Posted: Mon 28th Nov 2022
StartUp UK is Enterprise Nation's scheme to provide free tailored support to budding entrepreneurs.
Backed by the UK government and high-profile firm Monzo Business, the programme delivers initiatives such as e-learning, online training, national events and flagship annual conferences throughout the UK.
As the scheme continues to run, we're talking to some of the business owners who have been taking part, to hear how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Ira Arz, founder of Maison d'Ira, a home décor e-commerce shop selling home textiles and decorative accessories produced from recycled textile waste and bio-organic materials.
How did you come up with your business idea?
After being self-employed as a freelance fashion stylist, I wanted to pursue a passion that can bring impact to the environment and community around me. I've dedicated the past two years to educating myself on sustainability in fashion and hope to inspire and implement solutions in limiting the footprint of global textile waste.
Now, as a sustainable fashion influencer, I've been actively sharing the message on topics of social and environmental ocean justice. I'm now exploring sustainable fashion activism and actively volunteering as an ocean activist, spreading the message on the impact of microplastic sheds produced in fashion.
Growing up in Indonesia, I saw first-hand the way trash and plastic fills up the entire country, from small rivers to beaches. I started this business as a way to provide products that are both good for the environment and the community, working with suppliers in South East Asia to produce home accessories using organic or recycled textile.
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What makes your business unique?
As a business, we focus extensively on the production process of each product, from factories in Thailand to suppliers and artisans in the villages of Bali. Every product is made with sustainability in mind.
Most product and material sourcing occurs in Asian countries, as that's also where many affordable organic materials can be sourced. We try our best to work with ethical and fair-trade suppliers that provide a fair wage to their employees.
Our mission as a business is to provide homeware accessories to ethically conscious consumers, while at the same time reducing the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills, bringing the home interior industry to act upon sustainability within a circular model.
I believe this company has the potential to shift the home accessories market in the UK into a more circular one. This business model also has the potential to grow, particularly after the surge in e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The product demand is fuelled by consumer preferences for fancy items to decorate homes.
You've taken part in Enterprise Nation's StartUp UK programme. What were your reasons for doing it?
I joined the StartUp UK virtual workshop to understand better how to grow my e-commerce business. The advice provided in this workshop was plenty and I've implemented a more structured online marketing strategy since.
Going forward, I hope to be able to network with small start-ups, as well as learn what challenges I might be facing that I don't even know yet. My role is to first learn and get to know the inspiring entrepreneurs in my local community.
What's the best advice you've received from taking part in StartUp UK?
I've gained valuable advice from Anna, one of Enterprise Nation's advisers, on setting up finances as a new business, and how to comply with e-commerce import and export regulations. She was highly knowledgeable from her past experiences and was able to answer all of my questions.
There are other people out there with more experience who are willing to share their knowledge on their journey. Hearing things like this makes it less scary to be running a business on my own.
Do you have any business advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
I believe in three things. The first is confidence – I think this will bring you far in life, professionally and personally, and as scary as it may look, you just have to trust the process and in yourself.
Second is to always be proactive. There are a lot of people out there with great ideas but who don't dedicate the right amount of time to work on them. I believe that's why a lot of people fail in things such as businesses.
Last thing I'd say is important is communication skills. It's always vital to be able to make sure people can actually understand your vision and what you're doing.
Access support to start your business
Visit the StartUp UK hub for resources that give you the education and inspiration to get started on your entrepreneurial journey.