THE THIRTY-SEVENTH INSTALLATION OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves.Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are.
Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #BelleBoss series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart. Even if that means breaking a few rules and many societal prejudices along the way.
1. Could you give us an introduction to yourself?
I’m Niki Mahon, a 26-year-old female entrepreneur and product designer, founder of Nikita By Niki, https://www.nikitabyniki.com/
an online store specialising in jewellery and homeware products. I grew up in Kent with 2 older brothers. I went to our local Grammar school and although did well across the board in A Levels and GCSEs, I loved art and all things creative.
2. You have used social media to grow your business, what inspired you to capture your journey on social media?
I had an Instagram account when it first became a thing, years and years ago. I remember reaching around 10K after leaving university and it actually felt rather strange to me. Having a page with dressy pictures but without a purpose. I was applying for jobs around this time and wanted to be taken seriously after completing my degree.
I felt my Instagram page was encouraging the wrong kind of male attention and could give potential employers the wrong impression of me. For this reason, I completely deleted my account! When I started my new job, I had a bit of spare time in my evenings which I wasn’t used to at university, so I decided to be productive and start selling my old clothes, jewellery and makeup on eBay and Depop.
It was then I realised it was a mistake to have removed my Instagram and lose all of those followers. So I started Instagram again, https://www.instagram.com/nikimahon/?hl=en
but this time with a purpose to sell some of my clothes and jewellery which seemed to be going well. I got a taste for packaging and shipping items and something clicked.
You essentially started your business post-university while working for a company developing mobile apps. How did you make the transition to creating a fully fledged company?
So whilst working for that company in London, I started selling some bits on the side. I realised in 2012, beginning of 2013 that I was onto something and started to look into what products I could bring in and sell to make a profit rather than keep wiping out my existing wardrobe! In December 2014 I organised my first editorial photoshoot and launched the first Nikita By Niki website, selling statement necklaces which were all the rave at the time.
I wanted to climb the ladder at my existing job and prove my worth but I was also devoted to creating this. I made it happen in the evenings and weekends. I don’t even remember it being particularly difficult at the time because I just wanted to do it. Setting up was the fun part for me, I love all things technical and creative so branding and designing the website, although challenging, was enjoyable.
It was the packaging goods early hours of the morning that was the testing part. My boss at the time was very supportive of my little venture. I think because I’d been selling things on the side as I joined so there was a lot of transparency there.
I continued setting up and running a start-up business whilst working full time for 2 years until I eventually started earning the same amount of money with the business. It was then I knew it was time to focus on it more. I went part-time for 6 months but it just didn’t buy me the time that I needed. I eventually made the big decision to leave and give this my all. I remember there being lots of tears!
3. What has been the biggest challenge of your business that you did not anticipate when you started?
The hardest, most exhausting part of running a business is hiring and training a team. Passing on my baby and trusting people to do things how I would be a difficult one for me. I was lucky with my first employee in that it was my cousin and we got along beautifully. When she moved away to Bristol, I hired a local mother who I wanted to give a chance to after a positive interview. Long story short, it didn’t work out as she behaved unprofessionally on many occasions and I was stripped of a lot of confidence and drive as business women.
I felt betrayed and as though I couldn’t trust anyone. Luckily, this opened the door to Lucy who is my young, sweet, professional intern turned Marketing Manager who is the ultimate fit for the role, who I hope will stay with me to the top! It sometimes takes something bad for something great to happen.
My lesson was to not be too trusting as the lines were somewhat blurred after working with a family from the beginning. I didn’t anticipate there to be challenged when hiring as I took the interviewing stage very seriously and like to think I’m a good boss and judge of character.
To be honest, I think it was bad luck, but a hugely valuable lesson was learned and if it didn’t happen when it did, I wouldn’t have found Lucy!
4. You are very involved in the design process of your business products- what have been your favourite designs/ products?
2018 was the biggest year for unique designs for Nikita By Niki.
From January it was all about working on beautiful gift ideas for Christmas, which was a great success. My favourite has to be my new Crystal-Infused Water Bottles which I’m about to release in the next few weeks!
It was funny as I was so close the cancelling the idea altogether in the fear that the business has spent too much money on new designs in 2018, but I’m so glad I didn’t as I feel these are going to be our most successful Amazon product to date after our Marble Metal Water Bottles
do so well. Also, I love my new bumblebee and ladybird necklaces
as they are nothing like I’ve seen elsewhere and came to life from a drawing.
5. How do you balance being a female entrepreneur and having your own personal time?
My secret is sticking to 9-6. Its the most manageable, sociable way to go about running a business, especially now I have staff. Of course, I work on the odd weekend if I need but I award myself 2 days off a week.
After spending years working two full-time jobs setting the business up, I feel like I owe that to myself. I love heading home at half five after working to my lovely new apartment, cooking some dinner and watching a bit of Netflix with my boyfriend. Entrepreneurs can often work sporadically throughout the day because their time is so flexible, but I don’t believe this is always very productive.
I work HARD from 9-6 with little distractions in a sociable office. Mentally and physically, I think it is the best way to maintain a positive outlook on work, rather than it eating away at you over time and feeling lonely.
6. How has your family supported you with your business?
They’re great. Cautiously supportive. Always ready to give advice as well as push me. I rent the office space at my dad’s warehouse with his staff and despite the fact we’re all pretty cramped in there, he won’t kick me out which is very kind!
My cousin was the one that pushed me to move onto Amazon as there is no ceiling with what you can earn.
The last two years have been incredible for us on Amazon despite it being the most challenging, confusing platform ever. His slogan was always ‘If it was easy, everyone would be doing it’.
My mum is my original supporter. Not one to comment on finances or anything too technical, but so incredibly hands-on from back when it was a bedroom business to coming in twice a week at our new office. I can always count on her and the best part is, she loves the social aspect and it makes her feel important and valuable after retiring.
8. What has been your biggest achievement/ milestone for you either professionally or personally?
I would say leaving my full-time job was a huge milestone for me. I say this because it was such a gradual, cautious decision, not a risky, sudden one. For that reason I’m proud. I proved to everyone that my business idea has legs and can support me enough to focus on it entirely. It grew from nothing to a proper job for me and being the control freak that I am, this was the best move for me! Because no one could doubt the potential of the business at this point the atmosphere around me leaving was very positive. It was time for me to get my weekends and evenings back a little bit and just do what I love full time.
9. How can people learn how to use the internet/ social media to grow there business?
I don’t think it’s something you learn from a manual, book or tutorial. You need to know Social Media and use them often yourself. Of course, the odd YouTube video is useful when learning how to create a sponsored post but other than that, I feel you need to be a fan of the platform before using it for business.
10. What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
For this year, I want to keep focusing on Amazon as it has quickly become the backbone to the business in that the income is far more consistent than Instagram sales pushes. I’m going through a bit of a love/hate relationship with Instagram at the moment as it is so attached with my personal life and how I look and I want people to follow me for the right reasons.
I want my page to reflect me more as a businesswoman as opposed to an ‘influencer’.Also rather than creating new products, I want to focus on making the ones I have the best on the market.
I will be creating more colour options, better quality materials for existing products. If It’s not broke, make it better anyway!
11. Could you tell us about your new line?
Homeware is something I am enjoying so much at the moment. I will be working on some exciting ideas for Christmas again this year. The more I focus on beautiful, quality giftware the more credible the brand and the better the sales and reputation do overall.
I’m very excited!