After leaving university, many graduates feel clueless when faced with the prospect of choosing a new career.
But Niki Mahon, 30, from Kent, decided to boldly face post-university life and after finishing a degree she did not ‘connect with’, she set up her own jewellery and homeware business alongside her full-time job at a small tech firm.
In 2015, she set up Nikita By Niki, now NIKITA, from her bedroom in her parents’ house – a business which is now turning over half a million pounds a year.
She told LatestDeals: ‘I started my business in 2015 after completing a degree at University that I didn’t connect with.
Niki Mahon, 30, from Kent, set up her own business in 2015 alongside working a full-time job after leaving university
‘After graduating, I felt lost and unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. I got a full-time job in London working for a small tech company for some stability and experience.
‘In my spare time on evenings and weekends, I started selling unwanted clothes and jewellery on Depop and eBay.
‘I noticed I felt a spark when I was packaging items and sending them to customers and wondered if there was a way I could do this and make a profit!’
‘The first step was creating my logo so my brand could have an identity, and everything could unfold from there. I had some experience with graphic design and was confident creating my logo in Photoshop. Nowadays, Canva is an amazing website that makes designing so easy.
On the website, Niki tells her customers: ‘you are no longer purchasing from a young girl trying her best in her bedroom at her parents’ house’
‘I would highly recommend this for logo creation and all social media graphics, as you can save a lot of money on branding if you can do this yourself.
‘Graphic design is a skill I think is invaluable if starting your own business. Learning to use Canva via Youtube would be a great way to become more confident.
Niki’s business tips
– Learn graphic design on websites like Canva or Photoshop
– Take on the work yourself, including snapping products
– Don’t be deterred by obstacles
– Find manufacturers who align to your vision
– Kindness always helps when dealing with difficult customers
– Keep evolving and improving. Don’t be afraid to look to rebrand.
– Follow your instinct when considering new products
– Add your products to already established sites like Etsy or Amazon to quickly grow
– Lean into natural customer trends, such as high demand at Christmas or other times of the year
She said: ‘I then created my first website, Nikita By Niki. I used a third-party e-commerce website provider Shopify – I still use it to this day. Then I continued to liaise with suppliers and invest in stock.
‘After I had the branding, website and products together, it was time to photograph everything. I did the product photography myself and organised a more editorial photo shoot with the jewellery styled to use across the new Nikita By Niki Instagram and website. At this point, I was ready to announce it to my small audience.’
Starting out by designing her own logo using Photoshop and taking her own product pictures, Niki has since seen the business grow, now employing three full-time staff.
She added: ‘In the first year, I made between £15,000 and £20,000.
‘Now, the business is turning over half a million pounds a year, and I’m proud to say that it is organic growth without any outside investment.’
Sharing the challenges faced by the business, Niki added that she had to be on guard against others using her website text and images, manufacturers sending poor quality products, and dealing with impolite customers.
She said: ‘There have been SO many obstacles over the years. I would say one of the biggest obstacles when I first started was other businesses copying and pasting my website text and using my images (with me in them!) for their brand after seeing mine gain traction. I didn’t expect it early in my business, and I found it deflating after spending so much time branding myself. It was being taken by others so easily.
‘I added some protection on my website to prevent this going forwards. However, I have since accepted that people may take inspiration from my brand as the business grows. Therefore, it’s crucial for me that I am constantly evolving and updating my designs and content.
‘Other obstacles I have experienced have been supplier related, in that they have let me down with the quality of products, and it has cost me hundreds or thousands at a time. It’s disappointing when this happens, but I genuinely believe these things happen for a reason, so I can learn from them and find better people to work with.’
She said: ‘Finding manufacturers that align with your vision and ethics is one of the hardest things in business, and there should be expected to be some trial and error along the way. I also learned that communication as the designer is key to ensuring others can truly understand your vision.’
NIKITA sells high quality jewellery and homeware and has recently rebranded from being Nikita by Niki
‘It has also been challenging dealing with customers who are not always very polite! It’s hard not to let your ego get in the way as you are so emotionally attached to your business, but I have found that kindness always helps. People often approach companies differently because they are not used to respectful, helpful and efficient customer service. However, as soon as I show I care and am keen to help, it often disarms the customer, and the conversation is far more pleasant. If in doubt, just be kind and speak to your customers in the same way you would like to be spoken to if you were in the same situation.
‘More recently, dealing with the shipping crisis during the pandemic was a huge obstacle in that product shipments were not only delayed but cost four times what they usually would. This knocked my company back regarding cash in the business in 2020 and was devastating. However, it was out of my control, and I pushed on as always!’
However despite the obstacles, she has worked hard to succeed, explaining: ‘I left my full-time job in 2016. I went part-time first to test the waters and then decided it was all or nothing. I worked in a small business and loved my job.
‘Often the narrative is that people are unhappy in their jobs or hate their bosses, and then they leave to start their businesses. However, it wasn’t that way for me at all. It wasn’t that I was unfulfilled or needed more, I just needed something that was MINE. I needed to prove to myself that I could build something from the ground up despite feeling lost after leaving university.
In 2015, she set up Nikita By Niki, now NIKITA, from her bedroom in her parents’ house – a business which is now turning over half a million pounds a year
‘I felt I wanted to prove certain people in my life wrong. However, I did so gradually. I worked to a point where I had enough savings to start the brand, and when the sales were consistent, I dropped my hours to part-time first at my old job before leaving completely a year later.’
Niki keeps her passions at the forefront of her business growth, adding: ‘I am passionate about the company as I love empowering other women, especially South-Asian women in business, as we are typically encouraged down a more ‘academic’ route as opposed to a creative one.
‘When I receive messages from customers inspired by my journey or products, it just warms my heart and makes all the challenges worth it. I never thought I’d be an inspiration to anyone, especially with how worthless I felt before I started NIKITA.
‘I’ve found that evolving and changing the brand has helped me stay in love with it. I rebranded the entire company in 2022 – it was originally Nikita by Niki, and now it’s NIKITA. It feels so fresh and exciting again, similar to how it felt when I launched in 2015. I must always evolve and improve, so I keep the fire in my belly and jump out of bed in the morning, ready to innovate and design more jewellery. I never want to resent my business, no matter the challenges thrown my way!’
The young business woman has grown her business substantially in the past few years (pictured)
No business owner will experience linear growth, and Niki has had her fair share of obstacles. ‘As I mentioned, 2020-2022 have been the most challenging financial periods. With so much of our capital going into the Brexit and Covid-related shipping crises, as well as the work which has gone into our new rebrand and sustainability focus, there was a lot of pressure to ensure we have a great Christmas this year to ensure all of the effort this past year has been worth it! I am confident about our new branding and can’t wait to see how 2023 unfolds.’
‘In 2015, it was a little easier to build an audience on our Instagram page than now as it was less saturated. I steadily gained followers by modelling the jewellery and sharing honest ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey quite quickly after launching.
‘I found that with the type of jewellery I sell, the traffic to the website became very seasonal, so there’d be massive surges around Christmas and then it would be relatively slower throughout the rest of the year. I’ve learned to use this trend to my advantage rather than battle against it.’
Niki shared her insights on how shoppers are making purchases at the moment. ‘People take longer in deciding whether to make a purchase. I’ve not seen a lot of impulse buying but more well-thought-out purchases. Also, our discounted items are going out quicker than ever, and I believe this is to do with the cost of living crisis – people are loving discounts at the moment, for sure.
‘As a business, at this time, I believe it’s crucial to ensure we do what we can to make the decision purchase easier for customers, such as offering free delivery, gift packaging, gifts, returns and so on. These small things help customers make up their minds when deciding whether or not to purchase with you.’
Starting out in her bedroom in her parents’ house, Niki’s business NIKITA now turns over half a million pounds a year and employs three members of staff
Meanwhile Niki explained how she follows her instinct when designing new products.
She said: ‘I think about jewellery or homeware I’ve tried to get hold of but have struggled to find in normal stores. I used to follow trends, but I want to focus on quality items of jewellery that can be treasured and last forever. The desire to stay ahead of the competition and keep that fire in my belly keeps me going. I try to always stay one step out of my comfort zone as I never want to get too comfortable.’
Meanwhile she explained how she has expanded in recent years, saying: ‘I now have three full-time staff members, which feels crazy since I started this all on my own in my bedroom at my parent’s house!
‘We store many of our products at Amazon’s warehouse through a selling service called Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA), which I would highly recommend looking into if you are hoping to scale your product-based business.
‘We share an office and warehouse with another company in Kent, England, and we have an office space upstairs, our dispatch area, and a section in the warehouse dedicated to our homeware products.’
However she now advises others to ‘look beyond’ social media, saying: ‘I listed my products on Amazon in 2016, and the sales there have been consistent and almost like a backbone to my company.
‘Adding your products to other platforms helps a great deal as people are already shopping on there. It’s easier than trying to get people to stop what they’re doing and shop on your website. You’ll see quicker and more consistent growth. I would highly recommend selling on Amazon and Etsy as they have been the most profitable for me thus far, and we have tried many platforms over the years!’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk