Home Cwtches is an online home décor business with a growing Welsh language section. Co-owned by Karen Skelly and Elaine Davies from Pontyclun and Miskin, the business stocks home décor gifts, items, cards and stylish home accessories in a mix of rustic, shabby chick, vintage and contemporary styles.
Although they don’t employ any staff yet, Karen and Elaine work with as many small Welsh businesses as possible to show solidarity and support. They try to source most of their products from Wales as well as designing and making many of their own items. “The idea is that we want to put Wales at the centre of our business and to provide home décor that fills your heart as well as your home!” – Karen Skelly and Elaine Davies, Owners at Home Cwtches.
What they did
“At the beginning we just did as much as we could ourselves. Elaine even built the website! As we began to get busier, we approached Business Wales and attended a lot of various courses and seminars on marketing, social media, information, advice and guidance, IT and loads more! We were lucky to get a mentor through Business Wales and meetings with her are still ongoing and our chats always give us lots of new ideas to follow up in order to grow our business.”
What would they do differently
“It’s hard to say whether we’d do anything differently because a lot of the work we’ve done has been in response to our growing business and our needs at the time. I think of our business as an organic entity which sometimes seems to have a mind of its own and we’ve let our customers influence what we stock. Our Welsh language section has been there from the very beginning and Home Cwtches was always intended to be a Welsh language home décor and gift supplier as we are aware of how limited Welsh language gift items are.
We’re moving away from using large wholesalers and are looking instead for small Welsh businesses to help expand our range and are designing and making a lot of our new stock ourselves. At the beginning, we would go a bit mad with our ordering because everything was so nice and we couldn’t resist, but now we are much more selective and stock items in lower quantities to ensure faster turnover and to keep our shop fresh with lots of new ideas. Some items have become big sellers, so we restock those but generally we like to try to find something new, interesting and different.”
Their proudest moment in business
"There have been lots of little moments – Elaine's triumph in building our website from scratch; our first pay cheque to ourselves; seeing our stock in the window of a new shop. Finding out that we were nominated in one of the Business Wales Excellence in Mentoring Awards categories was a huge surprise!"
Do they use Welsh in their business?
"The idea behind Home Cwtches was always to include Welsh as much as possible. Elaine will tell you that she’s not a fluent Welsh speaker, but her husband and children are and she’s always correcting Karen on her pronunciation! Karen started off not knowing any but constant typing of Welsh words and researching new stock ideas (and therefore utilising Welsh translation tools to understand the product she’s looking at) is slowly beginning to build up a (very!) basic vocabulary. We both view Home Cwtches as a platform from which to promote Wales and the Welsh language, to show our pride in our diverse culture and to link up with other small Welsh businesses. There’s so much talent in Wales!"
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
Elaine and Karen attended a series of workshops, delivered by the Welsh Government’s Business Wales and Superfast Business Wales services. They were supported by an adviser, Nia Lloyd-Jones, who carried out a diagnostic and provided further support with the business’ strategy for their second financial year.
Elaine and Karen were also matched with a mentor, Kathryn Clarke, whose extensive sales, marketing and branding experience is helping Home Cwtches with securing more business, especially through social media.
Elaine and Karen said: “Business Wales has been invaluable in helping us to move forward. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do next – there is a lot of conflicting advice out there, but Business Wales has been a constant with us from almost the very beginning. The mentoring service has been particularly beneficial – sometimes it’s difficult to know what questions to even ask but 1-2-1 chats over a coffee always give us a lot to think about and what ideas to explore next – it’s good to just hear that we’re already doing well! Business Wales has also given us lots of links and contacts with a variety of people/places/products when we have become stuck.”
Here are Home Cwtches’ top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- I know this sounds like a cliché but making a monthly and then a weekly plan is essential! At the beginning, we just moved forward in response to our business and in anticipation of upcoming events which was fine at the outset but then we plateaued and couldn’t seem to move forward at all due to so many external delays, now we are better at looking ahead and knowing what it is that we want to do and by when and then working backwards to try to make it happen
- don’t get too bogged down in all the small things, it’s so easy to get lost in all the admin or spend ages ‘researching’ new suppliers (translation: spending ages online window shopping!) stay focussed and remember what the initial task was
- if you’re working from home make a designated work space so that your mind is clear and focussed on the task in front of you rather than being distracted by that big pile of laundry that still needs sorting…similarly, working from home gives you the flexibility to be there for your family and still be a Domestic Goddess but set realistic portions of the day aside specifically for the business, otherwise the work you do is piecemeal and therefore often not extensive enough to really move you forward
- keep it simple! Keep your ideas realistic and don’t let them snowball into something that you either can’t create and therefore get depressed about because you can’t achieve it, or you’ve wasted a lot of time and energy developing something over-complicated when often or not the simplest ideas are the best ones