How to Build a Profitable Business Based Around Your Skill Sets

Vintage Letters & Co husband and wife team, Chris and Mel Ward, turned their bright idea into a successful business overnight. Today they explain how you too can build a profitable business around your skill sets.

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You can’t help but think “why didn’t I think of that?” when you hear Chris and Mel’s story. After discovering a business offering letters spelling LOVE and I DO for hire on Facebook last year, the couple had an idea. They wanted to design, build and market bold new statement pieces made available to hire in the Event Hire industry in Australia. And just like that, the only franchisee of its kind, ever, was born.

Chris is a boilermaker by trade, with extensive experience in project and business management. And Mel is a fully-fledged entrepreneur, having started her first business, aged 19. While it might seem like an unusual winning skill set, together they have been able to draw upon their desire to “never stop thinking, designing and creating inspiring products”.

“Mel wanted to do a couple of simple words and it progressed into a really big business quickly”, explains Chris. “In the event industry, we found it hard to find something that is cost-effective and makes a real impact at events. You can hire anything you want for an event: marquees, chairs, crockery, glassware, dance floors, and furniture. But with our products it’s the first thing you see and the last thing you see when you leave”.

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It’s the range and high-quality of Vintage Letters & Co’s products that initially set them apart from their competitors. But what keeps people coming back is the experience. “Our statement letters turn a celebration into an event”, says Chris. Chris attributes his businesses success to his relationship with people: “People make a business whether they work for you or are your clients”.

Mel and I spend a lot of time building relationships with people and we know how to talk to them and empower them to get things done”. Today, Chris explains how knowing and understanding their skill sets has allowed them to build an innovative lifestyle business in a billion dollar industry.

Focus on what you do best

The day-to-day management of the business is done by Chris, while Mel handles the customer orders, enquiries and bookkeeping. “Clearly separating our roles ensures everything runs smoothly”, says Chris. “We have become really effective because we know what we have to do and are able to bounce off each other. Our business is now easy to run because we have procedures in place and we just follow them”.

Design your products around your strengths

Experience in the construction industry gave Chris an advantage. “We wanted to produce something unique so we decided to create our own vintage style letters made from steel”, explains Chris. “Due to my trade background, I knew what shapes you could make and how to use the materials cost-effectively. We then worked with our manufacturer to produce a product we were happy with”.

Work with people you know and trust 

Chris worked in China for a few years in a construction company. While he was there he built up his relationships with Australian and American expats and manufacturing yards. “When we got started I reached out to them and they pushed us in the right direction”, says Chris. “Our personal relationships made it easier to decide on a supplier and get our products shipped over”.

Don’t be afraid to rely on tools 

Vintage Letters & Co uses MYOB, WordPress and Woo Commerce to ensure their finances and bookings are seamless. “All the information we collect from WooCommerce helps us figure out the delivery range and how much to charge”, explains Chris. “It will also show us what we haven’t booked out for the month or what isn’t popular so we can do a promotion or get rid of that product completely. Using our data helps ensures we make better business decisions”.

Talking to the right people

When Chris and Mel attend expos there is a line of people out the door waiting to speak to them. “We do three different types of promotion: print ads in bridal magazines, social media advertising and exhibitions”, shares Chris. “Thanks to our marketing efforts, we havevcustomers booking a year and a half in advance”.

Go slow so you get it right

While the franchise is growing steadily and currently looking for a franchisee for each state and territory, Vintage Letters & Co doesn’t want to expand too quickly. “We want to really test the market in each area first. We want to ensure we can replicate the success in Perth. Everything is indicating that we can, and this is something that is getting us and potential franchisees very excited”.