Small Business - JespereJ’espere

Unique and functional retro bags.

Deb Hescott commenced her business in July 2013 after resigning from full time employment in the Public Sector due to family and health reasons.  She always had a dream to align a business idea with raising awareness and funds for Retina Australia NSW. This worthy charity is committed to raising funds for research into the detection, prevention, treatment and cure of inherited retinal dystrophies, providing hope to those suffering from low vision or blindness. $2 from the sale of every bag is donated to this charity.

The product idea came about from Deb’s love of all things retro (music, cars, fashion) and particularly bags like the old airline bags, satchels and cross body bags with funky designs. She had collected a few of these bags over the years with many positive comments and decided that these unique bags were something that she wanted to share with everyone. So that’s where the idea of J’espere (French meaning of “I hope”) was born!

This is what Deb shared about running her business.

Q. What did you do before you started this business?

The majority of my 27 career has been in the Public Sector working in various roles such as Information Technology Systems Manager, Records Management, Intelligence, Emergency call-taking and dispatch, trainer and business manager. Some of the agencies that I have worked for include Public Works Department, NSW Police Force, Ambulance Service NSW, Newcastle City Council and TAFE NSW. I also had my own successful training consultancy business for a period time.

Q. Did you have any business training before you started?

I have completed various courses in business through TAFE, and have also undertaken some short workshops with Newcastle Business Centre who have been an amazing support to me as a start-up small business owner. I do hold degree qualifications in Social Science and Education, and with my role as Business Manager I held knowledge and experience which has served me well in my own business.

Q. Describe your business and products/services you offer

J’espere is a retail business which supplies bags and accessories that are retro, functional and unique. The bags are funky and fashionable, they appeal to a range of individuals, both male and female and of any age. This range of bags is not something that you can find in just any store. The bags have retro patterns or images that reflect the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s era.

The business has its own website and social media presence as well as stocking in a few select shops/cafe in the Newcastle area. I also attended local markets to get the branding and charity awareness out there.

Q. How long have you been running your business?

My business is relative new as it was launched in July 2013. I am amazed at the progress made during this short period of time, and am really excited with the direction that it is taking.

Q. How many hours a week do you work in your business?

My mind never really switches off from business. If I am not restocking in one of my shops, or invoicing, attending markets and events, coming up with new design ideas, marketing, using social media, collaborating, promoting, administration, or anything (and everything) else that comes up for small business, I am then attending to my family or the many other commitments, including some casual part time teaching work which I love.

Q. What kind of online and offline marketing do you do and which is working for you?

My marketing strategy is quite simple, I use social media such as facebook, twitter and Instagram. I also have a website for online retail and send out newsletters and alerts to my customers. I take advantage of free marketing opportunities, donate to raffles for various events, promote at women’s business events, and network a lot. I take advantage of any opportunity that I can, and continue to look for successful ways to market.

Q. Do you use social media as part of your marketing?

Absolutely – this works particularly well for my business. It allows me to engage with my customers, and to gain feedback on customer comments/likes/suggestions/questions etc, and it helps drive the business into a customer focussed direction.

Q. What mistakes have you made in running your business and what lessons have you learnt from those?

Fortunately I have not had too many mistakes to date, however I have learnt that what we sometimes think will be a hot seller may not be for the customer. Market research, staying engaged, and putting the customer at the centre of business is key to success.

Q. How has your website helped you run your business?

My website has provided a platform that reaches a geographical scope that I could not have targeted otherwise, particularly in the start-up phase. The internet is a powerful tool which if used in alignment with other marketing strategies can assist create a highly successful business.

Q. What obstacles or challenges are you facing at the moment?

My challenge at the moment is juggling customer demand and cash-flow. There are so many creative ideas and opportunities but I am still in my infancy with only a limited number of funds so I need to slowly move towards my targets. I have no doubt I will achieve this!