Skin Care Spare Room Start-Up

Starting a home business is hard work and time-consuming in its own right (although definitely worth the slog I hear all you start-up business entrepreneurs shout from the comfort of your home office!) but getting a start-up going whilst you're still working in your day job? When do you sleep?!

Well, if your name is Charlotte Mills then your answer in the early years would be 'not often!'

Charlotte and her husband Andrew run a business called Nephria which sells luxury skin care products containing pure ground Jade, excavated from a mine in South Korea.

In 2006 Charlotte was browsing online when she discovered the brand; after ordering and testing some samples her 'why not try starting up a home-based business?' lightbulb pinged on and she found herself on a flight to the East Asian country!

Charlotte met with the Nephria family in South Korea, saw the business set-up and explored the wonderful Jade products that they produced. Despite the fact she already had a full-time job as a partner in an insurance practice she still found the time, and entrepreneurial ability to sign a contract and begin to sell Nephria in the UK directly from her home office desk in Bury, Lancashire.

Her spare room became the marketing hub for her new start-up: creating the website, and getting the products out there - all in the hours between her day job and grabbing a few winks of sleep!

Charlotte says that it was tough at times; in trying to keep everything going she often found herself staying up until 2 o'clock in the morning. Hands up all you home workers who do the same? (And then rely on some good quality coffee the next day to keep you awake?!)

Expanding A Start-Up Home Business 

Nephria uses pure ground jade in their home business products

When her Royal Navy boyfriend Andrew proposed to her she moved down to Portsmouth and began setting up her home business again from another spare room - although this time it was much larger and much more suited to becoming a home office.

The popularity of Nephria in the UK meant that in 2007 they took their start-up on full time.

Charlotte admits to finding it occasionally quite lonely - Andrew also joined the Naval Reserves and would sometimes be away from home on duties, leaving her to carry on by herself.

She says that to get through times like that you really do have to be disciplined and hungry for success. Which she obviously was!

Nephria is doing really well for the pair; I wondered how they, as a home working couple, managed to drum up publicity for their products?

They did for a while employ a PR agency, but the pair actually found that they did it better on their own. They managed to get Nephria into various press articles and also started appearing on shopping channels.

That gave them huge exposure and the business grew from there. Appearing on TV gave them that personal touch, which customers liked; they could see them on  screen, and then phone up and talk to them before buying the products.

They now sell Nephria in the UK (Beauty Mart in Harvey Nichols), as well as having launched in Germany last year. They're starting in Switzerland this coming winter. They are now beginning to have exposure in America and Asia, and with orders arriving from South Africa, Australia and America.

It sounds like Nephria is the ideal type of enterprise if you want to start a home business. All they need is their computer to keep on top of the orders, and then their fulfilment company sends out the items. Their overheads are minimal, which means they don't have to pay for rented space which, in this economic climate can often break a business.

Because their products are small and not bulky, they take some stock with them when they travel which is perfect in their current circumstances....Andrew now does Media Operations for the Royal Navy, and has been mobilised to Bahrain for six months, as well as working on the Cresta Run in the winter.

Working from home is perfect for Charlotte, as it means she can accompany her husband all over the world whilst continuing to run a very successful home-based business. It's clear that she loves what she does!

Her advice to others? 'Remember cash is king. If you can manage without a loan or rented premises it will stand you in good stead. Believe in yourself and your product; you're going to make mistakes on the way but learn from them!'

 We've got lots of other inspiring home business start-up stories for you - do have a read!