When asked about our teenage years, most of us would say we had our heads buried in some revision book or wasted our time fantasising about some ‘dream guy’ at our school. Not many can say they’re juggling a business whilst simultaneously navigating the somewhat tricky stages of high school.
14- year-old Lili Jones from Tycroes in South Wales, does just that, and enjoys both her creative role of handmaking all the jewellery and gifts herself, as well as putting her CEO wig on to which she describes, “in one word – AMAZING!”
- How does it feel to be a CEO at 14-years-old?
I’ve had such a lot of encouragement from people everywhere. I run the company in its entirety; from, analysing the stock, placing orders with our suppliers, taking orders from customers both online and on email and Facebook, craft the products, package and post them out. I attend fairs to engage with the public and promote the product as they are a very visual and personal product that can, of course, be personalised for each customer. I think that’s part of the reason for my success is that it gets more and more difficult for people to buy gifts for that person that “has everything” certainly in this consumerist age where everything is at your fingertips. So, a personalised gift is both thoughtful and unique and the recipient certainly won’t have one already.
- What initially made you want to buy Bodoli?
We as a family were existing customers of Bodoli and we had bought each other numerous gifts over the last couple of years. We had come up against that same dilemma ourselves of what to buy someone that has no use for the usual tat that floods our inboxes and social media feeds, so a personalised gift was the way to go.
It was there for a simple decision (after analysing the books of course) to make a bit for Bodoli when it was advertised for sale.
- Talk me through the process of acquiring Bodoli, from when and where you saw the advert to the negotiations involved and what was it like.
Up popped the advert on the Bodoli Facebook page “for sale” and I had instant butterflies in my tummy as I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me. I sent a message to the then owner of the business and arrange to meet that very afternoon. I made an offer there and then and we shook hands. I had saved up over many years through Christmas and birthday money, doing jobs for my parents in their other business and had just enough for the purchase price for the business, goodwill, trade name, website and stock etc. It was then a matter of pulling our socks up and clearing out one of the outbuildings at our home to house the workshop.
- How important is it to you that Bodoli is a bilingual business?
I was brought up in a totally bilingual environment and attended a Welsh language primary school where my second language was English then onto the Welsh speaking stream in Amman Valley Comprehensive school where I’m currently in year 10 studying for my GCSE grades. I believe strongly in supporting our growing Welsh language and a good percentage of our loyal Bodoli customers are Welsh speaking, so it’s natural to incorporate both into my business.
- Your parents are business owners, do you think it was a natural progression for you to be an entrepreneur too?
Absolutely! I don’t think I would have done it without the knowledge gained from them. They are both entrepreneurs and have multiple businesses so, they are a great support.
- How do you juggle studying for your GCSEs and being a female boss?
Its hard work and it takes a 24/7 attitude to succeed in business. I get up early (around 5am) then process the orders and make a few ready for postage that day. I pride myself on turning the orders around quickly no matter what time of day it is. In this world of next day delivery, people don’t want to wait for their order. It’s one of the first things I wanted to improve on.
- Quite often people look back and think, I’d tell my younger self this…What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received and why?
Your greatest achievements are in you already, its all about mindset, you have the ability to achieve them if you focus.
- Why do you think it’s important to be authentic in a business?
Our products are all our ideas and IP and are not copies of any other designs. I have had many people copy my work and to be honest I see it as a compliment rather than an insult. It is rather annoying when people blatantly take a picture of your products right in front of you on a stand at a fair but that’s fine as I believe I’m giving my customers the best quality.
- What have been your friends and family’s reactions to you buying your first business?
My family have been very supportive of the wider relatives all sharing and commenting on my social media and ordering from me. My friends have been amazing with offers of help and support and since I met Theresa May on Tuesday everybody has been congratulating me in school. Everybody is just so supportive and astonished when I tell them.
- What has been your top three most interesting things you’ve learnt about owning a business so far?
I think it’s the amount of work and when people contact you asking questions. Gone are the days of shops opening 9-5. Bodoli and any successful business now need to be far more flexible in opening hours however, I do have school work too so I am mindful of that.
- What’s the plan after high school? Uni?
Well, I’m keeping my options open but, I would like to get Bodoli to the stage where I can monitor it remotely and employ staff to create the items and manage the day to day running of Bodoli, sticking to my tight systems and standards of course.
- What can we expect from Bodoli during your first year as CEO?
I’ve already made changes in terms of order turnaround and I won the best trade stand in the 2018 Royal Winter Fair in Builth Wells with over 120 stands it was quite an achievement.
I aim to push social media as the main driver and introduce new items and appeal more to the entire UK as well as Wales. I aim to roll out my products to the retail sector in early 2019 and a lot more unique products on the way from Bodoli.