Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TiYK interview - extended

This post is the continuation of an interview from our latest issue of 91 Magazine. Ladies Online is a regular feature where we meet inspiring women who are making a living from online business.

In issue 4 we meet co-founder of This is your Kingdom, Hannah Needham. As I couldn't fit the entire interview into the magazine, I thought I would continue it here on the blog, so you don't miss any of Hannah's great tips for running a business online, plus some of her favourite spots in the UK.

Photo by Rosie Bray

What gave you the idea  for This is your Kingdom and what research did you do before starting up?

Prior to founding TiYK in 2010, Rebecca and I would spend many hours discussing our latest finds - a lovely café for breakfast, a shop full of beautiful handmade keepsakes, our favourite place to picnic or a secret spot for supper. It was during one of these many inspiring chats that we stumbled upon the idea for TiYK - somewhere people like us could go to celebrate, share and discover only the loveliest things to see and do in the UK.
We quickly set about researching the concept, investing a great deal of time finding the right team to design and illustrate the site – something we felt was key to the success and appeal of TiYK. Following six months of hard work, the site was launched in April 2010 and quickly gained a loyal following of dedicated readers.

How would you sum up the business ethos of TiYK?

The TiYK website is a feel good place to be, something that is reflected in both our aesthetic and our content. By inviting contributors to share their ‘favourite things’ our content celebrates great delights, simple pleasures and happy occasions. We want our readers to feel like they could be sat listening to a good friend getting excited about the most wonderful place or thing they just discovered.
We have an incredibly loyal audience by virtue of the fact that we place our readers at the heart of every decision we make. Our long-term business goal is to work with similar minded brands by incorporating beautifully designed, bespoke advertising campaigns on the site and in our newsletters that will add value to our readers experience.

What have been the biggest benefit so far and the biggest downfall?

We have been hugely privileged to take part in the first year of School for Creative Startups - a fantastic course spear-headed by ex-dragon Doug Richard. This year-long programme has been vital to our business success offering a series of workshops and boot-camps on everything from identifying channels to market, building a budget, pricing services and creating a brand.

As part of the programme, we have been mentored by Tony Elliott, founder of Time Out and one of the nicest, wisest most helpful chaps we have had the privilege to meet on our journey so far. This has had a huge impact on our business success and an amazing catalyst to making TiYK a viable business.

The biggest downfall is undoubtedly lack of time. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete my never ending to-do list. This is hugely frustrating and I’ve had to learn not to beat myself too much about not achieving what seems to be the impossible!

Do you personally visit all the places you recommend? Which is your favourite?

Sadly we do not have the time to visit all the places we recommend. However, we’ve put a great deal of time and effort into building a fantastic team of similar minded contributors who help us ensure that every place we feature gets the full TiYK stamp of approval.

My favourite discovery through TiYK is the Ardingly Antiques Fair in East Sussex.
I love nothing more than spending the day rummaging through antiques and collectibles and Ardingly (held just six times a year) is a fabulous place to do just that. Thank you to Hannah Lohan for sharing!

If you had to move to another part of the UK, which would it be?

I dream of one day returning to Devon to live near my family with my husband James in a sprawling old farmhouse full of chickens and children and surrounding by rolling green hills. As well as the gorgeous towns, villages and cosy country pubs, the landscape is hugely diverse with stunning coastline (surf in the North and calm sailing waters in the South). There are also acres of rugged moorland - perfect for horse riding and top down rides in Lloyd, my husband’s vintage MGB.

Which bit of local knowledge have you found the most surprising / interesting?

Our readers love to hear about places that are a bit of a secret, quirky, unusual or unexpected. Ideas that fuel their imagination and encourage them to explore places they might not usually consider. We recently held a competition with Dorset Cereals where we asked them to share their favourite ‘simple pleasure’. This produced some lovely entries including:

Cloud Watching on the River Teme, Worcestershire (with a picnic of Jaffa Cakes and champagne!)

Tea Like It Used to Be at Hove Museum, East Sussex (complete with tea from vintage china, fresh scones and perfectly cut sandwiches) 

A Very Fine Summer Picnic Spot, Regent’s Park London (a vintage BSA bicycle basket laden with cheese from La Fromagerie and The Ginger Pig’s infamous pork pie) 

What effects have you seen the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics have on your online community?

The last six months has been a truly fantastic celebration of Great Britain at its most glorious. We’ve seen readership soar and TiYK firmly establish itself as a trusted guide for those seeking out unique and lovely things to see and do across the UK as well as evoking a strong sense of patriotism.

We’ve also been lucky enough to benefit from some fantastic support with lovely pieces in Red magazine, the Guardian, the Independent and the Telegraph and were even selected by The Good Web Guide as one of their top 60 sites.

Illustrations by Jess Linares
How do you promote TiYK, what is the most effective form of social media for you?
(If Twitter, which hash tags / tips would you recommend?)

We rely on word-of-mouth and are lucky to have a wonderful audience of loyal readers who regularly share the unique places they discover through TiYK with their friends and wider network.

Our favourite social media tool has to be Instagram. Perfect for capturing the essence of every unique discovery made during day-to-day life. We’re busy working on a redesign of the site and are on the hunt for gorgeous images of your secret spots across the UK to share with the rest of the TiYK community in the ‘I Spy..’ section of our home page. All you need to do is tag your photo #TiYK - include a what, where and why and we’ll pop you up on the new site once it’s live!

We are also very active on Twitter @tiykingdom – a place to share content, make friends and discover wonderful going’s on (and the occasional celebrity scandal of course..); developed a *mild* obsession with Pinterest and use Facebook in place of a blog to share behind the scenes news, announce competitions and find out what our readers are up to. 

What advice would you give to other potential online businesses?

Visibility is KEY. Starting up online is a viable option for many startups due to its fairly low barrier to entry however what people often overlook is how customers will then find them once their site is live. You may have developed the most magical, life changing, mind boggling product ever to grace the earth but if nobody knows about it there is little point in its existence.  A well thought out, well executed marketing plan is absolutely key to your success.

Thanks Hannah! Lovely to meet you! If you haven't already, read the rest of this interview in the latest issue of 91 Magazine - click here.

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