We are going through a major growth spurt at AA, and like any growth spurts it’s a bit weird, tough and a rapid learning curve. We bumbled along for years, working our asses off and I moaned and groaned about why we weren’t more successful and recognised. Well, now I’m eating those words. Opportunities are coming through the door thick and fast – literally every month major ones from major players. Days feel surreal. Four or five years back if you told me I would be overnighting in Paris, flying onto Shanghai whizzing back to London for a few days shoot, about-turning and flying back out to Hong Kong, getting invited to have lunch with the VP of Google and Chrissie Rucker founder of the White company, and offered biz flights to check out a first class lounge in the Middle East I wouldn’t particularly have believed you – but there you go. I think I miss those days!
We are employing way more people from ever before, (speaking of, we’re hiring for both our London stores – fancy a job?). It’s feeling crazy, exciting yes but even a little out of control and I LIKE TO BE IN CONTROL. I think that’s the thing that I’m finding the hardest to be honest. I used to have my nose in every part of this business and know every single thing about it and now I don’t. Obviously I oversee everything ultimately, but I’ve got to accept that I don’t know when every product has landed in the country, that I’m not the one personally dotting every i and crossing every t, proof-reading the new brochure, that I can’t just pootle around both stores once a week anymore to tidy up the shelves and do a spot of restyling. Especially as we now have this whole other side the wholesale side – crazier and way more complicated time consuming and mind blowing than the retail side. If you’re wanting to grow your biz hold onto your seat belts let me tell you, because it’s a roller coaster – here are some ways of how to do just that.
OPEN ANOTHER LOCATION
We’ve got lots of concessions now. Our own Abigail Ahern Flowers stand-alone store in Heal’s Tottenham Court Road, plus concessions in all the Heal’s stores (soon to go into their Leeds store too which we are very excited about), Selfridges in London and Manchester and some big brands in the States, including my all-time favourite garden centre, Terrain.
DEVELOP YOUR OWN LABEL
This is the one thing that has singularly and most importantly turned our business around. We are the designers and producers of so many of our products now – yes that does cause headaches (correction – migraines) but it’s made a big difference. It’s massively expanded the number of people who are getting to know about us, and given us control of the whole supply chain. That’s both good and bad of course.
We’re shipping out more product than ever before all over the world, and as a result we have had to move our main warehousing to a managed warehouse up north. That brings with it it’s own crazy amount of paperwork, procedure, logistics… not to mention cost but hey. You don’t want to hear about that. Soon the own-label collection is going to blow up to be much, much larger too.
COLLABORATE & DIVERSIFY
Align yourself with similar businesses, again it gets your name out there more. Diversify too – this has been huge for our biz growth as it allows my company to have multiple streams of income. There’s the wholesale side, the retail side and then me (which sounds weird) but as Katherine our PR guru explains, the ‘me side’ really is a big part of the biz and the brand whether I like it or not! The books, speaking engagements, design schools, brand collabs, columns, etc. is a big part of the business now. I always thought no one would ever bother to read this blog (well maybe Gem, but actually she never does!), let alone speaking engagements or having magazines from Japan to the States to Sweden interested in interviewing me. Weird how things happen.
TARGET OTHER MARKETS
Look further afield to Europe, Asia, America. We’re in the international press a lot now, which all helps market share and brand awareness and thus we’re sending products all over the place.
All of this takes time but when it kicks off its literally like being on a run-a-way train. It feels as if the world is going by at break neck speed and suddenly you might find yourself wondering if you should move that 5am wake up call to 3.30!