Jane Gokgoz is the founder of Personalised Gifts Shop, a website selling unique and customisable products. She talks to BQ about her career and running her own business.
What is it the company does?
PersonalisedGiftsShop.co.uk is an online retailer that can personalise almost anything; from gifts to homeware, fashion to food and drinks. I started the company in 2011, first selling personalised vases and frames, and now run it with my team of over 30 staff from a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I do a little bit of everything! When I first started it was just me and I still enjoy working closely with the whole team at every level. I oversee the designers to ensure they have everything they need, I research new products and potential trends that will be coming up, I’m involved with the HR, IT and marketing side of things. This is a family business so I like to make sure that every element of the business still reflects the initial aims when it was set up.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I used to work in publishing and finance in London, until we moved to Northamptonshire to raise the family. My two children were nearing their teens and getting more independent, so it was time for me to get back into working. I spent some time looking into e-commerce options and kept coming back to personalised gifts as my children both have unusual names and it was tricky to get them personalised things! I started Personalised Gifts Shop at my kitchen table in with £5.50 - I bought the domain name and site hosting, got the website up and running and then off I went. I didn’t know the hard work ahead, but I had a go.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Flexibility, efficiency and a willingness to get on with any role in the company. I will have a suit on one day and my high viz safety vest in the warehouse the next. You have to lead by example and be able to motivate your team - sitting in an ivory tower won’t achieve that.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
We originally had a third party product supplier but I realised that to have full control, I needed to get the products and produce everything in-house. The changeover meant a lot of extra time, I re-mortgaged the house and redesigned literally everything; it was very stressful. But it’s been worth it; we now source all the products ourselves and our team of in-house designers create the designs. It means we can be sure of our personalised products’ quality and appeal. Taking the plunge meant that our turnover grew massively.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Travel - weekends away are important, as we work long hours. I like spending time with my family and the dog.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always find this a tricky question to answer, as like most young children your dreams change from one month to the next. But if you were to ask me 'If you knew when you were younger, what you would be doing today, would you change anything' then my answer would be ABSOLUTELY NOT, I love this field of work, creating beautiful things for wonderful memories!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not pet hates as such, I just ask everyone to be on time and to put the effort in while here. We work to tight deadlines, promising swift delivery, so people that don’t get on with the task in hand would be a problem for me. Luckily we have a very tight team operating well. If there was an issue I would have to step in straight away.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’ll be settled in our larger warehouse which will have given us lots more room – very needed as our growth is exponential. I’m looking into some bricks and mortar retail options as well; online retail is obviously huge but there are certain things that people like to touch and feel so this is something I’m exploring.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Always be in control - you need to know how everything works in your business, even though you will delegate to others. Also, have management training. My previous role in finance meant managing a team but I still updated these skills, as a happy team is a busy team.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That the rewards can be great. That those sleepless nights will pay off and that I should trust my own instinct, as it has turned out to be right every time!
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