30 June 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
As part of our series featuring inspirational female founder stories, we caught up with Amanda Alexander of Giddy Goat Toys to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
My business is a children’s toy shop and is in the suburb of Didsbury in south Manchester. I opened in Sept 2012 when I took over an existing toy shop that was being sold. Prior to that I had worked in the bottled water cooler industry as Customer Service Manager and then as a Depot Manager, so I had a strong background in customer service as well as managing staff, overseeing sales and managing costs which was a good skillset to bring to running my own business.
How did the idea for your business come to you?
I can’t take the credit for this at all!! Following a stint of part time jobs whilst my children were very young, I went to work for a good friend who had set up a toy company also to try to fit around young children. She started off taking stock round local businesses using the model of The Book People, doing local artisan fairs, home parties and then finally selling online. She took me on to help her pack online orders. She then opened a shop, then a second shop. Another friend and I bought the original shop from her so she could concentrate on the second one. So, I’m an accidental entrepreneur, my journey has been on the coat tails of two very good friends.
What has been the key to your business surviving through the pandemic?
In April 2019, Giddy Goat Toys joined DownYourHighStreet.com. You have to have a physical store to join the platform which was founded by Daniel Whytock. It’s a free to join, low commission online marketplace on a mission to create the world’s longest high street by connecting community with commerce and giving the Great British High Street an online presence.
To begin with sales were slow, nothing exciting, but a nice little extra. However, when the lockdown started in March 2020, like most other indie retailers, I was forced to close the doors. With no income, times were tough.
But within a couple of weeks sales via the DownYourHighStreet.com site began to trickle in and then in April they went ‘through the roof’.
Our sales started to hit £4,000 – £5,000 per month, all direct fromDownYourHigStreet.com! We were rushed off our feet – and utterly thrilled. We went from worrying that the business may have to close, to having our best month.
Local customers in Didsbury were using ‘click and collect’ and those further afield were using DownYourHighStreet.com to buy from an independently owned store that offered delivery direct to their door.
The feedback we got from DYHS customers reflected that they liked being able to buy off an independent business. In particular they loved that they could actually speak to me via the ‘phone if they needed advice, or receive an email response to any stock or delivery queries quickly. Many commented how lovely it was to buy online from a friendly helpful person rather than a large faceless organisation that they could never get through to.
For many small businesses, lockdown became a very lonely place – I was lucky to have DYHS to support me and be my ‘team’. It made a big, and positive, difference to my lockdown experience.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurial journey?
For me personally it would be that running your own business requires such a broad range of skills from bookkeeping to marketing, sales to customer service, ensuring you comply with health and safety and legal requirements etc. It’s almost impossible to excel in all these fields so think about which things you are really good at and enjoy and which are your weaker areas and see what you can do to improve them or outsource them. For example, I have an external company do my payroll as I wanted to make absolutely certain that it was done correctly, I have a graphic designer that produces my marketing materials, but I’m happy doing my own bookkeeping which other people dislike doing.
The other obvious thing is research, learn and adapt. My friend showed me that although her original business model didn’t work she adapted until she settled on selling online, then opening a shop too. I’ve gone full circle with that journey, from having a shop and a nonperforming website to joining platforms such as DownYourHighStreet, and then eBay and taking on newer financing options such as Clearpay and Klarna during 2021. This meant that when Covid hit I was set up to sell online just when that became our only option and so my business survived Covid. Always being aware of potential opportunities or taking on new ways of doing things rather than plodding along in the same way is crucial.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you most and why?
David Attenborough for the amazing work he has done, his calm and genuine manner and his respect for the animals and our planet and for probably doing more to raise people’s awareness of the state of the planet than anyone else.
JK Rowling for the world she created and the charitable work she does.
Jo Cox the Labour MP who was tragically murdered. She seemed a genuine, decent and caring woman and her maxim of ‘We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’ is so important to remember in a world where politics and religion seem to divide people so much.
Malala Yousafzai for having the courage to speak up for girls’ rights and continuing to advocate peacefully for girl’s rights to education.
My Mam for being a total grafter. She’s had some tough times but never crumbled and is still working full time despite being in her late 60’s. She’s always been a hard worker, never sits still, enjoys working and helping people and has a fantastic sense of humour. She’s so strong, very practical and organised and we are very similar in many ways.
My favourite inspirational quote …
I’m a working class woman from the North East so I can’t be doing with all those fridge magnet type quotes but one thing my boss used to say that has stuck with me is ‘perception is reality’. It’s so important to remember in business and in life that it doesn’t matter how things are, it’s how people see them that counts.
About Giddy Goat Toys
Giddy Goat Toys opened in Sept 2012 and is in the popular south Manchester suburb of Didsbury. Often described as a “Treasure Trove” it has a fabulous range of toys, books and games for kids of all ages from babies to teens, with the emphasis being on selling toys with lots of play value and which give value for money. Giddy Goat has popular brands such as Lego, Playmobil, LOL Surprise, Peppa Pig and Sylvanian Families as well as plenty of quirky and unusual brands such as Djeco, Clockwork Soldier and Lottie Dolls. The shop prides itself on its customer service and in helping parents, carers and gift buyers choose the perfect present.