Design Diva: Georgie Hopkins from Myakka Ltd

myakka ltd

What’s your name?  Georgie Hopkins

How many children and old are they?  Two – 7 years and 5 years old

What is the name of your business?   Myakka Ltd

myakka ltd

What is your business and when did you start it? We’re a multi-channel retailer, specialising in fair trade furniture and home accessories.  My husband Simon Whitehead and I started the business in July 1999… we’re now in our 15th year of trading.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

We had opportunistic beginnings, purchasing stock from a liquidated soft furnishing wholesaler.  Because of this, we started without a defined plan, but quickly developed from one small outlet shop retailing third party products to sourcing our own exclusive furniture lines directly from manufacturers in India, Indonesia, Thailand and beyond.  We now ship to customers all over the UK who can buy our products through our warehouse shop, ecommerce website and mail order catalogues.

Instinctively, we have always done business following the principles of fair trade.  We work hard to build long term relationships with our suppliers based on an open dialogue and most importantly, trust.  By way of example, we have been working with our main Indian furniture supplier for over 12 years and have seen both our businesses grow exponentially during this time which is brilliant!  We’ve been a recognised member of BAFTS (the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers ) since 2006 and have held the Ethical Award for corporate social responsibility  since 2009, most recently receiving top marks in the latest furniture review carried out by the Ethical Company Organisation.

In terms of our customers, we work hard to provide today what we provided from the outset… exceptional personal service.  We strive to avoid the anonymity of so many multi-channel retailers and like our customers to know we’re here and stand by our product and our service.  As part of this, we have a dedicated in-house customer service team who speak to every customer who orders furniture prior to dispatch from our warehouse.  We’re proud to have been finalists in the Somerset Business Awards for three years running, recognising this dedication to service excellence.

Can you share 3 positive aspects about being a business mum?

  • Flexibility is a huge one… I love being completely in control of my diary.  I can usually always manage to juggle my diary to suit the children.  I fully appreciate the privilege of being able to drop off and collect my children from school most days of the week… there are a lot of working parents who don’t have that luxury.
  • Doing something for myself is also very important – being a mother is brilliant and I relish time with my children, but I know I wouldn’t be half as good a mother if I didn’t have my own business goals to focus on as well.
  • And finally, I think having children gives you a healthy distraction from work.  I value the pull to leave the office.  Originally, Myakka was our only baby… Simon and I would work long hours, 7 days a week.  Some of that is essential when building a business, but we definitely have a much healthier work-life balance now we have a couple of real babies to look after too!

Myakka Ltd

Any downsides? 

The eternal compromise… ultimately, our children come first but there are inevitably times when the demands of the business have to be a very close second.  At times like this, you have to get your head down, hone your juggling skills and accept the reality of long, late night laptop sessions once the kids are in bed!

How do you keep motivated?

Coming to work every day keeps me motivated – we have a great team here at Myakka and there are always laughs (and cake) thrown in with the daily medley!  I’m also lucky enough to work mainly in the creative side of the business now so designing new product and seeing it come to fruition is also a huge motivating factor.

Would you change anything you’ve done in building and developing your business? 

I think you have to accept that you learn every day.  With the benefit of hindsight, we could all look back and chastise ourselves for lots of things… missing that opportunity, doing that ‘wrong’, etc.  However in the reality of life when you’re in the thick of it, you can only make your decisions based on what you know at the time.  As long as you use all information available and make a considered decision, then you have to be content to move forward with that.

Ultimately, I’m very proud of where Myakka is today… we’ve grown organically, sustainably and profitably over 15 years of very varying trading conditions, offering our customers, suppliers and employees great service, development and support along the way!

What tips would you give anyone wanting to start their own business?  

Plan the principles of your business offering and stick to that plan… there will always be pressures to deviate from your core principles as you grow.

Finally, have fun!  I really do believe there is truth in the statement that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’… 15 years of Myakka seem to have gone in a flash!

Thank you so much to Georgie for sharing her experience and expertise with us. I do hope she has inspired someone to start up their own business or to move forward with their plans.

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