I set up my first business when I was 18 – now Mrs Hinch has turned my furniture company into a £5m empire

IN August 2019, Molly Robson was sitting in the car park of her local supermarket when she felt her phone buzz.

Not thinking much of it, the 24-year-old – who is the co-owner of furniture company Shabby Store – opened her Instagram DMs to find a message from Mrs Hinch.

Molly had only just bought into the company a few months before when she reached out to the social media star to see if she wanted to try any of their products and share them with her 3.9m followers.

"It was a real pinch-me moment," Molly said. "Her outreach is enormous and it changed everything for us."

At the time, Shabby Store had a yearly turnover of £300k – but in the two years Molly has been at the helm, this has skyrocketed to £3m and the company are on track to hit £5m by 2022.

Molly spoke exclusively to Fabulous for our #BOSSINGIT series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.

"I've always been quite entrepreneurial," Molly said. "And I knew when I started my first business at 18 years old that I wanted to work for myself."

After getting an A* in her Business Studies GCSE, Molly, from Rothwell, West Yorkshire, left school and went straight into work as an office junior in a real estate company in Leeds.

One year into the job, Molly decided she wanted a hobby on the side and founded the fitness subscription box BodBox with her boyfriend Aaron Newton.

"I was quite into fitness and saw a gap in the market for a subscription box containing protein bars and gym accessories," she said. "Aaron was a web designer so he sorted the website."

Investing just £500 into the business in 2014, Molly bought enough stock for the first month and to get their logos printed in the box.

To begin with, they had just five subscribers – but within a few months, this had grown to 500.

"We did everything ourselves and packaged up all the boxes out of a 24-hour storage locker we rented," Molly said. "I definitely got some funny looks when we were sat on the floor surrounded by protein bars."

In 2018, Molly – who was still balancing her job as an estate agent alongside her side hustle – knew it was time to move on to something bigger.

"I wanted to set it up, build it and then sell it on which is what we did," Molly said. "I loved looking at interiors of the homes I was selling and had always followed ShabbyStore on Instagram."

When she found out Shabby Store was for sale, Molly jumped at the chance because she knew it was the "perfect project" she'd been waiting for.

As they hadn't found a buyer for BodBox yet, Molly and Aaron went into business with his co-worker Shawn to buy Shabby Store – with Molly investing all of her savings into the project.

"My parents thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to put all my money into ShabbyStore," she said. "They never told me not to do it but they said, ‘just be careful’. I knew there was something in it and I went for it anyway."

Despite having no retail experience, Molly was now the head of buying and marketing for the brand and – as she "lives and breaths social media" – she knew that influencers were going to be key for the business' success.

Shortly after taking over the company, Molly sent Mrs Hinch a £250 chandelier and a £75 ginger jar – causing their social media following and sales to shoot through the roof.

She recalled: "When she posted that first picture of the chandelier, people just flooded to the website. We've sold thousands and can never keep it in stock.

"At the time we only had 111,000 followers. But whenever she tagged us on Instagram, the growth was just crazy – we'd suddenly gain 25,000 new followers in one day from her.

"She's also bought quite a few things from us as well so she's a genuine customer too. She's been lovely to work with."

What's more, Shabby Store have also collaborated with Billie Faiers on social media campaigns and now boast 295,000 Instagram followers.

Molly’s Top Tips for Aspiring Businesswomen:

  1. As cliché as it sounds, you really have to go for it. You never know what could happen until you just try it.
  2. Surround yourself with supportive and like-minded people. Not everyone is going to understand the time sacrifices you need to make.
  3. Your business might be your baby – but hiring the right people does change everything. When you put your all into something, it's hard to give other people control it makes all the difference.
  4. Don't be disheartened if you don't make money straight away because you're in it for the long haul.
  5. Always remember why you started – it'll help you enjoy the ride.

"It's amazing because these celebrities that can buy any furniture that they want, actually want your products," Molly added.

Although 2020 was a challenging year for businesses, Shabby Store continued to grow and this year will see them open their first ever showroom in their new 12ft warehouse in Leeds.

"At first, we had one small warehouse which could barely fit two people and now we've signed a lease on a 12,000 foot warehouse with a show room and store options.

"We've had to move warehouses multiple times over the past two years as we keep outgrowing them and every time I view the new one, I always think 'this is going to be way too big.' It's been a real dream come true."

For more inspiring Bossing It stories, Carol Maxwell revealed how she turned £300 into £350k with her card designs.

And Béatrice de Montille set up her £5m jewellery business from my kitchen table – now Kate Middleton’s a fan & she's won The Queen’s Award TWICE.

Plus lockdown nearly killed their fashion business but now sisters Natalie Reynolds and Lexi Panayi are making £600k a month selling face masks – and Sam Faiers is a fan

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