Posted: Fri 2nd Nov 2018
Enterprise Nation member Amy Nolan from Ginger Rainbow creates colouring in pillowcases and other products for children. As the wife of a member of the RAF, she was inspired to start her business by military personnel wanting a little bit of home while on deployment. Read Amy's inspiring story.
Describe your business in one sentence.
Hassle free and creative colouring in products with a twist!
Explain how you secured the funding for your business.
I had a small bit of money left to me by my wonderful grandmother and former Tiller dancer, Jean.
How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?
About eight years ago a friend asked me to create unique designs draw on t-shirts and create colouring in pictures for her to give as gifts alongside fabric pens to her many godchildren. I did this in a small way on the occasional market stall but was never really sure how to do it in a way that would be profitable.
Some years later I had married a serving member of the RAF and due to our rural posting and the fact that I couldn't drive (learning now) my current job became unsustainable due to the travel I was having to do.
My husband suggested I make a go of my ideas for a small business.
In the first few months I was playing with a lot of ideas and then was asked by someone on the base if I had a colouring in gift that they could send to their husband who was away on active duty.
Their little one had learnt how to colour in while he was away and she wanted to send something that showed this off.
This sparked off a memory when my husband, who had been away on a long deployment, had asked if I would send him a "decent pillowcase" in his next parcel.
I suggested I create a colour in pillowcase and she loved the idea. The first one was hand drawn and the design fixed in with an iron. I then found a screen printer to print me 10 and the business has grown from there.
I now have colouring in cards, a colouring in poem book and my brand new product which is a 'Tell Me A Story Colouring Cushion' designed to support children and parents in making their own stories.
What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
About eight months after starting, we were posted to another base which meant I had to pick it up and get my head around relocating and doing things again from scratch.
It was another rural posting so this was tricky to start with but due to the internet, you can do a lot.
I have worked mostly for the NHS and it has been a real challenge to adapt my mindset and learn how to develop a business.
It took me a long time to understand how not to undersell my skills and products and also learning how to market myself on social media has been a huge challenge.
I felt so embarrassed at the start to post anything online. I hated feeling like people thought I might be showing off or trying to sell them things. Luckily along the way I have had brilliant people to point me in the right direction. I've learnt not to take it all so personally.
This year I have been working more on creeping out from behind my logo and saying 'yay! This is me!'. So I guess the biggest challenge has been confidence.
What have been your biggest achievements with your business so far?
Designing colouring resources for the Royal Airforce Association's Storybook Wings project which is for serving RAF parents who have to spend time away from their children.
Selling my first bulk order for 150 pillowcases.
Being messaged by someone who had used my products to tell me how they had helped when their husband had been away from home with the military.
Having a range of cards published by publishing house Really Good off the back of my doodle Instagram account
What is your next big business goal?
I want to see my 'Tell Me A Story Cushions' in big retailers like John lewis or National Trust gift shops.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?
I think my biggest challenge will be understanding how you approach and find buyers.
I also need to connect and get advice from the right people and build my audience sufficiently.
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
I feel this is a great place for me to get involved and that I will find the answers I need to take my business to the next level.
I attended the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs and I love the quality of everything that is done by Enterprise Nation and feel very lucky to be part of it.
Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?
Anyone attempting to set up a business inspires me because it takes so much energy and resilience.
From people with a side hustle to someone trying to do it full time, I feel like we are all mini heroes and learn so much from networking and listening to each other's stories.
What are your tips for business success based on your experiences so far?
Don't waste time and money creating things that your audience don't need or want.
Don't compare yourself to all those businesses smashing it on Instagram. Comparison is the thief of joy, productivity and sensible thinking.
Be clear about where you are going. I've learnt this the hard way. You waste less time and money if you have a clear direction of travel.
Don't spend all your time in Facebook groups asking advice. It can become overwhelming and confusing. Try and learn to listen to yourself and nurture your instincts for what you are doing.
We're proud to have people like Amy as members of Enterprise Nation. Join Enterprise Nation today and become part of an amazing community of small business owners.