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Niamh Barker, Founder & Creative Director, The Travelwrap Company

Read for half an hour every day, that's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.

Before launching her business Niamh was a pharmacist by profession and worked in hospitals and then in the Pharma industry for 10 years.

The Travelwrap Company was founded in 2007 and the signature product, the original Scottish cashmere Travelwrap won The Luxury Gift of The Year the following year. In 2014 the business moved from selling mostly to retail to an e-commerce model and the Travelwraps are now sold directly to a growing global audience.

Other awards include, Best New Business (International Stevie awards for Women in Business) & The Travelwrap Company has been shortlisted for a Queen’s award in International Trade. Niamh was a finalist in the 2018 Natwest everywoman Awards.

Niamh is a champion and advocate of female entrepreneurship & enjoys reading running (on the beach) & meditation (@headspace). Favourite quote ‘Small change = incremental gain'.

Top tips

  • Career progression/building your business

    • Find a mentor- the best ones are all busy so have more than one voice of authority/opinion that you trust
    • Don’t try to do it on your own
    • Network/ Network….network
  • Resilience

    • Look for opportunities outside your comfort zone and commit to them…little steps!
    • Remember, in life everything changes and nothing stays the same
    • Cultivate a growth mindset (great book by Carol Dweck)
    • Try and remember failures are cunningly disguised growth opportunities
  • Networking 

    • Be a giver not a taker &  have a no strings attached attitude to doing something for people, you never know what the future holds and the chances are the favour will circle back to you at some way down the line
  • Personal Brand
    • At Travelwrap we know our customers are really interested in finding who is behind the brand and the story of Travelwrap.  We now use simple videos for our social platforms that are pieces to camera of me talking about my favourite Travelwraps/ Design ideas / Christmas tips etc…so I would say identify what your emotional appeal is and what your area of expertise is, I love talking women in business juggling home, family and business commitments….&  then just try and be yourself.
  • Financing your business

    • The Travelwrap Company has grown organically and we have funded the business through own savings and a bank loan in the early days and then Crowd Funding platform Funding Circle (which incidentally I would highly recommend over a bank loan and all that that entails)!
  • Access to role models

    • I have a business mentor that has supported me for the last 5/6 years. Simon has run a couple of big global businesses but not in the luxury sector so where he helps me is with generic business skills, financial insight & scaling our business. I also tune in to many female business women & leaders that that I admire or follow. Some of them are even travelwrap fans so a perfect fit! As I mentioned before, often the best role models and mentors are busy people so tapping into different networks for different skillsets makes sense.

 

The most valuable piece of advice someone has given you

In business - Understand the bigger picture numbers get a good FD on board as soon as you can afford to. My business was an expensive hobby for a few years until got a grip on the numbers and found my FD. Not paying attention to the numbers will be fatal for a business.

In Life - 2 things in life you need to work on: to have a happy fulfilling life, a purpose and good relationships… I love this advice from a chap called Ray Dalio in a book called Principles.

One key piece of advice to someone looking to progress

‘Read for half an hour every day, that's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest’  Warren Buffet

 

Three burning questions you had when started your business and the advice you would give yourself today

  • How do I protect my business idea? 
  • How do I find customers/ what is my business model?
  • How much is it all going to cost before I start to make money

I have learnt a huge amount about business over the last 10 years, a lot of it through my own mistakes and naivety! If I was to start my business again I would do it all very differently, I would certainly advise myself to work out some of the bigger finance issues before I started. I had no idea what a profit margin was for example or how to work out a retail price for a product.

I would also work out properly how to fund the initial stage of getting the product to market bearing in mind it takes a couple of years of trading for most businesses before it turns a profit and finally a marketing plan to acquire new customers.