MMMMmmm where to start? I graduated from Surrey Institute of Art and Design in 1997 and immediately started work in the fashion business as design assistant for the young fashion department at Shubette of London Ltd. I gained a good grounding for the fashion industry and quickly progressed my career and by 2001 was head of design for a company formerly known as The Associated Clothing Company, which was the main supplier to Arcadia Group, Mothercare, BHS, Tesco and many others within the young fashion, outsize and maternity wear category. I worked hard and loved my job.
All work and no play makes Sam a dull lady, so I try to have as much fun as possible. Spending three years as a single Mum to my now 5 year old son in the UK was hard – juggling a small child and a business, so we’ve recently moved to Portugal to be with my new fabulously supportive partner and try to get more fun back into our lives.
I’m a social creature, focused and ambitious and a bit of a risk taker. The joker at times and described as happy go lucky by friends. My family and friends are important to me and have been supportive through tough times.
Tell us about the products you make / sell
Zuma the Dog is a small UK based kids clothing brand with a strong following that has been trading online for three years. Our fun and funky range is designed in bold bright colours to make any child stand out in a crowd and has a great reputation for producing a high quality product. Originally designed as a boys wear range we have found that because we do not use pink or blue in our range parents buy our brand for both son and daughter. Our family pet and his rumbumptious personality is the inspiration for our brand – we feel the innocence of childhood should remain with our kids for as long as possible, which is why you’ll find we follow our own trends and none that are predicted by the cat walk.
How did you get the idea for your business?
Zuma our family dog was the original inspiration for the business. I was pregnant with my son at the time and had given up work for a bit due to fatigue. Zuma was only a pup himself at the time and he would get up to all sorts of naughty puppy like behaviour that I would find hilarious. Being the creative animal that I am I would write Zuma’s mischief down in a notepad, which later I developed into short stories and illustrated them with a view to read to my son when he was born. I tried out these stories on my friend’s children, who would come to the house to visit the real Zuma. With my fashion design and manufacture back ground the clothing was really a natural progression.
How long have you been running your business?
It took a year or so after my son was born to set up the business. Taking it forward and making it into a real brand that I could earn a living from was more out of necessity than anything. When my son was 16 months old I found myself on my own and a single Mum with no income. With zero help (financial or otherwise) coming from my ex husband I wanted to do something to provide a great life and future for my son. This is when I returned to the idea of the Zuma the Dog clothing brand and only working while my son was sleeping at night, I sourced factories, designed a range, set up a limited company, trademarked the brand, found funding and went for it. In February 2009 Zuma the Dog was born and I have been running it ever since.
What resources have you found useful in building your business?
Social media has been the main key to building my business. I had a very small budget to set up the company and buy in stock, so have relied heavily on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. More recently I’ve been using You Tube with Zuma the Dog TV and Pinterest. I’ve built a loyal fan base with Facebook and this is the main tool in which my wholesale customers have found Zuma the Dog which has led to a lot of business.
For a single mum the internet has revolutionised the way women can work and without it I could not have started my business. I have the freedom to be there for my son, the freedom to work from home and the freedom to work from anywhere in the world.
Zuma the Dog is UK based, all the stock is kept in the UK and everything that doesn’t involve me is in the UK. I can be anywhere in the world and still work. I travel a lot with my laptop, IPad and smart phone and have even been known to upload blogs from the beach bar down the road. I’m accessible to the world all day long if needed and believe that if you are dedicated to your business and use as many technological resources as you can, then you can run your business from anywhere. These resources have definitely empowered women of today.
What’s your best advice for someone starting up?
Best advice? Mmmmmmmm. Just to keep at it. Know your product, know your market. Be confident in what you know, believe in your product and be yourself and be cheeky – if you don’t ask you don’t get. You’ll be amazed at where you’ll find the Zuma the Dog logo, which has been at zero cost to me. Don’t want to say too much, but keep an eye on a major blockbuster movie about fast cars coming to the cinema at the end of the year. You may see something you recognise 😉
Be inventive also. Network hard and be prepared for a lot of work. It won’t seem like work though if you love what you do. I have met many business people who are all about the sale, stuffy and boring. In my experience people warm to personality. Show the real you even if you are a little off the wall. People will remember you and appreciate you for your honesty
I was once told by a wise old Jewish boss that in business you need to be tough, but fair. Good words that I have always tried to keep to.
What do you like to do besides business?
Zuma the Dog is now supporting a charity in Portugal. We designed their range of t-shirts for 2012 and sell online via our website and Facebook. The charity is called Bianca, which is a dog shelter in Sesimbra, Portugal that works tirelessly against all odds to provide abused and abandoned dogs, shelter, food, medical attention and love to those who have no home or anyone to take care of them. They work to find the forever home for these dogs, which could be anywhere in Europe. Since the economic downturn, Bianca has found that more and more people are abandoning their family pet and leaving them on the streets to fend for themselves. They have over 300 dogs at the shelter and although they are finding forever homes for many, more dogs are left at their compound each month.
The Bianca t-shirts designed by Zuma the Dog cost only £15 to buy and 100% of that money goes to the charity to help sponsor a dog with all its needs for almost a year. Zuma and I visited the shelter a few months ago to see the amazing work they do. We almost ended up with a few new additions to the family, but managed to walk away with just Zuma.
I also co-ordinate events for a network group for new residents to Portugal, particularly the area in which I live. It’s a chance for new to meet old, make friends and network their business. We meet once a month for a few drinks and connect people.
What is your favourite way to unwind?
Work takes up most of my time, although play time consists of spending time with the men in my life, son Caleb, other half Stephen and the very naughty dog, Zuma. We are renovating our home in Portugal which takes up some time, but when we are not doing that we are at the beach or walking in the mountains nearby. I’ve taken up running and SUP (stand up paddle boarding). We eat out and spend time with friends at weekends as a family.