Thoughts on the First 10 Years
Last month was the 10th anniversary of Billiards Boutique; like normal I kind of let it pass without fanfare. Although it is a great achievement for a business that was born in 2005 and has been through the credit crunch I have never been the celebratory type.
I thought it would be nice, however, to write a short post on the first 10 years of trading at Billiards Boutique. A look back for myself as a reflection but also what I hope would be an interesting story for you guys and girls as well.
2005-2007 - Back When it all Started
Billiards Boutique started as an off-shoot of American Pool Network, my first ever attempt at a business, the social network side of the business I never really got right but the online store did OK, so when I moved to Portland in 2005 I opened a small store that my wife named Billiards Boutique. At the same time we launched the first website.
I did a quick check on the Internet Archive but the earliest iteration they have of BilliardsBoutique.com is actually from July 2006 but here it is below anyway:
I opened the first physical store with a friend of mine, who also became the first business partner. We opened in probably the smallest shop in the world at Brewers Quay in Weymouth. Walk-in trade was never anything more than enough to pay the rent, and people walking past the window would often comment about the 'fishing rods' for sale!
The online trade was where the business was really developing so after my business partner left in late 2006 I started to look for somewhere more comfortable and suitable for holding a larger amount of stock.
2007 - Southwell Business Park
In 2007 I made the move to a much larger unit at Southwell Business Park on Portland - the business park as of right now is a hotel and the other part is being developed into a new school!
On site I had a dedicated packing room/office and then two further rooms with a couple of pool tables and plenty of cues and cases. At the same time I took on my first part-time member of staff, a big move for both me and the business. The business continued to grow and from this base we started shipping all over the world with the website and the eBay store really working well.
2008-2010 - Disaster and the Rescue
In 2008 I made a decision which proved to be one of the worst I have ever made, at a time when the business was still expanding I lost my member of staff but at the same time an interested party came by and I accepted them as a business partner (Note: always do your due diligence like I didn't!) As part of the deal the new business partner moved the physical store to Thatcham in Berkshire, this meant I could try my hand at something different (Cuesport TV - that is a whole other story).
The partner was not very diligent and made a lot of mistakes that ended up costing the business and the reputation I had built up. When that partner had financial difficulties in 2010 I had to do everything in my power to save the business. In May of 2010 I went to Thatcham with family and a van and rescued everything I could and brought it back home to Portland.
It was a difficult time and I spent the next 8-12 months rebuilding my reputation. I take everything personally, so where I felt the business under the tutelage of the partner hadn't provided the best service I made refunds, shipped additional products and really did everything to try and make things right.
Luckily it worked!
The other problem around this time was the recession in the UK and a number of other businesses had entered the market, where we should have been growing we actually started to lose some market share.
2010-2013 - Rebuilding
In order to rebuild and to cut costs I actually traded from my loft at home right up until May 2013. Doing it this way allowed me to get back into again, to see what was really working and to actually build some customer base again.
It isn't the greatest thing to do trading from home, there are so many distractions, and not very much space for stock, but on the other hand it is cheap!
This period was one of my happiest in the first 10 years, I could see that what I was doing was going in the right direction and the business was gaining traction again.
May 2013 (not sure why it is always in May that I make decisions!) was the time I made the decision to seek out some premises again. From then we have never really looked back.
I moved into premises again in May 2013 and also took on a part-time member of staff to do the packing. These premises were never designed for a physical store and were bloody freezing in winter and like a sauna in summer. Also, lets just say they weren't very big!
However, it was great to be back in a place that belonged to the business and I lasted here for the full year of the short term lease with a better business and a better direction.
This meant a move in May again! This time to a larger more prominent base as you first come up on to the top of Portland and where we are still situated today.
The new base meant more space, an actual table on site and more cues for players to try before they buy. Again, the staffing increased as well with a full-time member of staff for the first time who was responsible for updating the website, Amazon and eBay listings.
So that is Billiards Boutique's first 10 years in about 5 minutes, here is to the next 10 years as I strive to build something lasting. Also, a huge thank you to every one of you who has been along for all or part of the journey.