Cath Kidston: 'I never set out to make a big business or a lot of money. I set out with a passion for an idea'

LONDON — Cath Kidston is, to many people, the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. A business which began life in twenty years ago as a small shop selling floral tea-towels and brightly embroidered furniture has since transformed into a global brand.

Her instantly recognisable designs can now be found in 70 UK stores and a further 130 around the world,

Business Insider caught up with Kidston at an event in London hosted by the Budding Entrepreneur Club, where she told us about the challenges

“Half the challenge of starting something up is going through all the difficult bits and pieces that come up,” she says.

“I think the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur is having the confidence to take that leap, to go from a 9-to-5 job somewhere into creating their own business. In the end, I made a decision that I didn’t want to look back later and think, ‘Why didn’t I ever try?’ That would feel worse than not trying.”

“But it was that fear factor that held me back for a long time: Fear of a lack of security,” she says.

Many young entrepreneurs think they have a good idea but are unsure whether they’d make viable business models. How can you gauge that?

“Obviously you need to do research: I made a business plan, I went to an accountant, and I laid everything out. It never worked out remotely like the business plan, but I put the structure in place and the pattern in place about the worst case scenario and so on.

“I have to say I never set out to make a big business or a lot of money. I set out with a passion for an idea, and what I did was I did my day job which is I was trained as an interior designer. And so I ran my interior design business for 5 years, in conjunction with setting the company up. And it took a long time for it to take off. So I was very, very cautious.

“Holding on to too much of a business is difficult”

Kidston says that most of the young entrepreneurs she encounters
don’t have a whole skill package required to run a business. That becomes a problem when they try to run every facet of a growing company, she says.
“This wonderful guy came to see me the other day wanting help with his business. I told him to bring his business plan. He arrived and said, ‘It’s all in my head.’ Well, that was great, but he needed to work with somebody who could help him articulate his idea. Sometimes holding on to too much of a business is the problem.”

“When people try and do everything themselves and don’t acknowledge what their weak spots are, it’s quite difficult.”

That is not a modern issue, Kidston says. “It’s a real balance between bringing people in who you need in order to grow but also not giving away too much too soon. Sometimes people will give away a huge stake in the business. And actually they’d have been better to have paid a person to do a job and retained a little more. So it’s an issue of common sense, really.”

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