Interview with Victoria Casebourne, founder of The Keepsake Company

Love to turn your hobby into a business that works around your family? Read how Victoria Casebourne did just that with The Keepsake Company.

What’s your career background?

I have a degree in computer engineering so I worked as a computer programmer straight from university. After about four years I realised it just wasn’t fulfilling me. I am a very creative person and I had lots of ideas but was never allowed to put them into practice.

I moved into working for a virtual learning environment for a set of colleges where I could use my ideas a bit more, but I was still being told what I could and couldn’t do and my creativity was being stifled. I needed a creative outlet and began a silver-smithing course during the evenings.

How did you turn your hobby into a business?

After a couple of years I left the 9-5 job and began working for myself. I had practised my silver design and had plans to become a jewellery designer. In order to display my jewellery I decided that sets of hands cast in plaster holding each other would be really effective and eye-catching.

I could find nothing like it in the UK so I imported materials from the USA and started 3D casting. With my Techy background I had set up my own webpage for jewellery and baby keepsake jewellery.

I remember casting a friend’s baby’s hands one evening just because it was a fun thing to do. When I put them on the website and people saw them they all wanted them! The sales took off massively because at the time I was the only supplier in the UK for these 3D Casting kits. It was definitely my USP at the time!

What happened when you opened your first shop?

I decided to open a shop, and after about a year I moved to much larger premises. While this was a very exciting step it was also my biggest challenge. I entered into a business partnership with someone which simply did not go well and when we separated I experienced a lot of commercial sabotage.

It was one of the most difficult times for me. I work on trust and am very much a “giver” but I had to learn that not everyone was like that when it came to business. It was a harsh lesson.

How did your business change when you became a mum?

I closed the shop and began selling my jewellery and keepsakes online and through craft fairs for a number of years. I then had my first child so I wound it right back but still kept it going so I could have the best of both worlds with work and my family.

When my child was six months old I was being approached so often to hold training courses that I took on a member of staff to help mange things behind the scenes.

I could see how lucky I was hearing stories of mums dreading having to go back to work after maternity leave and I decided I wanted to use what I had learned over the ten years to help other people to create their own businesses.

The Keepsake Company was then diversified to offer business opportunities for people to start their own keepsake businesses with all the support they could possibly need.

Who is your target audience?

My target audience tends to be mums. But I know when I started my own business I wasn’t a mum so I do feel that the sooner you start on your dreams the better. My audience is definitely a female trend.

What’s your USP?

My USP now is that I offer as much support as a business needs in similar style to a franchise, but without the pitfalls. So there are no royalty fees, no paying for other people’s marketing, no being tied in to only buying your supplies from one place.

Sometimes I have to advertise alongside franchises because that’s what people are looking at initially because they don’t realise what alterative option there is.

I completely appreciate the role of franchises will be perfect for some people but I did not want my business model to be tying someone into something – it would be like they were still tied into a job. I wouldn’t want myself to be sacrificing time with my family because I had a dream of running my own company but I was tied to a financial commitment of a franchise.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

My most successful way of marketing what I do and spreading the word is through SEO and organic traffic. I occasionally pay for online adverts for leads on Facebook but my effort goes into SEO.

I suppose it’s because of my background but I have also seen very real results this way. In the past I have paid thousands for magazine adverts etc, even having a high street shop. But it has always been the optimised web page that has shown the best results.

I think people who are specifically searching online for what I sell are already well on the way to committing to a purchase.

Social media is an important tool but I find it impossible to keep up to date and it’s not the love of my life. I now pay for someone to manage the social media side of things. Blogging suits my personality much better!

What’s your proudest moment?

Wow, I am not sure. The proudest moment that comes to mind is probably not the biggest achievement but I was at an event and was chatting to people and a lady said to me “Oh you’re the Victoria Casebourne!” It sticks in my mind and I think wow, I’ve been recognised for my work.

Who inspires you?

It’s very hard to narrow down one person thinking of big mentors who I follow or a book that I’ve read (which I do constantly!).

My biggest inspiration without doubt is the ladies I work with who have started their dream businesses. People who jump in and make it happen deserve all our respect.

How do you balance your work with your family?

Balancing work with my family comes in ebbs and flows when work takes over or children take over. I think the best way to deal with this is to go with the flow appreciate it can be all or nothing on one side or the other. It’s a constant reminder of why you’re doing it.

I need to keep pulling it back and realise I’ve got the rest of my life to grow the biggest business I can imagine, it doesn’t have to happen right now. I’ve got a two and a five-year old at the moment and I don’t want to miss out on time with them.

My father in law recently said to me I should get a little job because it would be easier! What I do now doesn’t feel like work. It’s this big passionate project that we’re doing together. I feel I have total control over my life that I could not imagine finding in any job. It’s certainly not an easy road but I have the flexibility I need.

What are your three pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Believe in yourself – if you are always doubting in yourself you will start to believe it and set yourself up to fail.
  2. Prepare to make sacrifices – but not to the exclusion of all others. If a dream is worth fighting for you need time to work on it. If you are employed in the day you will need to give up your evenings to grow your business of an evening.
  3. Get support – a huge piece of advice. You can do it on your own but it’s painful! With like- minded people behind you and with you, you build confidence to go much further and have a hand to hold during the inevitable wobbles.

You can find out more about The Keepsake Company on their website.