When Emma De Vere Hunt found that her son had grown out of his toys, she quickly realised that there was a gap in the market for quality outdoor activity kits. Battlebox was launched to help children have their very own outdoor adventure, with activities including anything from den building to camping. StyleAble spoke to Emma about starting her business and family life…
“Before I started my business life was pretty busy! My daughters, Lucy and Alice, were aged 10 and 12 and my son Edward 6 years old. I was working part time, organising weddings at a beautiful stately home nearby. It was always a bit of a juggle, particularly as we didn’t have any family nearby to help, but it worked reasonably well as most of my work would be at weekends. I could be around for the children during the week and in the holidays and my husband could look after them at the weekend.
It was when my son Edward was 6 years old that I realised he had grown out of his traditional wooden toys.
I could see him being pushed in the direction of computer and gadget type toys. He was naturally a country boy, liking nothing better than being outside climbing trees and making dens, but all the toys that were available seemed to point him in the opposite direction – sitting on the sofa!
So, together we started looking for good quality adventure kit. Not only would he have fun with them, but he would also learn some really useful skills like reading a compass, morse code, surviving in the wild or setting up camp. I hoped these activities would also encourage him to develop outdoor hobbies that would last a lifetime and inspire a real love of our beautiful countryside.
BattleBox is born:
I think my children have really enjoyed watching BattleBox grow literally from the kitchen table – with us all packing up customer orders until midnight – to a company that is now co-branding with one of the most famous adventurers of our times, Bear Grylls.
Introducing BattleBox to the market place has not been easy. Not having a physical presence on the high street and being on a tight budget, we had no funds for marketing our website. We had to work out a way to get the BattleBox brand out there. The Charity Fairs held around the country throughout the year proved to be the perfect way to establish our brand and make direct contact with our target market. Through these Fairs, customers were able to see our products for themselves and we were able to build brand loyalty and obtain valuable customer feedback at the same time.
Initially, I spent £500 on stock to take to a small Summer Fair at the children’s school so that we could test the market. We totally sold out on the day and when we realised how popular it all was, decided to reinvest the money we had made into the next fair. I also had some money my Grandmother had left me which I used to create the website and buy stock. She had her own company so I think she would have approved! The Fairs have been a great way to market BattleBox, operating like Pop Up Shops all around the country with the added benefit of paying for itself and also generating a good income at the same time. So out of adversity came opportunity!
The support of my family has been absolutely invaluable. They have all been involved right from the beginning. Helping to pack up Christmas parcels for customers until 2am in the morning, loading up my car in the pouring rain, helping me at Fairs and endlessly listening to me talking through ideas and plans. They have been there for the wonderfully exciting times like winning the Best Outdoor Toy Award and being invited on to The Apprentice to sell our Den Kits but also when I feel like collapsing in a heap and simply giving up!
I would say that the most important factor is to totally believe in your product. If you don’t passionately believe in what you are doing, how can you expect anyone else to be? If you do have this belief and passion in the product, then it makes it easier to soldier on through the difficult times.
Never simply take no for an answer, there is always a way through. Push the boundaries and keep learning, try to make your business different and stand out from the crowd.
When you have your own business it is incredibly difficult to ever cut off totally, it is all consuming. However, it is important to try and immerse yourself in whatever it is that you are doing in that moment to the best of your ability. It helps me to have two notebooks, one for home and one for work, so that when I get home I try and put my work book away and can then concentrate on my home ‘ to do’ list – it doesn’t always work but at least it helps me to try and refocus.
As a family we have had to learn to be super organised and to plan in advance. My work is reasonably flexible but come Christmas Fair season then the family know that for those few months I am flat to the boards travelling all over the country and everyone has to rather fend for themselves! I would also hope that this has shown them not to be afraid of having a go at doing what they really love, to embrace the challenges and not be afraid of trying out new things even though that means sometimes finding themselves outside of their comfort zone. Through all the ups and downs, it has been a steep learning curve for us all, but also a huge adventure none of us would have wanted to miss!”