The Secret Of My Success: Archie Archer, Entrepreneur
We recently caught up with Archie Archer, founder of Contraband International and winner of the 2011 NatWest everywoman Athena Award to find out more about how she started and grew her business, and the challenges she has faced throughout her career. Contraband International, a corporate entertainment agency that prides itself in providing clients with innovative themes and ideas for every occasion, emulates the meaning of success thanks to Archie’s brilliant business mind.
An entrepreneur at an early age
Archie, who set up Contraband in 2003, always seemed to have entrepreneurial blood running through her veins. “I began street trading whilst at University braiding hair. I used to earn £1,000 - £2,000 a week sitting on the streets of Oxford during the Easter and summer holidays”. She discovered she had the knack to sell, and learnt her sales pitch in six different languages. Not bad for a beginner!
Following University in 1995, she sold everything and travelled to India with £1,000 in her back pocket which is where she started her business. Archie realised that there was a niche in henna tattooing at public events, which is how her company evolved from a manufacturer in India to the ‘service’ organisation it is today. Contraband has organically grown over the years, but morphed into the entertainment industry it is today following the birth of her son in 2003.
Motivation and determination: the key to success
Archie has always been extremely motivated and her determination has ultimately led to her success: “I’ve always worked for myself since University, and always wanted a sports car. I believed the only way to achieve this would be to set up my own business.” Today her business has over 1,500 acts on the books from across the globe and in 2011 they sent over 6,000 acts to work. Contraband recently moved in to a 3,700 square foot office and they now have 12 staff on full-time contracts. Some of her highlights include winning the 2011 NatWest everywoman Athena Award and the Event Supplier of the Year 2012 at the Event Production Awards.
With success comes struggles, and Archie has had to face a few since the start of her business. She found juggling a baby and increased workload incredibly difficult. Three months following the birth of her son, Archie hired a full-time child minder as she was busy working ten hour days to keep her business going. In following years, Archie had a terrible experience with her bookkeeper, where Archie wondered whether her company was solvent or not. Fortunately, she turned her loss into profit, though Archie admittedly explains “It was a worrying period” for her company. Dealing with difficult situations can be a struggle for anyone who owns their own business, but with determination and willpower, and taking the time to regularly review your business goals and action plans to set priorities, these obstacles can be overcome – as Archie proves.
Overcoming difficult challenges
Archie is always seeking the chance to learn and grow. Her motivation comes from wanting to feel that she has not wasted any time: “I lost my mum when I was young and I know life is incredibly precious. Every day counts, particularly when you’re a mum. It’s about being an inspiring role model for them as they grow up.” Archie has never really lacked self-confidence, she's always believed she could achieve whatever she set her mind to, although does admit that a lot of her learning was done ‘the hard way’: “Self-belief is vital and key to having the confidence to succeed”.
Archie has proven successful in every way – juggling both a family and having a thriving business truly has certainly been a challenge. “Honestly, I don’t compare myself to friends and peers; however I am always fascinated by other business women who have built up businesses whilst juggling being a parent. It’s no mean feat”.
Archie’s tips to achieve business success:
Set yourself goals.
Being a parent and a business woman is no mean feat, balance the two.
Make your working environment fun – there’s always banter in the office, it makes the job fun and initiates great productivity. If you treat your team with fairness and respect, they will give it back.
Word of mouth recommendations are great but having a strong Google presence is important. No one should underestimate the power of online business.
If you don’t ask you simply won’t get.