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When it comes to our careers, a lot of the time we end up pursuing an interest but perhaps not a passion. We’re often motivated to stick to ‘the day job’ because of financial pressures. Increasingly though, more of us are rolling the dice, willing to take a chance to find something that helps us get up in the morning and feel excited for the working day ahead. Hayley Miles, from clothing company Pig & Pip, is one such entrepreneur. We chat to her about the leap into starting her own company, during a lockdown, and the lessons she’s learned in that time.

Teacher by day, seamstress by night

Hayley Miles Pig & Pip

I had been a teacher for 13 years before founding Pig & Pip. It’s something both me and my husband did. Like most, this was my day job. Lesson planning, teaching, and helping the next generation thrive is where my training and focus had been for many years. But my real passion, making clothing, has always been there, ever since I watched the Sound of Music. It was this movie that inspired me to make clothing. So, at any opportunity, I’d be making clothing for my little ones; costumes especially seemed like the perfect excuse.

My little hobby started to generate lots of interest among friends and family. I’d be asked to make little baby trousers and from there the special requests came in; could I make something from a fabric they loved, could I make a top like this, an outfit like that. 

When a life-changing event takes place, it often encourages you to stand still for a moment and take stock and that’s effectively what happened for me. We were returning to the UK after teaching in the UAE after 7 years and I wanted something with more flexibility. By the time we arrived back, we were in the midst of a global pandemic. Certainly, there was plenty of change happening. It was this huge shift and contributing events that encouraged me to take the leap and turn my passion into a business. Pig & Pip was born.

Honing the skills

I learn by trade; it’s how I’ve always found my way with making clothing. Being a passion project and something I could do at every opportunity, I built on the basics I’d learned. YouTube videos were particularly helpful to build and develop the skills. Of course, it wasn’t just the making I had to learn when it came to developing a business. I had to venture into sourcing, marketing, finance, networking and develop so many more skills to help me launch and develop my company. There were certainly a few challenges to overcome and learn along the way and I learn something new every day.

For example, I was keen from the outset to work with organic materials but to get the best pricing on materials (and therefore keep prices reasonable), you need to buy in large quantities. As such, it is important to find fabrics that are going to have the broadest appeal. There was an element of gambling, initially when it came to sourcing because of this, having to guess what people were going to like. There was a whole lot of economics at play. 

It’s hard not to make comparisons when you’re a digital business

My business started with a website and Instagram presence predominantly and when you’re in that landscape, where algorithms influence much of who sees your content, it can be hard not to compare yourself to others- why are they seemingly getting more likes, comments, and interest than me? I had to tell myself a number of times, a lot of this was outside of my control. So, I took a more proactive approach, in addition to the digital medium, I connected with local boutiques and shops to feature and sell my products – effectively, I was renting a space within their shop. I found particular success selling products in shops in and around the village and towns I grew up in, my products being promoted as a creation by a local and the support here was really encouraging to see and helped me to see the potential and excitement in my business.

Something else that I’ve found challenging with a digital based business is feeling like I am never switched off. I always want to maintain a high level of customer service and presence which does mean constantly checking in. I’m finding ways to balance this out a little more now.

The things that have helped me most…

If you’re considering taking the plunge and starting your own business, here are somethings I’ve learned that I’ve found very helpful:

  1. Try and get a physical and virtual presence – if you don’t have a product to sell, you could always do a talk around the services you offer or the support you’ve received or your own top tips.
  2. Networking: Talk with local business owners, small business networking groups, get involved in an Instagram group chat. It’s likely the concerns and struggles you experience have been experienced by someone else and the community are always willing to help support and develop small and new businesses.
  3. Look to free business services: Business Wales have tutorial videos that have helped me learn some of the core business skills that I now use every day.
  4. Prepare to be flexible: There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 job when you run your own business. You may find that you need to work evenings and weekends to meet the demands of the business but it also means you can choose your hours to ensure you don’t miss those key family moments. Never feel guilty for taking a few hours off to go for a coffee with a friend either, it’s just as important to take some time for you as it is to dedicate to your family and your business. Sometimes, it’s those moments that provides that clarity on challenges you may be facing.
  5. Spend that time and creating that shop window, that is what people see and makes the interest. Bad pictures, spelling mistakes, people won’t invest. Also, you can’t please everyone – if you do, you dilute your brand and where you want to be.

Follow Hayley’s journey over on Instagram (@pigandpip). I’d also highly recommend taking a look at the website: www.pigandpip.co.uk and all those gorgeous children’s clothing.

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