The United Kingdom is proving to be an excellent business environment for small businesses and their owners. Its diverse economy and extensive domestic and international trade connections make the nation an ideal site for individuals seeking to develop new products and services, whether they are expected to appeal to a large population or are primarily focused on niche markets.
One example of the rise of small and independent businesses is the Oily Rag brand, currently being marketed across the UK by the John Lewis department store chain. Developed by Julia Hunter, this brand demonstrates the importance of creating and marketing unique ideas in the small business environment.
In the case of Oily Rag, the genesis came from Hunter’s inability to find cushions that could be left outside without becoming damaged or mouldy due to outside moisture. This would lead to the destruction of outdoor furniture, unless the owners undertook to move it inside every night, which was a time consuming and annoying chore. Covering the fabric with protective covers was also difficult and would still expose the fabric to the potential for damage if the covers were damaged or improperly used.
By developing a cushion that included water proof oil and PVC components, in addition to a valve designed to let air in while excluding water, they were able to achieve their goal. The cushions produced by Oily Rag were both comfortable to use and completely resistant to the mould and moisture that had plagued other designs. Furthermore, by filling a currently unmet need in the market, these products had little in the way of competition.
Eventually, Julia and her husband Philip were able to interest John Lewis in their design, enabling them to enter the UK furniture market and expand their business to the size it currently enjoys. This demonstrates the importance of not simply having an idea, but understanding how it must be marketed in today’s economy.
The success of Oily Rag should make other small businesses confident about their chance to compete in the modern economy. However, it should also show how important it is to have a clearly defined goal and business plan. By understanding the market and finding a clear need to fill, Julia and Philip Hunter were able to produce a product that was immediately marketable to the public.
Another factor in the success of Oily Rag was the ability to immediately scale up production to meet the demand of retailers. By keeping all production within the United Kingdom, the Oily Rag brand was able to benefit from public preference for domestically produced items. This also allowed them to take advantage of employment solicitors in order to ensure that the addition of extra staff could be effectively managed.
That is an important point for small businesses seeking to emulate the Hunter’s success. If demand increases, the company’s owners must be able to grow along with their demand. For this reason, advance plans for expanding the workforce and any production facilities must be made in advance of any expansion. The owners should discuss the implications of expanding their company with their employment solicitors as scaling up production can cause legal as well as logistical problems, in addition to discussing the initial financial burden with any co-owners or financial backers.
Julia and Philip Hunter have demonstrated that the field of small business remains a vibrant one in the UK. By creating a business plan, identifying a need and being prepared to take advantage of good fortune, other small business owners can emulate the Hunter’s achievements.
John Fegan is a freelance copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, including a number of child custody solicitors in Manchester.