Setting up a business and making it successful can be quite daunting, especially when you are a student setting up a resistance bands business. “Where do I start? How do I fit it in amongst my studies? Will my education suffer?” These are just some of the questions I am sure you will start to ask yourself when you decide on setting up a successful business.
Recently I connected with Natalie Griffiths, a second-year student at Manchester Metropolitan University. Natalie has recently secured a Marketing Internship with Finlay James, a global IT and Technology recruitment agency, whilst also setting up her own business, Mara Apparel. You can find her products in our offers section of our blog.
If you’re in need of some inspiration then have a read of Natalie’s story…
Why I set up my own business
I set up a my business called Mara Apparel just over a month ago, selling booty bands and resistance bands to help people reach their fitness goals during lockdown. I had always wanted to start my own business, and what better time than in quarantine! So, I was inspired to launch Mara Apparel and produce unisex resistance and booty bands to help others grow their dream peach during quarantine.
Lockdown is an easy time to become lazy and lose focus and motivation. Like any other student, I was worried that lockdown would result in putting on weight and generally becoming less healthy. I knew a lot of girls still wanting to maintain their fitness whilst working on achieving their dream booty – or what we call at Mara their ‘peach’. Our bands are a perfect piece of equipment to boost fitness and confidence and can be easily incorporated into home and gym workouts. So far, we have sold over 200 to booty enthusiasts in the UK, Europe and in the US.
Steps I took to set up the business
The first steps I took was thinking of a product, the brand name, our demographic and the stages needed to make it all happen. This is where I came up with the idea of resistance bands. Resistance bands have been a part of my life, using them whenever I’m at the the gym, during netball sessions and at home. They made perfect sense as a sellable product now that everyone was stuck at home. Finding a suitable, reputable supplier was quite challenging and I spent much of early lockdown, researching, emailing and waiting for the post to arrive. The launch took longer than expected as I had to quality control several samples before committing to buying bigger amounts.
The naming of the brand was a very important stage for me, as it is what customers will refer and link the product to our name. Weirdly I dreamt of the name “Mara Apparel” and it seemed just right. It was also easy to design a simple logo to go with it. I think it looks like bands, but the “Apparel” points to what the business will shortly start selling: quality gym sets.
The resistance and booty bands suit my target market. My chosen demographic is of a similar age to me, so I can gauge what my age group would want and will buy. I love gym clothes and have a good eye for quality and style – and hope I have a good nose for what sells well.
Once I’d chosen and sourced my products, identified my target market, dreamt up my business name, I knew I wanted to design a website that represents Mara Apparel well. I set about designing and creating it the day after my exams finished and made a suitable domain. There are great sites on the internet that help you create a professional looking website – I created mine the same day, which my family couldn’t believe! I’ve still got loads to learn but wanted to make it as eye-catching and easy as possible for potential customers to access and buy a product. Personally, I think the more simplistic and the less complicated the business is, the more successful it will be.
Impact on studies
For my course I only had two exams to complete and, due to Covid-19, I was able to do them at home. I must admit I kept dreaming of setting up Mara Apparel when I was revising for my exams – I think this kept me sane, being back at home, away from Uni and friends and living through a very weird, unsettling period in history. However, I made sure I finished my exams before I set up the business. Once I finished my final exam, I made my website that afternoon and got two sales that evening. So, luckily for me, my exams didn’t really stop me from making my business happen. It just made me postpone it for a few weeks, which looking back, has really benefitted me, as the build-up created a sense of excitement to release my website and products.
Making the most of the day
My normal 9-5 is waking up at around 8am and doing an hour of workouts with my mum. Then I check my emails and package all orders ready to take to the post office. Once I have shipped them off, I then personally deliver local orders, and with every local order there is a free G&T included. After this, I note the date of the proof of postage receipts and put them into my finance folder, so if any orders were delivered late, I have these kept safe in a folder.
After the daily trip to the post office, I try to film some workout videos using the bands and upload them to social media, to make it easier for customers to know how to use the band. Once I have uploaded the workout video, I try and think of new ways to market my bands, i.e. use other social media platforms and try out different campaigns like Father’s Day gift ideas.
I’m really happy that I went through with my business idea as it has kept me busy during the past few weeks of quarantine. In the future I will look back at it as a time of learning new skills and becoming more confident and creative, all whilst working on my own. It could have been very different; I’m still really disappointed that I’m not able to go and work in Camp America this summer as planned. However, Mara Apparel has helped me focus on using my time positively and creatively. I love receiving positive feedback from customers, I love trialling new images, videos and messages on social media and I’m always on the lookout for new products that customers would love.
Degree helping my business
So, here I am at the end of my second year, studying Sports Business Management in MMU. I have learnt a variety of different aspects of sports organisations, including their marketing, financing and commercialisation. My course has really helped my business as I’ve incorporated lessons learned in different aspects of sports management. Everything I’ve studied now makes more sense since I’ve applied it to a real business.
We’ve always been encouraged to think entrepreneurially and not to be afraid trying out new ideas. My tutors have been really supportive and have followed my LinkedIn account. I think they enjoy seeing me putting what I’ve learnt into action. The same is true with my Internship at Finlay James where they have already linked me up with people who could help me with my business. Ultimately everything I’m learning with my business will help me in my Internship and my degree – and the same is true vice versa.
As I have wanted to set up my own business for a while now, I sort of knew what things I was looking for but I’ve taken on board any advice or guidance that has been given too. I used savings to buy initial stock and set up a separate account for Mara Apparel to keep finances in check. My family don’t seem to mind too much that I’ve turned our front room into a warehouse/office. I think they’re really pleased that I’ve turned lockdown into a positive experience and keeping busy keeps me happy. Essentially I’ve turned a long-term dream into a reality all by myself.
I’ve had to pinch myself a few times – like making a sale within a couple of hours, then gaining over 1000 followers on Instagram, or reaching £1000 of sales – all really important milestones. I’m learning all the time and it’s really helping my confidence, my self-esteem and my business-sense. I should have done it ages ago! I’m really looking forward to going back to Manchester though!
Quarantine glow ups are pending with us – Mara Apparel.
If you are interested in Natalie’s resistance and booty bands, take a look at her website or in our offers section. You can also follow Mara Apparel across her social channels.
A bit about the author
Natalie Griffiths is a 19-year-old, second-year student at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she is studying Sports Business Management. She is currently back home with her family in North Wales due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Natalie has recently secured a 12 month Marketing Internship with Finlay James, a Global IT and Technology recruitment agency, starting in August in Manchester. She is already eager and excited to start a new chapter with Finlay James and move back to Manchester where she is hoping she will be able to reconnect with university, friends, netball and her passion for the gym.