Cate from Petalina dolls is my Mumpreneur on the blog today; she shares with you how Petalina came to be and some valuable advice about business names and trademarks. Thanks so much for your time Cate 🙂
Who are you?
My name is Cate O’Neill and I’m married with two gorgeous girls (and a daft dog). I’m a creative soul and enjoy making things, whether knitting, sewing, baking, painting or planting the garden. I also love good food, Italian coffee and decent chocolate beckons me….
What do you do?
I’m the founder of Petalina (formerly Bambolina), an online shop selling traditional childrens dolls, dolls clothes and accessories. Many of the ranges that we sell can’t be found easily on the high street and when you visit Petalina you will be amazed at how many beautiful dolls are actually available. Being self employed means that I get to do everything the business requires whether the accounts, taking product shots, social media and updating the website. There are two particular aspects of my job which I adore. I love opening new season catalogues from our manufacturers and browsing through them deciding what to buy for Petalina. I also love to receive photos of our little customers clearly having a great time with one of our dolls.
When did you establish your business?
The idea for Petalina came to me in January 2006 and we opened for business in plenty of time for Christmas that year.
What made you start your own business?
By the time my girls were 3 and 6 I knew I needed something else to think about other than the continual cycle of cooking, washing and tidying up. I also wanted an income of my own so that I could buy guilt free shoes and handbags! Being a stay at home mum was also really important to me so whatever I chose to do needed to fit around the needs of my young family. My pre-children career had been in retail management and a friend suggested starting a mail order business.
It was only a matter of time before I realised that since having my girls I had been unable to find good quality dolls for them anywhere on the high street or internet. As a girl I had grown up with a family of Sasha dolls and remember spending many happy hours playing with them and desperately wanted my girls to have the same innocent fun with dolls as I had done. The penny dropped and Petalina was born.
What do you love about working for yourself?
Without doubt the best thing about working for myself is being able to fit in working hours around the needs of my family. I also have a small team of mums to help me and we all work part time. Most of what we need to do can be completed during school hours but we can all work at home at convenient times. I think flexibility is the key and together we manage.
Is there anything you do not like about working for yourself?
The buck stops with me and it’s difficult to know if a business decision I’ve made is going to work or not. As a result I have learned the hard way several times which has been expensive. I am always brimming with ideas but after 6 years I have finally realised that I should not rush into anything without giving it sufficient thought and seeking other opinions.
Having said that, there are so many benefits to working for myself that they outweigh the negatives by miles!
Is there anything you would go back and do differently if you could?
When I started my business in 2006 it was called Bambolina. I registered the business name but did not trademark it. A few years later I realised that another company had registered Bambolina as a trademark for a range of very cheap and ugly baby dolls, and they had even changed their logo so that it was a virtual copy of mine. As a small business I could not afford to fight a battle that I would no doubt lose as I wasn’t trademarked so I changed the name to Petalina in May 2012, and this time the name is well and truly trademarked!
What advice would you give to a Mum considering starting her own business?
Before you choose a business name you will need to complete thorough searches of business names and trademarks to ensure that your name is unique to your business and isn’t held by another business in your field. You can register your chosen business name at Start Biz for a fee and they will complete these searches for you. Business Link’s trademark checker has been particularly useful and I have also registered Petalina’s trademarks myself online via the Intellectual Property Office website. The whole process of registering a trademark can take a few months so you need to get the process started straight away. Also, I hadn’t even heard of trademark attorneys until this whole process started. These are the experts and will be able to help you with everything should you need it but their expertise comes at a price.