Posted: Fri 26th Oct 2018
Kids Bee Happy is a UK-wide children's party and craft company with over 500 consultants and corporate partners offering products and parties. Its flagship product is Sand Art which allows youngsters to colour in pictures with brightly coloured sand.
Co-founder and Enterprise Nation member Sandra Patterson tells her inspirational story.
Describe your business.
Kidsbeehappy is colouring in with sand. So good we sell Sand to the Arabs (AND it's pink and sparkly).
Explain how you secured funding for your business.
We used what would be described as alternative finance.
Firstly, we use a private financier who provides complete working cycle finance, which is similar to sales invoice factoring, but it starts at the point of order rather than the point of invoice. This system is fabulous because it means that you can take any order with confidence, without worrying about the manufacture costs of larger orders. The flexibility that this has given our business has been great.
Our second source of finance is Paypal Working Capital which is a completely publicised source of finance, very competitively priced and and highly suitable for many businesses.
How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?
We took a family holiday after the exit from our last business (Boxby), and on this holiday my daughter found Sand Art, and really enjoyed making pictures.
As entrepreneurs, both myself and my husband could immediately see the business potential for this wonderful arts and crafts activity, and our heads started whirling.
My husband spent a year doing the looking for suppliers and manufacturers, and doing R&D into bizarre things like how thick does a black line need to be. Kids Bee Happy launched in 2011.
What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I think that every business owner should be advised that the first time they employ people it will all go horribly pear shaped.
With the benefit of hindsight, and some good business networking, we see that the majority of businesses get this wrong.
Either employ the wrong person, or blur the lines between friendship (or worse; family) and business, or employ people for the stage that the business is at rather than where it will be at in six months, or 12 months time where you need a completely different sort of person.
One of most interesting challenges was sorting finance for our very first large order for a multi-site corporate customer, but that's a story that needs a glass of wine, rather than reading online.
And of course, as a family business, one of the biggest challenges has been growing the business around the family, particularly when its a husband/wife enterprise, with no safety net of a back up full time job.
We've overcome this just by being flexible and not precious about who is doing what and whose to-do list is more important.
What has been your biggest achievement with your business so far?
In 2017 I won the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Family Business Place, which is an organisation I very much admire. Previous winners include Brian Souter and Charlie Mullins.
But what really made an impact was when the judges reading out to me what we had achieved with Kids Bee Happy. When you are in your business every day, you find yourself always looking forward, and so it was a very telling moment when the judges listed the milestones and achievements we had made.
The second biggest achievement was another award, which was the FSB's Scotland Award for Business and Product Innovation.
I am really proud of this award because it recognises what we try to do with the direct sales business model. Direct sales is a huge industry, with over half a million business people in the UK. but it is an industry that is frequently tainted with the MLM brush, and the successes of it are drowned out by the (what we would see as) slightly dodgy business model of consultants working for a token commission that for the majority of agents barely covers the cost they incur.
However, what the direct sales business model does have though is a wonderful team system which provides support, coaching, mentoring in a very friendly and accessible manner.
So we kept the bit that we did like; the team structure, coaching and mentoring, and we threw out the crappy commission bit, and we replaced that with a proper profits based system, where our direct sales consultants buy at the same wholesale prices as our corporate partners do, and we combined it into something that is our own business model.
It's still direct sales, but it's authentic direct sales, and we are incredibly proud of this. So being recognised for this achievement was a very important moment for us.
What is your next big business goal?
We are currently working on an international joint venture project with our manufacturer, to replicate our direct sales business model in other countries and territories. South Africa will be the first territory and we should be starting this at the end of 2018.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?
At the moment, Brexit is inevitably on that list.
As a company that imports, exports and looking to partner with international companies, the absence of atrading structure for the immediate future makes it impossible to plan, and although the government urges us to make contingency plans, how can we plan for the unknown?
Kids Bee Happy already trades with Norway, India, China and South Africa, so we already taking advantage of non EU international trade. However, we are already seeing substantial disruption in international logistics so that is something that's right on the top of our radar.
Our biggest challenge will be developing a system for delivery support, training and mentoring across different languages and time zones. And we are very excited to be working on a Co-Innovate project for this with Scottish Enterprise, to solve this challenge effectively.
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
Most people who start a business do so from their homes, which means that they are working on their own for the majority of the time, and when you do this day in day out, its very easy to lose track of the wood from the trees.
Spending too much time on the everyday detail of working in your business, rather than the big picture job or working on your business.
Enterprise Nation and its community have been vital in my business journey. The chance to meet and talk, online and in at events, to meet other entrepreneurs in their business journeys, to perhaps help people who are just starting the path that you've travelled, and to take inspiration from other entrepreneurs further along the journey than you.
Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?
Tom Hunter is a major inspiration, someone who has kept true to their roots, has invested in and supported first his local community and then the wider nation.
His investment in education, funding, research and resources to encourage further enterprise, and engagement of children in the world of enterprise. A one time billionaire who takes the time to get to know people properly and help them in their journeys.
Carolyn Currie, CEO of Womens Enterprise Scotland, and her amazing ability to get stuff done. Important stuff that changes things for women in business, and opportunities for women all over the world.
Cass McNamara is a very inspiring person too. Someone who had the faith to follow through on an idea and push it out worldwide, products that are saving women's lives everyday.
What are your three tips for business success based on your experiences so far?
(1) It will take longer than you expect, cost more than you budget but be twice as much fun.
(2) Go with your guts. Don't be afraid the tear the rule book up. Innovation is everywhere for everyone. It's not just about inventing things, it's about doing things better, so every business, every business person, and every employee can be an innovator.
(3) Be a 21st century employer. 'Work' isn't measured by the number of hours that you spend in a building, it's measured when things are done. So be a flexible employer, be compassionate about family and caring responsibilities, and send people home early regularly :)
Anything else you would like to share?
The image of the founding start-up entrepreneur working 24/7, all hours of the day, all through the night - that's pants. Don't do it.
There is no entrepreneur that has had a business changing or life changing insight after crunching the numbers for 12 hours. All of those insights come when you are calm and connected, they come when you are in the shower, out walking the dog, sitting having a cup of coffee admiring a view. (P.S. They also never come in meetings)
Learn to separate the head full of thinking for the clear and focused wisdom. Acknowledge that the person creating the pressure, the stress, the deadlines, is usually you, and that you don't have to do that, and infact when you don't do it, your business grows quicker and better.
Listen to your guts, have faith in your instinct.
We're proud to have people like Sandra as members of Enterprise Nation. Join Enterprise Nation today and become part of an amazing community of small business owners.