Twenty-one year old Gemma Lawton-Bryant of GLB Graphics won the Sole Trader of the Year award at the 2016 British Small Business Awards.
GLB Graphics is a bespoke, personalised gift service created by Gemma in 2014 midway through her degree.
The entrepreneurial spirit of Gemma was praised by the judges, with her company posting highly impressive revenues from a standing start and offering a quality and service level a cut above competitors. Here, she tells us what she puts her success down to.
What motivated you to start your company?
Honestly there wasn’t really that much motivation for me to start; it wasn’t ever a plan of mine to launch my own business. I really loved making stuff for my family, but then one of my friends suggested that I start selling my things on Etsy and I just thought ‘Why not!’. From there, everything started selling, I realised I actually really enjoyed doing it and it snowballed.
What were the barriers that stood in your way when you started?
The thing I struggled with most was having the time to work on my business. I started this when I was still at university and I also had a part-time job as a designer, so it was hard to get my name out there. I even made my uni work part of my company; we had to set up branding for an imaginary business in one project so I used the very real GLB Graphics for that!
You have had a lot of success culminating in winning Sole Trader of the Year, what are the milestones?
The award was one of the big ones, but when I finally got VAT registered, that’s when it finally hit me that I was actually doing quite well. It was all down to notonthehighstreet.com which promoted me and it all picked up so much from there.
There have been difficult moments obviously, where I have been too busy or I should have probably asked someone to help me but I managed to get through.
What are the next steps for you and GLB Graphics?
I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it because its been a whirlwind recently, but hopefully soon I’ll be recognised as a business in my own right rather than just a seller on notonthehighstreet. As grateful as I am to the platform for all the help I have received, it would be great to take more ownership of my brand.
What did your friends and family think when you set up the company? Did they give you much support at the start?
A lot of my friends don’t understand it; they think it’s a hobby. But my dad runs a business so he knows what it’s like. I actually rent part of a unit that he owns as part of my work space, so that has been a huge support for me, having my parents on board.
Nobody really understands what it’s like to be self-employed, they all think that it is all about me doing whatever I want and not really having a job.
Has success changed your lifestyle significantly?
I think success has had a positive effect on me. I am so motivated to work all the time; I literally never switch off. I don’t really feel the effects of that because I am always working but I think my friends and family do when I tell them I can’t come out. Some people see working as a chore so they can’t imagine working 24/7 like I seem to do.
Being self-employed is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Just the freedom of being able to do what I want and to make a career out of something I want is amazing for me.
What advice would you give to people just starting out?
The world is your oyster. Giving up is not something that I do so if something goes wrong I’ll keep trying until it goes right. Never give up, no matter how many times you get knocked back.
Congratulations to Gemma Lawton-Bryant on winning Sole Trader of the Year, we look forward to seeing further success from GLB Graphics.