SME podcast: specialist online clothes supplier grows despite COVID-19 pandemic

  • Special Kids Company sold four months’ worth of supplies in just two months during lockdown
  • Aston Business School's growth programme for small businesses helped to solve entrepreneur’s challenges ahead of health crisis
  • Business is now set for more international growth

A specialist online business based in the West Midlands is making plans to expand its global markets after beating the odds and growing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Special Kids Company, which provides adaptive clothing for children with special needs, has seen orders rise as its customers have had more time to make orders from their laptops at home.

The company, founded by managing director Sasha Radwan in 2013, is now looking to expand into the European market as well as supplying warehouses in the US and Australia to directly serve existing customers there.

Sasha was born in Australia to Egyptian parents, and previously lived in the US and Middle East. She explained that her background meant she understood how people from different countries shop, particularly in the United States where 60 per cent of her customers are based.

She talked about her experiences in the latest episode of a podcast series called ‘Aston means business: SMEs adapting to COVID-19 challenges’, presented by journalist Steve Dyson and published by Aston Business School.

Sasha said: “I understood that customers in the US specifically shop from Amazon, so we put our products on Amazon to be able to reach them. We also use Facebook targeting where we target people in the US to go directly to Amazon.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasha was on the Aston Small Business Growth Programme, which prompted her to outsource specialist areas like finance, and to increase automation and delegation. She said she was “very fortunate” her business was online when lockdown occurred.

She said: “I think because everyone has been in isolation, they have had more time and more resources to do more shopping.

“Two weeks before lockdown we got our shipment of four months’ worth of stock, and we sold out most of that stock within two months. For us, it has been very positive because our customers tend to be time poor because they are usually the primary carer for that child with special needs.

“What that’s done for us is increase our database, therefore our pipeline, so this time next year, when they are going to need more garments when their child is growing, it will help us grow the business faster than we planned.”

Sasha, who employs two staff, also uses freelancers to provide local expertise and language in global markets, which will help with translations to make sure the relevant SEO keywords are used when they expand into Europe.

Mark Hart, the professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, who heads up the small business growth programme, said: “What I really like about Sasha’s business is the niche. She’s got a very niche product range with a huge global market.

“But niche products and more people spending time online don’t sell themselves, and what’s clear is the whole emphasis on the marketing that’s been taking place and the way she’s been able to adapt to the range of cultures of countries and global regions she’s been selling into.”

Professor Hart said to be successful it was important to put the right team together, but also to understand things like Facebook, SEO and language nuances.

He explained: “Getting your business set up online is one thing, but actually driving customers to it is another. You have to have everything right and Sasha gets that.”

Professor Hart said the UK is good at starting businesses, but has a problem getting them to “break out”. But Sasha was a “wonderful example” of doing just that.

He added: “Sasha was able to respond to the changes in demand from customers. Her business was able to adapt because she already had the systems and people.”

▪ Episode 6 of ‘Aston means business: SMEs adapting to COVID-19 challenges’ can be found at https://www2.aston.ac.uk/aston-business-school/podcast.

ENDS


About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.

 

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on 07557 745416 or email r.hume@aston.ac.uk

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