Episode 302: From Apprentice to Success with Sian Gabbidon

Building a business is not easy, especially while working a full-time job. Sian Gabbidon faced long hours and hard work fulfilling orders, as well as the challenges of managing everything on her own. Despite these obstacles, she remained driven and passionate about her work.

In this episode, Sian Gabbidon, the winner of The Apprentice UK 2018, shares her inspiring journey of starting her own business. Sian joins us in another Gold Circle event where she shares how her business grew organically through Instagram. Sian’s passion for fashion design led her to create a page where she would post pictures of her handmade clothes, and she slowly built a following and community of people who loved her products. As her profile grew, so did her business, with stylists and celebrities showing interest in her creations.

Sian’s story is a testament to the power of hard work, determination, and passion for what you do. Her journey is an inspiration to anyone who is starting their own business and looking for ways to grow and succeed. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for a while, Sian’s advice and insights are sure to be valuable.

Show Highlights:

  • Working a full-time job and building the business on the side
  • Fundamental lessons learned from Sian’s stint in The Apprentice
  • The importance of mass producing and finding contacts to build a business
  • Having a clear vision and strategy for your business and staying focused on your goals
  • The impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and how they have adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic
  • Advantages of having a positive mindset and staying motivated to overcome challenges in business

Follow Sian Gabbidon on Instagram @siangabbidon and visit her website at sianmarie.com to see more of her and her designs

Check out their website at style-sisters.com

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Please note this is a verbatim transcription from the original audio and therefore may include some minor grammatical errors.

Sian Gabbidon: Hi everyone. Hi.

Adam Stott: We had a, a great time in Manchester when you came up before. Yes. Which is incredible. And, uh, I, I love the story you were sharing. We had so much great feedback. Now this group, just to give you context, is our Gold Circle group.

So these are our clients that we, uh, mentor in business training, coaching, support. Yeah. They’re an incredible group of business owners. They’ve done some amazing things, and I wanted to try and get you to really share, you know, some of your story, the things that you’ve been through along the way. And, uh, just, and, and many of them are at the stage where they’re building their businesses.

They’ve had the stresses, the frustrations of mm-hmm. You know, that we spoke about. Yeah. And I know you’ve experienced, so maybe we’ll start there. What was it like, um, starting your own business? What was the journey like? How did you start off and where did we get started from?

Sian Gabbidon: Yeah. Um, Okay, so my, my journey has been a very interesting one and it’s been a very, I guess it was quite organic for me, very at the early stages.

So obviously the Apprentice came around, which changed everything, but very, very early days. I was back, what was I like 19, 20. I did not sit down and say I wanna start a business. I was nothing like that. I actually went to uni. I did fashion design. With marketing production, and I was told it’s gonna be difficult to get a job in fashion.

You’re gonna struggle if, unless you move down to London. I’m, I’m based in Leeds. You can probably tell from a very strong accent. So I said, right, okay, I’m gonna get a job in marketing and I’m just going to see what I can do with fashion. I’m not sure, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with it, but I set up an Instagram page at the time and it cost me nothing and I would make clothes.

I would just sew up bit some just, just for fun. And I started to post on Instagram and I just slowly built this following up, I built this little community of people who love the products and there’d be messaging saying, oh my God, can you do this in like blue or in my size and dah, dah, dah. And I’d be like, yeah, okay.

And I was making a little bit of money here and there. And then it got to the point where I had interest from stylists or like certain celebrities, and. I had one celebrity in particular who is Rio Ferdinand’s wife now Kate, she was on Twy at the time. She was really big and her stylist message said, she’s going away.

She really wants all of the bikinis on this page. Can you just make her one of each? I was like, yes. She sent me a measurement. I spent about two weeks. I made all these bikinis, sent them out, and then I heard nothing from it for two, three months. And I actually thought, I think I’ve been scammed. To be fair, I think I’ve just made someone a load of bikinis living the life now on holiday.

And then she wore one in Dubai. She wore two actually, and she tagged our little in this little Instagram page that I had. And that was where it went from being just a little sort of sideline to, oh my God. Wow. Okay. I’ve got so many inquiries. You know, I’m a one man band making everything. I was working full time, so I’d be getting up at five, doing my sewing, going to work, going to the post office for lunch, and then after work, being customer service, being every element of that business and it got to a point where I was like, okay, you know, I need to now build this into something that’s a bit more substantial. Um, And that, that, that’s kind of the very base of my business journey. I mean, it is, the journey has been ridiculous and crazy, but the actual start was not, you know, I didn’t sit down and say, I’ve got 20 grand.

I want to, it wasn’t like that from the early days. It was all very organic. I built a little pot of money up. I. When I got to the position where I said, right, I need a website cause I can’t do it all through Instagram. I got some quotes for websites. I had a couple of friends and I knew a few people. I got some quotes.

They were like five, 10 grand. I was like, I can’t afford a web. I, I ain’t got that much. Made a little bit, but not that much. So I ended up just upskilling. I did a course in WordPress. I spent about 500 quid and all these little things that I taught myself along the way were probably the best bits of money I’d ever spent because I have that.

I’ll never forget half the stuff that I learned, and it just allowed me to build a foundation on very minimal, you know, amounts of money to then I guess grow. So that’s. The better, better start

Adam Stott: knowing that journey, because I love that. About the last time that we, we spoke, you said you were right at the beginning.

You’re working a full-time job, taking your lunch breaks to go into the post office and virtually not being able to eat and then working all night. How long did that go on for?

Sian Gabbidon: Years. Years, yeah. Long, long time. Honestly, I, I’ve been with my boyfriend for, uh, 12 years now and I was living with him at the time and he used to on a morning, bless, I’d be up at five sewing in the spare room and he’d be like, SHA, I literally, I’m getting up at five every day because you’re doing my head in.

But we’ve, yeah. I mean, God, I did that for a long time because I was in a position as well where I was like, I’m not really comfortable enough yet to leave my job because what was the job? So I worked in marketing. So my first ever job was for a marketing agency in the north, which was one of the sort of bigger ones.

so. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t, I kind of knew I wasn’t gonna be there forever, but it paid my bills and I learned a lot about marketing, which was so important. Um, and then I went on to work for Asda, who funnily enough, we supply now as a, as a brand, which is random. but I worked in more than media department, so again, really boring job, not what I wanted to do, but every Full-time job I had, I learned as much from the job as I could, cuz I thought this will be beneficial at some point for my business, which they all were. Um, so yeah, it went on for a long time and it was very much it, I was driven by, I, I enjoyed it, you know, I didn’t use to get up on a morning, think, oh God, I’ve got 10 orders I need to do this morning.

I’d be like, buzzing, like, oh my God, people actually wanna buy my clothes. Like, yeah, I’ll make them. And then it gets to the point where you’re like, okay, I can’t actually do it all myself anymore. And you know, it was finding that balance of I’m ready to quit my job. I don’t feel like I am. If I would’ve done that too soon, it would’ve become pressure and it probably would’ve changed my whole journey.

So I did that right up until I went on The Apprentice. Um, and The Apprentice was the, the turning point really. Where I was like, right. So how did

Adam Stott: that all work out then? So you went on The Apprentice, what was it like? Yeah.

Sian Gabbidon: Oh gosh. So you guys have met some of the other apprentice winners? Right. I dunno how they describe it, but it, it, it was the craziest journey ever.

You just can imagine, you know, I’m just a very normal girl from the north. I, I applied for this, uh, show because I used to watch it with my dad and I’d be like, oh my God, this is there to him. I’d love to go on this show. I’d be, pick a better name than they have. And he’d be like, yeah, okay. So I seen the, the ad for it.

I was like, right, I’m gonna apply. I’ve got this business now. And I’d go to the auditions and every audition I’d be like, yeah, I’m probably gonna get kicked out now. I turned up and it was just loads of like men in like suits and stuff, and I just rocked up with my little bag and I just kept getting through.

And then when they told me I was gonna be on the show, I was like, oh my God, like. Okay, now I just don’t wanna leave in the first week cuz that’s like social suicide. Like I just don’t wanna do that. I really don’t wanna leave first week. Um, and I said to myself first week, just Lila, like, just don’t get involved.

Don’t be any, you know, PM not none of that. And I ended up, I think I was sub-team leader in the first week and I dunno why even now. I dunno why I put myself forward for that. It was such a pressured environment. Um, Well, yeah, the, God, it’s, it’s hard to explain because it’s business, but it’s TV and as a just a normal person to go into that, you know, I’d never done anything like that before.

It was so bizarre. You know, you kind of meet the other candidates and as much as you wanna be friends, your competitors, and then you’re on task with them and you hit each other, but then you live together in a house for weeks. So it’s the most weird situation ever. But I just slowly started to, I was very private in the house, you know, I never told anyone anything.

No one knew a thing about me or my business really. I told them what I wanted them to know, but a lot of people were really cool and they’d tell you everything. And I’d be thinking, when we get in that boardroom, I’m you going down like you’re telling me when you’re too much. Honestly, you have to keep your cards plus to your chest.

So yeah, it was really tough at first and then, You didn’t really get to speak to home and you know, there was a lot of rules that made it a lot harder than, you know, you watch one episode on a Wednesday night or whatever, but to live in it, it’s really difficult. But I got to a point where I had one phone call home, which was, it was listened in on, you had 10 minutes on a, you know, timer.

And, uh, every week I’d kind of been like, yeah, because it was listened to. And I’m like, yeah, it’s all good. Everything’s great. Yeah, whatever. And then this one week I was like, do you know what? I think I’m gonna win this. And my boyfriend were like, you need to relax. There’s quite a few more weeks after. I was like, no, honestly, I, I feel like I’ve sussed everyone out.

I know how I, I, I was so passionate about what I did as well in my business. I was like, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a really good chance. I might not win it, but I think I’ll do okay. And then when I got to the final, Same. I didn’t actually think I was gonna win it then. I had no idea what was gonna happen because, Lord, sugar to what you see on TV is what I see in real life.

That’s how I had no, no clue what were going on in his head. Um, but I did just think if, if I didn’t win, I would’ve been, I would’ve been gutted because I, I knew what I was capable of and I knew that, you know, together we would be able to make things work. So, Yeah, it was just the crazy experience. But I actually, funnily enough, learned a lot about myself, which I didn’t even expect to learn just by being in the process.

And even things like this, you know, like public speaking for me, before The Apprentice, I’d never do anything like this. I was quite, I’m pretty shy in real life really, anyway. Um, but the. They’d put you in situations. I remember one task they said, right, you’re gonna pitch in front of like four directors of whatever.

It was an airplane task. I really remember it horrendous. And I was like, okay, cool. I’m happy if it’s a room and there’s four people. Yeah, whatever. So I’d wrote my, I had like five minutes to write this pitch. I’m like, okay, don’t even know what I’m saying. And then as the letters out, it was a room and it, I, I think there was about 300 people in there.

There was. Loads of people and imagine they didn’t tell us any of this, they just filmed it. So as I walked out, I was like, oh my God, I thought it was gonna be four people in a room, but I, I had absolutely no choice. I had to go out and do this pitch and just, You know, do what I had to do. So it really pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I never even expected, you know, that to be the case really with a, with a show or anything like that.

So I do, obviously winning it was major, but the things I learned on it were also great. You know, it really built me, I guess, as a, as a person and as the person I am today in some respects.

Adam Stott: And of course, you’re won, which is, uh, amazing. Yes. Why do you think that you, you’d secured the win in the end. What do you think was the reasons.

Sian Gabbidon: I think, I think that although you’re judged on task, and although the the tasks are, are a lot harder than what you think, you know, what you see on tv, it’s, it’s so much harder back behind the scenes and it’s very short timescales. You know, you, you barely get, people say, why don’t you just Google things?

I’m like, do you really think that we can Google, we don’t have phones, or, you know, you can’t do any of that. It’s, it’s very difficult. Um, but I think that, For me, you’re judged on task, but also off. And I like to think I’m, I’m quite a good person. Uh, just as, as a person, you know, I know about business, but as a normal person, I’m, I’m good.

So whe whether I was on task, off task, behind the scenes, whatever, I was just me, you know? There was no way you could not be yourself because you know, you’re living in a house with everyone. So I think that as my business was solid, my idea was solid. And I think my business plan, I know was. Amazing comparison to others cause I did get a glance at some of theirs at some points, and I was very thorough.

But I also think that my character, you know, and I think for probably Lord Sugar’s team or Lord Sugar himself, I’m not sure. I probably thought I have to actually be able to work with this person too, off tv, you know, off camera. So I think there was a lot of that. That probably played into it as well, if I’m honest, but brilliant.

Who knows? And what was he like?

Adam Stott: What was some of the fundamental lessons that you go into business now? Yeah. And you take this business that you’ve been working on, that you’ve been working on for years in the back. Ground. Yeah. And you’re now going and sitting down in a boardroom with a billionaire, and that billionaire is looking at this business.

What starts to change?

Sian Gabbidon: Well, the funny thing is when I, so as probably most people think, when I won it, I was like, okay, so when the cameras stop, He’s probably gonna be like super chill and really nice and, and he really was just the same off camera as he was on, so I was like, okay. Right. Fine. But he was very to the point as he is on tv, he says what he thinks is very much about, okay.

I had my business plan, he was like, right, okay, let’s go. You know what? And I was exactly the same. I was passionate. I was like, I’m not, I didn’t come on this as a TV show necessarily. I can’t on it for an investment and to get this partnership. So to work with him was, I think we, we both were similar in that sense, although I’d say, um, really nice and friendly.

Our characters worked quite well, you know, as a duo. Um, so to work with him and, and his team and to start to map out things like, okay, so in my head I thought my brand was big and that people, no one knew my brand. No one knew who we were. So it was like, okay, we need to have some kind of like a launch.

Now we’ve got the show as well. We can use the PR from the show. You know, we’ve got a bit of this that we can use as a push, so, We kind of planned to do this big launch party and he really helped us get, he has so many contacts, as you can imagine, but he really helped us to just get everybody at this launch.

Cause I was like, we need celebrities. You know, we’re a, we were a, a swimwear brand, it was wind winter. So I was like, it’s not a great time, but if we can make a bit of a mark now while the show’s big, then for summer next year, we should do really well. And you know, we together, we kind of planned out this big launch in Essex.

We’ve got everyone. Every, we had this launch party where there was people there who I’d watched on TV my whole life, and it was coming to me to ask for a picture. I was like, like Mark Wright from, I was like, yeah, I’ll get a picture. So, you know, we just, we went, we, we launched with a bang and I think we did really well at using the show as a.

As a foundation, I guess. Um, you know, we had retailers interested in working with us off the back of the show we had, and I was very much like, I need to go into mass production. I, you know, imagine I was a small brand and I’m like, okay, I need to mass produce. I’ve got these retailers, and I had no clue about any of that.

So, and there were certain areas, Lord Sugar didn’t either, you know, in, in terms of fashion. He was very honest about, I don’t know about the fashion industry. So there was a lot that I had to learn. Myself and trial and error, find contacts and you know, now I’m in this position where I’m like, God, it, that was with a boost and with an investment without that, you know, it’s so hard to start something and build it to where you wanna be when you don’t actually have the contacts and.

Things like these, you know, and networking and meeting people, this is, it’s so important because that’s how you can meet them people. Half the battle for me, I was like, well, even with large sugar, I’m like, but it doesn’t mean he knows the best factories in wherever I want to produce, you know? Or in the UK it was still, you know, it was still difficult, but, um,

Adam Stott: so did you, you quit your job, you go full-time in the business?

Yeah. What were kind of. The baptism of fire for you. You went out, you gotta go and build the contacts. Yeah. What was your first, how did you plan and map that out and then go and find those

Sian Gabbidon: contacts? So I guess off the back of, of the launch, for example, and having these retailers come to us, which in most instances you are the one trying to get the retailers, it was all a bit back to front.

So I was like, you know, like I was saying, I’m like, okay, I need to go into mass production. I need to work out my. My business plan had certain elements that as soon as the show ended and we had these new opportunities, I’m like, this wasn’t even part of my business plan. So this is a whole new avenue, you know, and I’m like, I need to work out my margins.

I need to work out, um, my shipping costs, things that I’ve never, I’d never even thought of previously in some respects. So, It was very much like, and I’m not business background, so I am, I’m fashion design. I know marketing inside out, but business itself was a big part of, okay, well Lord Sugar hopefully can cover that side from it.

So it was very much just about all these different elements to business and saying, well, I need to, I need to plan these out, you know, I need to know what my margins are. I need to know what, um, what should I be charging, what’s viable to charge for me to sell online, but also for the retailers, because the margins the retailers want are crazy.

So I’m like, okay, can I actually make any money out of this? Or is this just an awareness piece and looking at all the different elements to, to work out the best plan of action. At the early, early stages. And how,

Adam Stott: how did that feel, having to learn all those numbers when it was completely against your

Sian Gabbidon: scare?

It was just scary, lonely, and, and even in a sense of having a business partner, you know, he’s not on speed dial 24 7. I’m not sat down every day in the boardroom with him. You know, he’s there but not, not like, you know, daily. So there were a lot of things that I’d just be like, okay. And. You know, I have really great support systems, as in my partner, my mum and dad, you know, but they don’t get it.

My partner did, but he wasn’t fashion. My parents didn’t, cuz they’re not business at all and they’re very much grafters who’ve worked in the same job the whole life. So business scares them, you know, for, so for me to sit down with my mum and dad and say, I’ve got this problem and I’m not, they would probably make me feel more stressed at the end of it.

So it was very much about. You know, attending events using The Apprentice as well to connect on things like LinkedIn. I’m actually not great on LinkedIn even now, but especially at that time I was like, I need to just build some connections to be out and about, to be networking, to meet people. So, and kind of you saying to Lord Sugar, look, I need a, I need a foot in the door here, or I need a bit of help here.

What, what can we do? Can you help me? Um, but a lot of it was off my own back and I think I just, Trial and error as well. I’ve tried, I, I’ve tried agents. I, I’ve had nightmare of times with agencies across the board, you know, I was looking for PR agencies, I was looking for marketing agencies, and I’ve tested the waters.

I used my old agency for a little while and I, I was crazily disappointed because to me they was like one of the biggest in the north. They’re gonna do an amazing job. We know each other. You know, knowing what I know now, I’m like, I felt like I was really underwhelmed and overcharged. And I think that’s a common theme at times.

So you have to be so savvy with having contacts who have them contacts who can say, legitimately, I’ve worked with them. They’re really good. Because half the time people will sell the absolute dream. You know, we talk about, I, I can talk about all areas, but social media, social media, advertisements.

Everybody’s an expert in social media now. Everyone will tell you, well, we’ll get you an ROI of 20. And, and then you get to the, you know, you get to the bones of it and you’re like, I’ve paid you five grand this month. And I’ve not even made that back. Like, there’s so many areas where, you know,

Adam Stott: people can just, it’s so interesting.

So what we’ve been walking through this morning, uh, for everyone, you weren’t in the room. Yeah. But we talked about the foundation. So this is where. Sean had the foundations now knows what she’s gonna offer, knows how to take it. Market, knows who the product is, knows who it’s for. She’s then got the branding elements done from the Apprentice, and now she’s moving into the phase of going out there and having conversations.

Yeah, and even with all that backing, you found that part challenge basically. Yeah. Where did the breakthrough come in those conversations? What was the first breakthrough moment in getting this business sped up? Like was there a particular key contact that you made?

Sian Gabbidon: I think. I wouldn’t say a key contact.

I think it was actually. There was a lot of noise. So when I talk about business now, I talk about it so differently to how I used to, because my mindset’s different now. So there was a lot of noise, there was a lot of things, especially off the back of a show and becoming a celebrity and being known and battling with bloody trolls online, you know, things that just took you away from the business side.

There were so many things that, um, In my business plan, I was like, right, I need to focus on the all of these. But I actually realized when I boil it right down for me, I needed to understand who my audience was. I needed to know who my customer was, how I, how I find them, or how I get myself in front of them.

So forgetting about everything else and. Forgetting about, okay, I wanna do a pull party here and I wanna do this. Cuz my marketing plan covered off so much that it was like, I actually just need to work out who they are, where they are, and how I can actually get in front of them and be better than my competition or warm them up to eventually convert.

So it was, it was difficult because I. I just went at and attacked everything. Whereas now I look back and I’m like, I should have just, you know, that should’ve been my plan. I should have just said. Right. Okay. And, and tested and learn from things. So that’s really

Adam Stott: interesting cuz we haven’t had a conversation today so far at all.

No, not at all. This is exactly what we’ve been speaking about as well. Is it exact Exactly what we’ve been speaking about. That’s good. And, and when you found, Where they were and who they were. Yeah. And you put your offer towards them. You, what was the, it was Adil was one of the first big deals you got.

Was it on as well?

Sian Gabbidon: ASOS was the first big, big deal that we got. Um, and then we had House of Frazer. Um, we had, we had loads and we kind of got a few international, um, Retailers that were interested. And then Asda was more recently. Um, and all of these were really great because it allowed us to, although we obviously had

Adam Stott: the investment, how long did it take to knock the first domino down?

Because essentially these, these types of people, a source house of Fraser, mm-hmm. Asda, when you’re in. House of Fraser’s a lot easier to get Asda on board, isn’t it? Yeah. When you’re in asos, it’s easier to get those on board. Yeah. So it’s like knocking the domino down to get the next one, right? Yeah. So where, how long did it take to knock the first domino down, and then how long was it before

Sian Gabbidon: you got the next one?

Well, we was really lucky because we had asos and I think House of Fraser came to us off the back of the show. Oh, nice. So we kind of, they came to us, which is. Unheard of in most situations. Right. Um, so our, our first domino as such came very quickly. Um, but you know what, there’s, there’s two elements to that.

You have to keep them happy. Yeah. Which is another battle, you know? Yeah. You can get your foot in the door, but if, if it don’t work the dog, they’re not interested. There’s millions of other brands that can get on board, you know, so you have to kind of think about all of that. Um, but also the idea of my, so for me, I look back now and I think retail worked really well.

When it did, because it allowed us to fund our online, which was really important because we wanted to be able to fulfill our online orders. And without that, we would’ve had to take a big risk on buying a big bulk of stock and not knowing if it were gonna sell or not. Um, but as we’ve evolved and as I’ve.

Looked at my efficiency and my numbers. I’m like, retail is great, but online is better in some respects. If I can do online, direct to customer, my margin is so much higher that retail is great for awareness and if you’re in the right place, then you know you’re building your audience. It kind of, it’s a full circle.

It’s really good, but it’s not a huge moneymaker. You are online if you’re an online, you know, brand or service or whatever. Is your bread and butter, because that’s where your margin is and that’s where you’re building your own direct community. You’re not relying on, you know, others or having to use marketing spend to promote another retailer.

You are doing it all yourself. So it’s so valuable to be able to kind of. Push that. Um, but yeah,

Adam Stott: Brilliant. So. So in terms of going on that journey, where, where are we now? What’s been changing for you? Because you, you now, you, did you, you actually decided to go your own way in the end Yes. Didn’t you? Yes, I did.

Yeah. On the business.

Sian Gabbidon: So how did that come, come around? So, I can’t, I, I think it was at the start of this year, I can’t really remember, so I turned 30 last October, and people say, why do you keep going on about it? I’m like, because it was a pivotal time for me where I was like, right. I’ve spent my twenties, my teens even kind of wanting to push, push, push, push, push, and you know, sacrificing as we all do whatever age we are, when you’re starting a business, everything is a sacrifice for it to work.

Right. When I got to 30, I was like, right. I’ve been with my partner for a long time. Like I wanna, I wanna have kids and stuff at some point, you know, I wanna relax a little bit more. Um, and I. I wanna be able to do other things too. So being on a show, there’s a lot of rules, a lot of things you can’t necessarily do.

You know, you’re kind of contracted in things. So got to the point, I was like, no, I wanna, this year make it a bit more about me now. And I’m in a comfortable enough position to be able to. Re-look at the business as well. Change a few things. Like I was saying, retail was great, but for me, I’m like, I really wanna push online.

I look at some of the competitors to us. They are online only, and I’m like, I know why. Because they’re making good money online and it’s much, much easier. You know, we have retail in general is difficult because, you know, if you miss one deadline for delivery, they will cancel the whole thing. And then you are sat with this big bulk of stock like, okay, what am I gonna do with that?

So, you know, there’s a lot of, but there’s pros, there’s cons, whatever. So yeah, this year I kind of said, right, I wanna. I wanna take it back. I really appreciate everything ev. All the help I’ve had from Lord Sugar, from his team. Everything’s super amicable. You know, there’s no big drama or gossip or any fallout or anything like that.

It was purely more me saying, I have a direction I wanna go in now. You know, I wanna make this business super efficient, but it, I don’t want it to be where it’s taken over my life. I wanna be able to do other things as well. Um, I do lots of like, consultants. I, I’m so passionate about helping other people cuz I know the, the stress of it and I, and I’ve been there and I get it and I’ve got so many contacts that I’m like, I wanna be able to actually help people.

Cause like I said, I know I’m probably slamming agencies, but I’m like, I’ve been. Swindled so much that I’m like, I wanna be able to help people stop doing that. So this year was very much about, do you know what I wanna have my business running. It’s pretty self-sufficient in that sense now. It’s, you know, it’s doing its thing.

I wanna do a little bit more consultancy, but I guess off the back of consultancy then I’ve, I’ve built out almost a, a marketing agency because, you know, People have needed help implementing not just strategies. So is that

Adam Stott: dealing with mainly fashion or mainly e-commerce

Sian Gabbidon: brands or every, any, yeah. Yeah, everyone and anyone, because it’s the same with consulting.

It’s interesting. I, I originally had clients where at first it was a bit like, oh, but it’s fashion, you know, do you know about dentistry? I’m like, well, I don’t dunno about dentistry, but I know about business and I know about some of the fundamentals that matter for every single type of business. Um, and

Adam Stott: more so when we talk about the marketing.

Yeah. What would you say are some of the fundamentals that you, you like to get across when you’re working with people? Um, do you focus more on the creative aspect or more on the numbers aspect? What, or

Sian Gabbidon: do you Bit of everything. Bit of everything. I think content is

Adam Stott: the first, first If you said like, for the, for everyone in the room, three or four things on their marketing they should focus on,

Sian Gabbidon: what would you say those, so the first thing I would always say is the content, as in.

It is hard to explain without showing examples, but if you are using, you know, if you’ve got a marketing plan and you said, right, we’re gonna do some social media ads, we’re gonna have a social media page, we’re gonna do build a website, we’re gonna, whatever it is, however, you’re gonna promote your product, right?

You know, you’re gonna do some Google ads online if you haven’t got. Good content. So if, if your pictures that you are using across them platforms are not selling your product right, you may as well stop. Like, one thing that we had a major breakthrough with, slightly different, but we pivoted in Covid. So we was a pure swimwear brand and Covid forced us to, to pivot and we moved into Loungewear.

[00:28:37] But what I found very quickly with Lounge was the way we shot that content was so powerful that we attracted audiences that we never even expected to because it just hit the mark. So having the the right content is the first thing I would say. Before you do anything, you need to make sure you, you, your content works and it’s multi-platform, so you’re not just getting a really nice, clean video that you can use on.

YouTube that you can repurpose that to use across Instagram on reels, on, um, TikTok on anywhere. Um, So, you know, content is a big part. And you, you

Adam Stott: specifically referencing quality of content as well?

Sian Gabbidon: Quality, yeah. A mixture of types. So, you know, not just, you know, one thing that I was, I did wrong, I’d do a photo shoot and I’d get the most amazing pictures.

Amazing, amazing pictures, few different outfits. Great. And I could use them for about two weeks because they were done then. Okay, I’ve got 30 pictures. I can use ’em across socials. But there weren’t mixed media. There were, there were one type of picture. Nowadays across social media, across websites, people want to see real people.

So when I talk about Marks, and I always talk about the fact that you, you, you selling. To an audience that don’t wanna be sold to. So they don’t always want to see an ad. They wanna see like a real person using a product or, or using your service or giving feedback or giving a review testimonial. And it has to be engaging nowadays, you know, just having an image on a page with some writing could work and you can test it.

But having a visual of somebody talking to camera with words at the bottom of the screen, all these different elements like. Instantly capture audiences because people are so visual nowadays. They ain’t got time to read. They really wanna just see, um, So there’s, there’s, I could talk all day about content.

I’m so passionate about it, but it’s such an important part because I, that’s where I feel like a lot of businesses get wrong. Initially, the content’s not good enough and then you’ve got a really great website. But you know, even on the website, if you content’s not where it should be, you know, if you checking your metrics, so people just clicking in and clicking off because they’re not interested, you’re not, you’re not keeping them there.

Everything. Matters. And that’s why marketing, you know, for me, I see it as a full circle. It’s, it’s powerful when you get it right, but there can be one element that can just break the whole chain because, Content’s not good enough. So nothing else that we’re gonna do will work in some respects. Um,

Adam Stott: and it’s so true, right?

You can drive traffic as to, you can drive as much traffic if you want. If you drive ’em to a page that is not there for them to convert on, they won’t convert. Right. Exactly. You know, if the copyright, if the promise isn’t there, you’re not gonna get the conversion. Right. Yeah. So, Stephanie, the content as well, so I’m sort of, Chip away

Sian Gabbidon: in you a little bit.

I’d say content and then obviously I’d say, I mean, website is such an important part because unless you have a store, your website is your store, right? It’s your online store. So it’s usually maybe by your social pages. It’s the first place people will go and. Get a real feel for who you are as a business.

So if I go onto a website, so sometimes I work with clients and the first thing I’ll go on is the site. And I’m like, oh, okay. This needs to change because my journey on that site as a, yeah, potential customer is shocking. I don’t really know what. I’m being sold as soon as I go on it. Websites are so intricate that if you have the wrong image at the top, when people first go on or the wrong tagline, it will just turn people off.

They’re not interested. You’ve got ’em for about five seconds. Not even that. So you have to be really clear with, you know, the strategy and. If you’re doing ads, for example, you wanna pull ’em into a page where, wherever you’re advertising, it’s very obviously there.

Adam Stott: Um, and a lot of business owners really struggle to look at their own things objectively.

Yes. Really. How many of you found that you look at same thing? It’s all right. And then someone else looks and you think, oh God, for sure. Yeah. You know, a lot of the time it is a real struggle for business owners to look at it like a client, but it’s critical to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else using that.

Exactly. And that user experience is so

Sian Gabbidon: important. Right, exactly. Thinking about it as even price point, I’m exactly the same. I, I, I’m the same with my own brand. I’m so attached to it Now. I can’t make my own decisions in some ways cuz I’m like, well, I think it looks, I’d buy it, but then I’m like, okay, what’s the price point?

When I first go on it. How do you feel about that price point to how it looks? You know, I work with brands who are, um, the discount. So they sell like discounted products, but the website just screams discount to a point where I’m like, people still wanna feel like it’s a nice product though. They don’t just want to see that it’s constant discount.

You know, you don’t just wanna buy tar, you still want your content to. Say we’re really good quality, but we are cheaper than most. So yeah.

Adam Stott: And if you could say Zara for example, yes, they sell a a low cost product, but they present it very lucky. In the same way dol a banner presented, right? Yeah. And why been the selling more?

Right? Because of that reason. That’s why one of the biggest companies in the world. Yeah. Exactly, because their presentation is so, so done so well. Right. Exactly

Sian Gabbidon: that. Yeah. Yeah, exactly that. I think people,

Adam Stott: so content, user experience and user experience. Talk about the metrics a little bit as well, because I think something that I talk to this group a lot about, you know, how do you look at the metrics?

You were talking there about spending time and. Really looking at those, those

Sian Gabbidon: aspects. Yeah. So metrics is in like the website. Yeah. So when people go on the, um, the website, what we’ll look at is the full backend. So even lot sort of like Google analytics things that a lot of people, right. And even me, I didn’t know about a lot of these elements until I.

Sell the business and got to a point where it became so important that that was like the key to, okay, so I can now understand why I’m not selling, for example. So I might have a range. And there’s certain products that don’t sell very well and from by using the metrics in the backend of the website or from social media ads for examples, I’m so big on social media ads because.

It’s a really, you know, lucrative way of marketing if you get it right. But it’s also a massive burner if you get it wrong. And I see it like, you know, content matches up at a hundred percent to that. But if you have ads running and you can get. A sweet spot and you’ve found a really good audience type, and the tag gets rolled in really, really well.

You can push that, you know, you can bump up your ad spend and because it’s daily ad spend, although you have to have budgets, you know, you might say, okay, it’s gonna cost me a thousand pound a month, for example. Because you’re only spending a small amount of that every day, and it can be tweaked every day.

It takes a little bit of time to kick in, but you can very quickly, in some respects, find the sweet spot. Yeah. And scale. Yeah. You know, I’m, I’m major on ads, but I, I’m also big on only working with people who. I recommend it on ads because you can also get it super wrong and a lot of people will say, yeah, but we’re testing, we are learning.

You know, it’s gonna take a few more months. Really, you should be starting to see something in a few months. Let’s say three, four months. You wanna start to see a little bit coming back, or at least a break even. But you know, if you don’t know, you will just be like, okay, well yeah, we’ll do another six months and we’ll see how we get on.

But you’re constantly, it’s just constantly testing and learning. Using those metrics, looking at the websites, like I said, you might have someone who is clicking onto a page, clicking straight off it. There’s something wrong with that page. What’s wrong with it? Why are they clicking off? You know what?

Heat mapping, assessing where people are going and what they’re doing whilst they’re on there. Um, Oh, there’s, there’s, so you could talk all day, right? There’s, there’s so many elements, but I think, yeah, you know, your website websites are way more than just a shop front and something to look nice. I think I, I, I’ve learned that over the years there’s so much more to a site than just having some nice pictures and people being able to shop through it as, for example, but there’s also elements, you know, I’ll work with people at times who.

It’s not an e-comm website, so it’s just a, it’s just a front, so people go on it and then they send quotes for things. For example, soon as I started working with ’em, I’m saying, well, listen guys, you can sell your products through the site. So think about your customer journey. Can anyone be bothered writing a quote?

would they rather just buy it straight there and then if they can cost the wood, what are your competitors doing? They’re selling through their site, so why are you not just looking at all them elements and thinking about how a customer shops or you know, would wanna use your service or whatever, and really making sure that that experience is as simple as possible and you can keep them.

You know where you want them and once you’ve converted them and they’ve bought from you, retargeting, hitting them back up, using your email strategies, using these, your ads to hit them again to say, you bought this, you like this. Look at this that we sell to, you know, or, Having really great metrics on your site so you can see what they’re clicking on to target them with that.

There’s so much that when you, you know, when you’re up and running and you’re ready, you can really use

Adam Stott: the market as a tool and it’s so much and, and for some people at the beginning it’s quite overwhelming. Yeah. But the payoff, and I want to. You know, what would you say the payoff to knowing and nailing this stuff is?

And I say it so much to everyone, but I want you, you know, just from a different voice. What’s the payoff for being able to do this right in the right way?

Sian Gabbidon: Well, I dunno, I feel under pressure, I might get it wrong, but I’d just say you, you, you sell more, you, you have a new audience, you’ve got new customers, you’ve got a whole new database and community that you built.

So one thing I’m really big on is, you know, I keep going on about customer journey, but more because. You wanna, you’ve kind of, I see it as funnels, right? So when you’re doing ads, for example, it’s a funnel and you’ve got a cold audience, which is people who’ve never heard of you ever before. And then you move them up that funnel cuz you start hitting them with ads until you convert them.

And then the hot, but you still wanna keep that kind of heat so that the still remember. So, like I’m saying about email marketing, it’s a great way of saying, don’t forget about us guys. Don’t, don’t go to a competitor, come back to us. So it’s just about, you know, Keeping these people on board when you’ve got ’em, and then bringing out new products or bringing out another service, or cross-selling, upselling, whatever you can to keep converting these people, and that’s your community then.

So, you know, that’s kind of my answer. Yeah,

Adam Stott: absolutely. I think it’s awesome. Absolutely Awesome. So what’s next for you, Shawn? You know, you’ve got lots going on. Lots. You’re now. Lots on your own, rocking out with this business.

Sian Gabbidon: You gonna do? Yeah, I’m just living life, you know, I’m just enjoying life now. No, so, so you actually seem super happy, right?

I am. I actually genuinely am. I feel like, you know what I’m really big on as well. I, I love social media cuz it’s kind of part of what I do, but, but real life, like actually being happy in real life and, and doing what I wanna do in real life. Is that possible? No, that’s what I mean. Nobody, that’s what it feels like.

You know, I always say to business owners as well, I’m always big on, right, you need to know what your competition are doing, but don’t be, don’t feel like disheartened by what they’re doing. Like I see it as a more of a boost. I’m like, oh my God, they’re doing, I wanna do that next. Or you know, looking at other people and seeing what they’re, sometimes it can be overwhelming.

I feel like social media, It’s just, it can be very fake and a lot of things you see are not real. And you know, you, you can sometimes be disheartened by what you’re seeing on there and it’s like, just forget about it for a sec. Like, focus on what you wanna do and what your goal is, building your strategy, and just keep churning that out and don’t be distracted by what everybody else is doing.

Because 90% of the time it’s not real or it’s all a facade for social media because the sales, you know, the it, it’s, Really, it’s a really, really tricky one. But yeah, for me, you know, I’m just, I’m in a really good, it’s what, what you’re saying

Adam Stott: is get focused and follow it through.

Sian Gabbidon: Yeah. Focused, make a plan, have a strategy, and just keep pushing.

And, and I’m very big on passion because I’m, you know, it doesn’t have to be a passion as in a, a service. You might be passionate about making money, right. Whatever. But I just think having that passion is what gets you outta bed on the morning. And a lot of the time, Um, there’s, there’s problems. You know, there’s issues, there’s hurdles, there’s things that you’re trying to fix.

And unless you’ve got that passion for something, you know, you, you won’t wanna get outta bed. So you, you always wanna constantly find the answers to things. That’s been my life for the past 10 years. It’s like, okay, I don’t know what I’m gonna do next, but I’m gonna find an answer cuz there’s a way around it because everyone else has succeeded in this.

So I don’t see why I’m not gonna. But I think that’s why you see a lot of small businesses, there’s a high percentage failing the first year, and I think it’s because they hit certain hurdles and say, I don’t know what to do here. That’s it. I, I’ll just, I’ll go back to my job or whatever, but the ones that find the answers are the ones that succeed.

So it’s really just having that, getting resourceful, right? Yeah. Keep it going. Yeah,

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