May 2014 heralded the start of a brand new trading year at Room to Grow (RTG) – and what a year it’s been. It hardly seems like 2 minutes, never mind 2 years since I took the quantum leap to buy a small internet business selling children’s beds and furniture. With great credentials – established 16 years and morphing from a high street retailer to an online presence – it was ripe for investment. Initially for me it was all about steep learning curves and designing a fabulous new website. With that successfully completed and launched in 2012, my focus then turned to enhancing our product ranges and starting to communicate with our customers about what you and your child really wanted for their dream bedroom.

May 2013 saw us photographing beds in local woods, stunningly carpeted with bluebells. We were blessed with lovely weather and well behaved models – friend’s children plus my daughter who is becoming a dab hand at modelling. This sunny start to our amazing summer was RTG’s second outdoor shoot and gave us some wonderful images to update the website with. Despite the huge drain on time in planning, organization, never mind the constant worry about the great British weather, we are determined to make outdoor photography an annual event to keep our imagery fresh and really different. However, we’re still at the drawing board stage for the 2014 venture – any ideas where you would like to see our beds?!

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Another first this year was the creative project entitled “The Funny Things Kids Say”. Running for 8 weeks as a competition, this set out to find those little gems that your little darlings say, which bring a smile to the lips and really brighten your day. We had a great response and a lot of fun with this one and fun was one of the things that I really had on my mind. Juggling childcare over the summer holidays is always tricky and as RTG progressed I was really struggling to be able to get time away from work to spend with my daughter. Given that starting my own business was supposed to support that freedom, I was quickly facing the dilemma that I think many of you will identify with – things had to change, but to change things it would mean more help in the office. In turn more people required more space than could possibly be squeezed out of my home office and those 2 elements were a quantum leap from where I had started.

Thank goodness for Heather! After a pretty intense recruitment drive, where we interviewed a lot of different people from a diverse range of backgrounds, we were fortunate enough to find Heather who joined us at the end of September. Heather quickly fitted in, embracing the reams of product information whilst not being phased by all the online systems. A Mum herself, she understood the work ethic alongside the critical balance of home life, whilst being a natural on the phone with both our suppliers and customers alike. The rapport she built was just one of the reasons that she soon progressed from working 3 days a week to full time. If you give us a ring now you will probably speak to Heather (if she’s not already on the phone) as she is our frontline customer service star.

As suspected, my little home office was bursting at the seams, so having another member of staff to squeeze in, I then took the daunting step of finding a ‘real’ office. Amazingly it didn’t take long and in October we moved RTG headquarters into Wharfebank Business Centre, an old converted mill, only a 5 minute drive from both our homes. Perfect! We had space…and windows…and neighbours…and meeting rooms…and I could walk away from work taking only what needed to be done that evening when my daughter had gone to bed, rather than realising I felt tired as it had got to midnight and I was still glued to the computer at home.

Extra help in the office also gave me time to step back and focus purely on looking for new products and potential items that we could provide as exclusives to our customers. I began by looking for different patterned materials and was able to source some super fabric which enabled us to start producing our own “Funky Stars” tents. Then, with the help of Stompa, we created the now, very popular Funky Stars Midsleeper, even commissioning our own photography to give the product a true RTG feel.

We continued the trend in strong colour ways by extending our ranges to include the Stompa Rondo Classic Cabin Bed and Casa 4 High Sleeper both with vibrant red and navy cushions, whilst other new lines we introduced from Gami, Parisot and For Kids have also proved really popular. With quality and price always in mind, developing our offering to present a wider choice of new products remains my key aim in the coming months.

As the saying goes it takes two to tango and the RTG team is no different. Alongside our office team works a second, small network of experienced professionals helping us deliver the RTG message far and wide. Take our social media guys, who have really been picking up the pace and communicating regularly with our followers with relevant news, reviews, company updates, world interest stories, health, competitions etc. So much so that we are very proud to announce we now have over 10,000 fans. Our blogging has now reached epic proportions and there is a wealth of information about life with children relevant to parents and grandparents alike. For example topics include How to decorate your child’s room, nutritional and sleep advice as well as these more personal views on life at RTG from me – all of which you can browse through at your leisure on our site.

Still, however much information we put out there, it’s your feedback that counts so please do let us know what you think… what your child wants… what you need…and of course how we’re doing. We really do value feedback that keeps us up-to-date, on our toes and helps us improve, both in terms of how we do things and what products we provide.

By Christmas we had settled well into our new office space, it was definitely home from home especially as we had brightened up all the wall space with canvasses of our lovely, bespoke photography. We had even managed to fill up the store cupboard with the usual office paraphernalia plus small items of stock and prototypes for potential new products. The run up to Christmas was busy but we snatched a few days off before the festivities and then took a deep breath ready for the Boxing Day Sale. We were delighted with response and with red hot phones the team really had their work cut out but as ever rose magnificently to the challenge.

Increasing enquiries and working through the holiday period, made us start to re-evaluate our customer services. Although online platforms are a great asset, it was apparent that some customers really valued the option of picking up the phone to talk to someone about what they needed or to have a guiding hand through the extensive ranges we feature on site. Although many queries could be resolved throughout our working day, we were aware a more personal service needed to be available for longer periods. In addition we pride ourselves in ensuring the accuracy of product information on site which is a daily task. Inevitably as we continue to extend our ranges this particular job takes more and more time – so our thoughts turned again to recruitment.

So here we are at the start of RTG’s 18th year – and what a year that is set to be. We have another new recruit, Clare joining us to provide essential web support and also be available to help our customers first hand on Saturdays. I’m delighted with a new range from Stompa, with an emphasis on storage and set to launch with us imminently, along with exclusively researched ranges of clocks, lamps, beanbags, cushions and throws to add the finishing touch to any bedroom or playroom. Outdoor play equipment is also planned to be introduced on site ready for summer – perfect entertainment for the holidays so fingers crossed for good weather.

The office truly has a real buzz about it and although we’re fine for now, I do keep looking at the larger office across the corridor from us…and wondering…hard to believe I used to do all this from home.

 

 

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