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Samantha’s five big lessons for small business success

Words: John Worsey

Something unexpected has happened since I wrote about Albert Road’s community of independent businesses in the last edition of Southsea Lifestyle. An entrepreneur I know well has taken the lease at 2C Albert Road, and will soon join them.  

Since 2015, I’ve seen Southsea Bathing Hut (“natural skincare from the seaside”) grow from a home-based business, making products on the kitchen table, into an international award winner with a growing network of stockists. And I know better than most how hard its founder, Samantha Worsey, has worked to make this happen. Because we’re married. 

Sitting at our kitchen table (no longer covered in clays, botanicals and essential oils), I asked her what she has discovered about building a successful business. Here’s what she said.  

Visualise your goals

“The concept of Southsea Bathing Hut arrived in my head fully formed: A shop selling artisan natural skincare, made by me, alongside carefully sourced coastal interior goods. I started with nine soaps and some handmade towels at the Love Southsea Market, but this is what I was always building towards. If you have a clear vision of where you’re going, it’s much easier to make the right choices and deal with setbacks along the way.”

Don’t procrastinate, act!

“I could have delayed all kinds of things – from the decision to quit my old job, through to the choice of premises for the shop. It’s not as if I’m always super-confident that everything will work. Big leaps forward always feel risky, but because I know what my goals are, if I see an opportunity to get closer to them, I jump on it. No business grows by standing still and waiting.”

Listen to your customers

“Although I had a vision of what the business would become, our customers have really brought it into sharper focus. Almost every product I’ve developed has been a response to customer demand. Starting on markets was brilliant for testing ideas interactively. We’ve got a really broad range now, and many products exist because of customers’ skincare needs or desires.”

Have the courage to say “no”

“About six months after we launched, an international retailer found us online, and asked to place a large order. Then they tried to beat me down on price, before fulfilling it. I could see that this kind of relationship might damage us. Delivering their orders would take so much time, we’d neglect our own customers. And at the price they wanted, we’d be unable to grow. So I walked away. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.”

It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice

“Southsea Bathing Hut has been privileged to win some great awards. And I’ve left the ceremony early because I’ve got a street market the next morning. Never let successes go to your head. All that matters is making your customers happy. I’d much rather be out having a fun chat with them about our products than sitting at home, patting myself on the back. There’s always more to do. 

I can’t wait to open the shop at the end of May and take things to the next level.”

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