Spotting a gap in the market is a good starting point if you want to work for yourself, but that alone just isn’t enough. As Outset clients Maxime and Cynthia Bell discovered, you need expert guidance and support to help you get your idea off the ground.
Maxime Bell has been dancing since the age of three so she and her mother Cynthia developed an intimate knowledge of the dance sector. Having spent years travelling to Reading and even London to buy specialist equipment, they identified a gap in the local market for a dance shop supplying pointe shoes and other equipment.
However, implementing the idea was not plain sailing although both had retail experience. By this time Cynthia had retired and Maxime was on Employment Support Allowance.
“We tried to open a business twice before but didn’t have the commercial knowledge so our efforts failed.”
They approached a local organisation for help but were told their idea wasn’t feasible. Then they found Outset on the Swindon Council website when looking for empty shops as part of their third attempt to start their business, Pointe Perfection.
Both ladies attended Outset’s Business Start Up course, and learned the skills necessary to run a business. They were delighted by the positive support and encouragement they received from the staff and felt reassured that the idea was viable. This gave them the confidence to try again.
The course “made our business! Without it we would have failed again. We were able to develop both a business plan and forecast structure.”
A key challenge was working out how to equip a retail outlet. Market research was essential so Maxime visited other ballet shops to see how they were set up.
“Discussions with our enterprise advisor Chris helped to us to assemble a realistic budget. It was really useful to have an advisor with a retail background.”
As a result, Cynthia and Maxime obtained a loan from their bank to finance their shop at the Basepoint Business Centre.
Maxime had a clear vision for Pointe Perfection’s image, and created the branding, literature and website herself.
Initially they are focusing on fitting pointe shoes for ballet dancers. Badly fitting shoes can cause injury or permanent damage to the feet, especially for young dancers while their bones are still developing.
“We won’t let people go away with a shoe that isn’t right for the customer, even if it means a lost sale”, Maxime stressed.
Customers include dance schools and young dancers, ranging from those going on to pointe for the first time through to young professionals. Pointe Perfection has already been retained by a local dance academy to supply all their equipment and the Bells are now developing strong relationships with other schools in Swindon and the surrounding area.
The longer-term plan is to cater for all styles of dance and sell clothes, accessories and bags as well as shoes. Maxime wants to employ another member of staff to support this expansion and allow her time to resume her own dancing activities.