Business: The Penguin Patrol
Graduated: 2013 in Graphic Design
The Penguin Patrol began as an Instagram account, following the adventures of Pici, a stuffed penguin toy. However, as the account began to gain followers, Sophie Gibson, director of The Penguin Patrol decided to create a penguin themed online gift company, selling all kinds of penguin paraphernalia, including stuffed toys, keychains, notebooks, t-shirts and more. “Friends of mine suggested I could evolve the Instagram account into a website and start selling penguin themed items so, I created a website and started doing some networking!”
By getting in touch with local Sheffield suppliers, independent sellers, Etsy makers and more, Sophie began to build a customer base and supplier list. She then turned to larger wholesale companies, applying for trade discounts and advertising online. “I realised that the marketing industry, in which I was based before starting my business, wasn’t quite as exciting as I had thought, and I started to think, I could be doing this for myself. I could use the marketing knowledge and experience I had to market my own business. My first job and time at Sheffield Hallam gave me the confidence I needed to get the ball rolling and I know I had the capacity to design my own products, branding and handle all the marketing.”
“I did a lot of research into small businesses, start-up loans, business plans and the like, I applied for a business loan a few years ago but, my application wasn’t strong enough so I decided to get some support from the Sheffield Business team. I got in touch with Christine who supported me in creating a more detailed business plan and I managed to secure a loan!” Sophie is now in the process of purchasing stock and continuing to market her business online whilst the financial formalities are sorted.
“I would say to test out your ideas and concepts, doing research is very important but, sometimes what works for others, won’t work for you so, try things out and see how they go for you. There’s help out there and systems in place to get the support you need before you jump in head first. Start-up loans can be terrifying and difficult to acquire but, support is there to help you secure them. Of course it all depends on the type of business you have and what you out-goings are, for instance, I had to bulk buy products to make my purchasing more financially viable, these days it’s impossible to save that kind of money on my own.”
Like many others, Sophie is also working at a full-time job in SEO (search engine optimization) research, whilst building up her business at the same time, no easy task but it’s important to have related skills when setting up a business – Sophie’s experience in graphic design and marketing has certainly helped support her during this time. “Recognise the skills you have and the gaps in your learning and work with that – get support where you are unsure and then let your creativity and skills do the work for you where you can.”
“Build a knowledge of your industry as well, especially within the local area. I would love to one day open a small boutique/shop in the Sheffield area so, I do what I can to get to know small businesses and independent stores now, whilst I’m still getting started. I also make a point to follow what’s going on with larger businesses within the industry to see what they do and what marketing techniques they use. If I didn’t do this, my efforts would stick out like a sore thumb and I wouldn’t be able to effectively reach my target audience.”
You can find all the details of where to contact and keep up to date with goings-on at The Penguin Patrol at the top of this post, and do make sure to take a look at the website, you’ll want to buy everything on there!