It is not easy to be an artisan entrepreneur! It always strikes me to realise that most governments in the world do not consider micro-businesses in their reforms for entrepreneurship. Although on 1st January 2005, a new definition for ‘micro-small and medium-sized enterprises’ has been incorporated in the EU legislation , advocating the Member States to use it as a reference and make the measures taken to support such enterprises more ”consistent and effective”, I still fail to see how this acknowledgement fulfils my needs as a business-minded woman with plenty of ideas for creativity and expansion and running a micro-business…
” A microenterprise is an enterprise which employs fewer than 10 persons with an annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 2 million”
This is according to the EU definition. In my quest for support through such government bodies as Business Link and other similar useless schemes, I was received with indifference and at the most, despise. In order to bring my perfumes on the UK market or export them, I need to join a scheme at a cost of £1000 and in exchange, I would be able to accompany delegations in countries of interest against meeting 50% of the costs!!
As an artisan perfumer whose mission statement is to help people ‘rediscover the essence of Nature and travel through scents’, £1000 will be spent on costly and precious essential oils (some of them worth the price of gold!). What I need from these so-called ‘development and business support agencies’ is financial support. In all my discussions with the various advisors, this aspect seems to be a taboo topic. You see, when you run your business however small it is, people you talk to think you are successful and making plenty of money so the money aspect is not something to discuss. The advisors are here to advise: and they do so by advising me – well – to spend more money in packaging, lab testing, marketing. No wonder why only the major corporates can impose their products in the economy!
Lets take a look at such costs in the UK (these are minimum costs quoted to me so far):
– Rebranding and redesigning: £3000
– Blending and bottling of the natural perfume in factory (2000 bottles) ex-raw materials costs: £2250
– Packaging (recyclable): £5000 for 2000 units
– Marketing: to place perfumes on the shelf for 3 months in departments stores such as Boots: £15 000 (publicity to be carried out by the business)
– Laboratory testing to comply with EU regulations: £500-£1000 per product
– Hiring a public relation agency to promote your products in magazines such as Marie-Claire: £1500 per month i.e £18 000 for a year
So in total and at the minimum, I need to raise about £45000 if I want my natural perfumes to be more visible and in my crusade to bring a 100% natural perfume product on the shelves. Like many hundreds perfumery micro-business owners, I have not been able to pay myself a salary for my hard work in the last 5 years; every penny is reinvested in freshly extracted raw ingredients, needed to keep the ethics and business integrity alive. I must say that I am loosing heart at being an entrepreneur in view of the lack of support out there… If to the financiers’ mind, I am a small potato, what about the VAT I pay on each order of raw materials I buy and what about the dozens of suppliers for whom my regular small orders allow them to carry on with their businesses…. There is no small profit, is there?
”In the 1960s up to the 1980s, starting without capital was a real possibility”
I am questioning the essence of ‘entrepreneurship’ and whether rather than a global economy, we are not going to be left with the 1% catering for the 99%, just like what’s happening with the banks mergers at the moment. Besides, whereas in the 1960s up to the 1980s, starting without capital was a real possibility when new products were not popping up every day and anything new or not trendy could make its way on the shelves, since the end of the 20th century, many brands have been acquired by the likes of L’Oreal, Estee Lauder to name but a few with the founders’ original philosophy being truncated and compromised in order to cut costs on quality and increase profit margin.
So far, I have been able to carry on thanks to the Internet. My business revenues are mostly generated from online sales which means I have cut a lot of costs such as physical and marketing ones… But running a perfumery with a computer screen as a shop window can turn out to be restrictive. And it does not remove the issue of storage place and production which involves an injection of capital…
So I am left with the decision of whether I want to carry on trying to make ends meet with my passion, how I can expand by setting up a more ‘small business’ structure or if I should go back to perfume-making as a hobby only…
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of businesses or institutions affiliated with the author.