked in the industry for about 10 years," says Tori. "We knew there was a gap in the market for someone who had a less hard-selling approach.
"We like to build up a rapport with our customers - that had worked for us. So that is the approach we have taken and that is working very well for us."
It was after Tori was ready to return to work after giving birth and Andrea returned to Northern Ireland after travelling that they agreed to set up in business together.
Andrea recalls: "We ended up one night talking and decided we could give this a go. We knew clients wanted a less aggressive, more soft approach. We realised that they often needed someone to spend time talking through with them what they wanted. A lot of clients don't really understand what we need from them to make this work."
The dynamics between Andrea and Tori are important for the business. "We work well together," explains Andrea. "We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. We both have a real passion for this.
"This takes some of the tension out of having to work such long hours. " Although their core hours are nine to five, often clients phone in the evenings to discuss orders, adds Andrea.
Although this was a low-cost business to get going, both Andrea and Tori had to put funds in to buy computers and promotional material and create a clear business brand.
"We would not be much of a company if we didn't have any promotional material!," continues Andrea.
"We have seen steady growth, which has been fantastic. We are both very positive about the last two months of the year's sales." Sales targets look well on the way to be met. "We have won 80 new clients - from nothing - with 45% repeat business," reflects Andrea on the first year's orders.
"The projection is to increase turnover by 75% in year two. The public sector market is one that we have not done much in yet, but we know from research that there is a lot of opportunity there. By 2016, we aim to have turnover rise to between £300,000 to £500,000 and increase our sales team to four to six people. There is only ourselves at present."
If Stamp Promotions continues as it has begun, those ambitions will be met - and Andrea and Tori will have demonstrated that the patient and less aggressive approach to sales can sometimes be best.
London's calling for female entrepreneurs
London's technology sector has the highest proportion of women entrepreneurs in Europe, according to a global study of 50,000 start-ups. But the city's start-up scene, centred around London's 'Silicon Roundabout', is still dominated by men, with women representing only 9% of those behind new technology businesses. Eileen Burbidge, a partner at Passion Capital, said: "We need to keep highlighting female entrepreneur success stories such as Wendy Tan White, co-founder of Moonfruit which sold to Yell for $37m (£23m) and Tracy Doree, co-founder of LLUSTRE, sold to Fab.com." Nathalie Gaveau, founder and chief executive of London-based start-up Shopcade, said the city's tech scene was relatively welcoming to women, saying: "Margaret Thatcher, Cherie Blair - I really think it's a society that's very open to women." The report on global technology start-up 'ecosystems' by O2 owners Telefonica and the Startup Genome found Toronto had the highest proportion of women tech entrepreneurs, with 18%. It also found London had the biggest tech sector in Europe, ahead of rival hubs in Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The findings will be a boost to the Government who have been promoting London's digital economy through its Tech City Investment Organisation.