#TRADETALK with Pamela Laird

  1. Jas Sensi

    Jas Sensi UKBF Newcomer

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    From Dragons' Den to the final three on BBC’s The Apprentice, Pamela Laird, founder of beauty company MoxiLoves, discusses business and Brexit, achievements and advice in this week’s #TRADETALK.

    What is your background in business?

    “I started in business quite young. My mum has owned a beauty salon since before I was born and when I finished school at 18, I opened my nail bar.

    “So, I started in beauty at a pop-up nail bar within House of Fraser, which I ran for over four years and within two years I realised it wasn't scalable, so I started to get hungry for something bigger and better so I started working on my brand.“

    What made you decide to get into business?

    “You know it's interesting, I probably have to give my parents credit. I put it down to having two parents who run their businesses, both in different sectors, but equally sort of working 24/7.

    “Having that upbringing where your parents are constantly working and even after school I would have gone to one of their workplaces, whether that was my dad's garage or my mum's beauty salon – it made me want to work for myself.”

    We get quite a lot of users asking questions about company names on the forum. How did you come up with your company name and what is the message behind it?

    “Coming up with the name I think is the hardest thing, and I know anyone who has their own business will tell you the same.

    “'MoxiLoves' came to me because I think it was because it was in a dictionary. Moxi in the dictionary is spelt 'Moxie' and the definition is a force of character or drive.

    “So it had a bit of sass and attitude about it, and that’s definitely what I thought our brand would represent and the person our brand would speak to. I loved that about it.

    “Of course, we had to tweak it a little because of trademarks, for that reason it became Moxie without an ‘e’ and we added the ‘Loves’, but I think it plays well into our packaging and design.”

    What is your biggest achievement to date?

    “That's hard. We launched into Primark stores after four months of trading.  I always feel however much we grow, that will always be such a milestone for me.

    “It set the tone for how we were going to scale as a business and it made people kind of watch what we were doing. If a small business can get into Primark, anybody can if that’s what your goal is.”

    From achievements to regrets, do you regret anything you have done in your business?

    “Oh my god, loads. Look, they all form part of a massive learning curve that I am still on. I don't even know if I will ever get off it, but we made major mistakes since launching.

    “For example, on our first product, I made a spelling error in the packaging and we had to relabel 60,000 units. You’d think I would have learnt by now – but nope. Our most recent mess-up was with one of our other products. 75,000 units arrived with no barcode.

    “Do I have any other business regrets? I probably regret not raising money sooner and that's my biggest piece of advice to people who are looking to raise investment. Don't do it when you are at a stage where you need investment to scale. Do it before that.

    “If your vision and plan are going to involve scaling, you are going to need the cash, but try and raise it when you have the time to do it, not when you are scrambling for cash.”

    How do you overcome problems in that case?

    “I think you just need to have your two feet in, you can't be sitting on the fence and be half in and half out. You can't think ‘Oh god, will this problem go away’, you just need to grab it with both hands.

    “Sometimes you think, there is no chance I am going to get through this, but you do it with conviction, you try your best and give it 100% of your time and energy. Whether you overcome the problem, or you see a new route or direction that you can pivot. Something good will come out of your dedication.”

    How has COVID affected your business?

    “Hugely. I would be lying if I had said that it didn't and hasn't been the biggest thing that has happened to the company. We had put a lot into the UK as my business is based in Ireland and I had planned to be there for most of the year promoting the brand and growing it..

    “I think we launched into 350 Boots stores the day the UK went into lockdown, so that will give you a picture of how everything was flipped on its head.

    “So it was difficult. We made a mission to move online and I think that was a great move even for the long-term, but COVID forced that.

    “Many things can be done over the phone, but you do miss the buzz and the face-to-face connection.”

    From COVID to Brexit, how is that going to affect your business?

    “Huge again. I have been planning for Brexit for around the past two years. We have been trying to plan to get as much stock based in the UK as possible, more than we think we would need because no matter what happens it's the delays, it's the unknown, it's all the new rules.

    “We have a wholesaler in the UK which we will be delivering everything to, so the supply will be smooth with Ocado, Boots and Amazon.

    “All we can do is plan, as much as we can.”

    Have you got any advice to give to someone who is trying to start their own business?

    “The best advice I can give to anybody is just to start.

    “I think so many people can talk themselves out of it. For me, in the early days I had no cash to start my business, and there’s so much you need to do before you get to the stage of buying stock. But if you are trying to talk yourself out of it, don't.

    “There is so much you can do with limited resources at the beginning that will get you to a stage where everything else becomes easier.

    “You have to start somewhere, wherever that may be – it might just be registering your business name. Every little step is part of the bigger picture, so even if you think you’re not ready, just start. 

    Speaking of advice, did Lord Sugar give you any advice that stuck with you?

    “The one thing Lord Sugar said to me was that I only had two products and he was so dismissive about that. 

    “So I took that on board and launched a third product on the day I was fired from the process. He did greatly influence that third product being launched that quickly.”

    #TRADETALK is our new series of interviews with UK-based small business owners. If you’d like to be featured, get in touch with Jas on UKBF or email [email protected].