Interviews

Steering a business through recession – and coming out stronger on the other side

5 min read

22 September 2016

Former special projects journalist

Kirsty Taylor made the bold decision to launch her business in 2009, when the country was still in the middle of a recession. We caught up with her to find out how she got her business to grow in troubling times.

Through her sensible attitude to business and appreciation that cashflow is king, Taylor has managed to build a business that will not just survive, but thrive.

When Taylor and her semi-retired parents first launched their business, the economy was still struggling. As such, they had to weigh up what sort of company would be likely to endure, and thus the idea for Taylor Shoes was born.

“As we were still well into the recession, and consumer spending was extremely low, I decided to narrow my business idea to include only essential products. Regardless of how bad the economy became, people would always need shoes,” she explained.

Initially the business was funded with a startup loan from NatWest, on the condition that the directors matched the loan with personal investment. Taylor’s parents provided the funds from their personal savings.

Once established, it quickly became apparent that this would not be the sort of business Taylor could run from her bedroom.

“To grow to a reasonable size you have to quickly expand into premises due to there being such a wide range of sizes required for each style and colour of shoe. For instance, men’s shoes start at a size six and go up to a size 12 (and beyond) and you have to stock each size in each colour and style – there’s no “one size fits all” for footwear.”

It’s a mammoth task and a very competitive industry, and time and again Taylor has watched competitors get it wrong. “You will always encounter people, in every industry, who will enter the market and try to drive the price down unnecessarily – either out of ignorance of the costs involved in selling, or out of stupidity – but eventually they will fail,” she added.

“In business you need to make a profit in order to succeed, or else you’re just a busy fool.”

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Taylor is far from being a busy fool however, having seen continuous growth since she started the business seven years ago. As the company is currently seeking to expand its reach more aggressively, with a particular focus on Japan, Taylor signed up to the Entrepreneurial Spark programme.

While only being one month in to the programme, Taylor claims the impact on her business so far has been “phenomenal”.

“You know your own business and where you think it’s going – I have my goals in mind and instead of them being seen as not realistic I was basically given confirmation that what I was thinking was actually right,” she said.

It is not only this confirmation that has given Taylor renewed confidence in her business, but the opportunities provided by the programme. “I could walk into work one morning with a full work schedule planned out, only to be surprised by an official visit by a local official, introduced to an influential mentor, or be asked to pitch my business to billionaire investors at a moment’s notice.”

This is good practise for Taylor who, like many small business owners, finds it challenging having to sing her own praises all the time. Promoting yourself can be hard, but its key to growth – Taylor’s advice is try not to be too humble.

She said: “Get yourself out there and talk to as many people as possible, you never know what will come of a conversation.”

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