Retail sales aren’t often what we think about when we think of starting our own business. But business owner Janet Ross-Jordan shares how she took a direct sales business and made it her own, with other products. Now she has a thriving retail business, that lets her stay home and raise a family too!
Tell me about your yourself.
I’m married and a mother to 4 children, 2 girls, 2 boys, aged 1 to 11. I was a civil engineer working overseas in areas where there wasn’t enough water or sanitation, particularly after a disaster. I gave up my career when I had children. My husband and I felt one of us should stay home and he had a job he couldn’t return to. 11 years on and he’s now changed jobs! He is now an author with a regular job on the side. We have no pets but do keep chickens! We like having them round the garden but we also eat a lot of cake, so fresh eggs come in very useful!
What is your business?
I have called my own company Cards and Giftwrap. I sell cards, gift wrap and stationery, including colouring. I also sell tablecloths, advent calendars and more. Most of what I sell is from Flamingo Paperie, a UK direct sales company but I do sell other products that compliment their range too.
How long have you been working with your business and direct sales company?
I started with Flamingo Paperie in 2012 but had been with another direct sales company for about 5 years before that. I am an Executive Partner with Flamingo, which means I support other Partners in the business.
Why did you want to work from home or work for yourself? What is your “why”?
In short my children. I wanted to stay at home with my children, especially before they went to school. And I wanted the flexibility that working from home offers.
When I first started direct selling it was a hobby. But when I joined Flamingo, I saw the opportunity to create a part time income. So now I’m more focused on it as a business.
I’ve also realised how beneficial it has been to my children. They have been “co opted” in to my voluntary workforce, either accompanying me to events or putting cards in to cellos, or sticking address labels on my brochures. My oldest has now started her own business making cards, which compliment my Flamingo range. She is probably more enterprising than me. She certainly doesn’t have the confidence issues that come with being a stay at home mother, wondering if she has any skills left!
How many hours do you work every day or week? What kinds of things do you do to make money?
It’s really difficult to say, as it all fits around the children. My youngest is 1, so not at school and most of my time is spent with him But of course there are so many things he can do with me.
One of the ways I sell locally is by putting baskets of cards in local offices and staff rooms. My 1 year old comes with me when I do this, and it’s often a case of dropping off a basket on the way to the shops or library or swimming pool. I also write a blog and sell other products through my blog site too.
How long did it take to see your first sale? How long did it take to make a profit?
Again it’s really difficult to say. When I started I didn’t want to sell much. I just wanted to sell bookmarks alongside my other direct selling business. But I fell in love with the note cards, cards, gift wrap, and coloring products. I was hooked!
I get 30% profit on everything I sell, so I was making a profit immediately. However, I did spend the first 3 years (after I decided to go with Flamingo as a business, rather than a hobby) reinvesting all my profits in to my business. I traveled further to events than I do now. And I probably posted more speculative brochures than I do now that I’m more established. After those 3 years I bought all my Christmas presents with the money I was making.
How do you help your customer? Why would they buy from you?
I will go out of my way to find the card my customer needs! I have just had a request for 50 of a particular card that has been discontinued from the Flamingo range, and I managed to gather 54! I really enjoy it when customers are satisfied with my service.
I also support a team of over 30 other Flamingo Partners. I support them one to one, via phone and email as well as in groups. We have a really good support group on Facebook. And I’ve been developing my own training videos on YouTube to cover the things they get stuck with. My team stretch from Shetland to Jersey so I can’t meet them all face to face, but my local team do meet over a coffee and cake quite often! There’s no better way to browse cards with either customers or my team than with some cake!
What do you like best about your business?
I love the flexibility it offers. There are no targets set by the company. I don’t have to sell any minimum any month or in any year. That’s important when my priority is my family. Some days the business has to take a back seat to them.
Of course I love the products. I get a real buzz when a customer sees something I’ve bought to sell and falls in love with it. But what I value most from the years I’ve done Flamingo is the friends I have made.
Team members have come and gone. Life’s like that. For some, it’s a business long term, and for some it’s just for a season. We’re all different! But what I have noticed consistently, is that the people I have met, particularly those who have joined my team, have generally stayed in touch and become good friends. I can’t place too high a value on that. It can be hard when you have children to find that adult company and friendship. But my business has brought that to me.
How would someone start a business like yours or with your team?
Find what you love yourself. If you love what you sell, then someone else will too.
To join my team as an Independent Partner with Flamingo, you need to be in the UK, France, Australia or New Zealand. If you’re in another country you can become a business customer but you can’t build a team.
We have 3 different starter packs to choose from, from £45 to £200. Each pack contains stock, brochures, business stationery, public liability insurance (UK) and a free eCommerce website that your customers can order through straight away. Simply fill in this online form to get started or email me for more information. Your starter pack will be dispatched the next working day, and I will be in touch to support you at whatever level you want to run your business.
What do you do to help your new team members succeed?
For team members, I need to know what they want out of the business. Some want an income and some just want to get cheaper products for themselves and share them with friends and family. So I try and find out what they expect to get out of it and then support them to get there.
Every member of my team is Independent so it’s up to the individual to make it work. But I offer plenty of support when they ask for it. I would never force that support on any one. I know from the years I’ve been doing this that the team members who make the most money out of their business are the ones who ask the most questions.
What kinds of expectations should someone new to online business, working from home, working for yourself, or your direct sales business have?
It’s important to know why you are working from home. Then make a plan with actions to achieve your goal. I’ve seen team members get frustrated that they weren’t making enough money. But actually they just wanted a bit of a hobby and weren’t doing enough activity to make the money. That wasn’t their goal.
Others think as soon as they start a new business that everyone around them will be as enthusiastic as they are. And often that’s not the case. People have their own lives to lead, and your business is a tiny part of their lives, not the huge part of yours it might become.
It’s important to find out what your customer wants and what works easiest for them and then supply that. While it’s true that the more time you put in, the more you will get out, that time has to be spent wisely. Find what works for you and your customers and repeat it, and repeat it, again and again. That’s how your business grows.
Anything else you would like someone to know about you or your business?
Flamingo Paperie is a UK based business. We print all our cards in the UK and we aim for the highest ethical standards in our products. All our Christmas cards are charity cards. The ethical and charitable aspects of our business are really important to us and it’s one of the reason people join Flamingo.
How can someone connect with you?
Thanks Janet! If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please contact us!
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