Behind the business: Roz Mabon’s hard work story

Starting up

23 July 2019

Roz, owner of Paper Ribbons

It takes a lot of early starts and late nights to run your own business. From the first customer of the day to the final close of the cash register, passion and commitment are the key ingredients that can help make it a success. 

It’s hard work, but for Roz Mabon, owner of the Paper Ribbons gift store in Bo’ness, helping a customer find that one perfect gift makes it all worthwhile.

Here, Roz speaks to AXA about what drove her to start her own business, the challenges and highlights she’s faced over the last 10 years, and why hard work isn’t so difficult when you’re doing what you love.

 

What inspired you to start your own business?

I worked for a bank for 18 years and when they announced they were restructuring, I decided to take my redundancy.  

I’d just had my second child at the time, so I still needed to work, but my maternity leave gave me some time to think over my next step. I had started using Bo’ness town centre a lot more and realised that there was nowhere that I could really walk to for nice cards or gift wrap without going further afield.

I’d always dreamed of owning my own business, so I decided that if I was going to invest my redundancy in anything, my own gift shop seemed like a good bet!

I opened Paper Ribbons in April 2010 and it’s flown in ever since. I can’t believe we’re coming up to ten years of business! Where does the time go?

 

How did you find starting up your own business?

I went to the Business Gateway to get some information on starting a business, but a lot of the advice they gave was ‘do market research first’ and ‘find out if there’s demand’, rather than providing tips on how to manage the practical stuff.

But in my head, I knew owning a gift shop was something that I had a real passion for and what I really wanted to do, so I just went for it.

Since then, we’ve always stuck to our original vision for the shop. It would have been really easy to go down the route of bringing in cheaper stock or items we didn’t believe in just because they might sell more. But we’ve stuck to our guns.

We knew we wanted to sell quality, contemporary goods and we stuck to that – even though some people maybe thought ‘I don’t know if Bo’ness is ready for this!’

 

How has Paper Ribbons been received on the high street?

Really, really well. We’ve been here for 10 years now, and we actually moved to bigger premises in October last year. We were in a smaller shop but decided to take the plunge and expand. So now we’re in a bigger shop and a better location.

Bo’ness is a small town, so it doesn’t have many flagship stores. A lot of the high street is quite independent. Because we don’t get the investment for a big Marks and Spencer or a Primark or anything, our town is made up of small or local businesses.

Footfall is good but in retail it can definitely have its ups and downs. No two days are the same. Cash flow can be a nightmare. But on the whole when it comes to doing our annual accounting, the figures are pretty strong and consistent – there’s just no consistency when it comes to planning a day or week or month!

 

 

Is there such a thing as an average working day?

It really depends. We’re open Monday to Saturday but there’s no rhyme or reason to a typical day.

If I’m not serving customers I’m rearranging the stock in the shop. A lot of it is paperwork. I’ve got VAT and lots of horrible things to do, but I much prefer to restock the shop and remerchandise. I like knowing what’s selling, what customers looking for, and what products they’re getting tired of.

We have a lot of repeat customers and they don’t want to see the same things in our shop every time they come in, so we have to keep things fresh by keeping our finger on the pulse and on top of trends.

You do get to know your customers, it’s that kind of business. Because it’s a small town, generally most of the people are regulars, so you do become quite friendly with everyone and get to know what they buy and what they like.

 

Why is hard work such an important value for you?

Whether it’s a business, school, sport or anything, to get anything back from something you have to work hard. It doesn’t cost much to work hard.  And it helps when you’re doing something you love.

People come into our shop for the full all-round service. When someone leaves with something gift wrapped – whether it’s a £2 thing, a £10 thing or a £200 thing – you want to make sure they’re thinking ‘You go in there and you get this level of service,’ or ‘They’re always really friendly and really helpful’. It’s something you should take pride in.

 

What have been the highlights of running your own business?

The best thing is getting customer feedback. Hearing that somebody is really happy with a purchase, or that they’ve come in wanting that one impossible gift and they’ve found it in here is great.

I want to make people’s lives easier. In a world where everyone’s so busy, time poor and stressed, I like it when a customer comes in and I can try to calm everything down and help them find what they need.

Moving shop and expanding the business was obviously a big highlight. We’ll never be millionaires out of this – we often say that this job is a hobby with pocket money – but we can work it round the kids, so I feel really fortunate.

And in terms of the not so good stuff? Cash flow can be tricky. You have good months and bad months. And having to keep your sensible, business head on is always hard. There are times when you just want to buy, buy, buy, but you just can’t. You need to keep the accountant happy!

 

What advice would you give to people thinking of starting their own business?

I’d say go for it. Because it’s better to do something and regret it than to not do it in the first place. Then at least you tried. There’s nothing worse than wondering ‘What if?’. Life is too short.

If you believe in your idea, go for it, no matter what anybody else says. Because that’s what we did. And it’ll succeed if you give it your all.

 

Work hard, insure simple

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit simpler. From working to pay claims more quickly to taking the guesswork out of getting business insurance, find out what we’re doing to help.