FIVE years ago, labelling was something we only ever did to prevent our kids losing their uniforms at school.
But once we’d stuffed ourselves silly with banana bread and completed our DIY tasks, a new lockdown craze suddenly struck.
Thanks to Netflix’s hugely successful The Home Edit – in which organisation experts Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer tackled clients’ cluttered homes by categorising their possessions – as well as Stacey Solomon and Mrs Hinch, labelling everything from fabric softener to flour suddenly became bang on trend.
The hashtag #Label Maker now has over 40,000 tagged Instagram posts – and this home organisation trend shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
At the forefront of this trend is Jemma Solomon, older sister of none other than Stacey herself.
Two months before lockdown hit, she took the plunge and set up her own company, The Label Lady.
And after starting with just £300, she now takes an average of 2000 orders every month and the company has net assets of £108,000.
“I’d been making labels to put on kitchen cupboard items and my kids’ toy boxes since 2016,” Jemma, 33, exclusively told Fabulous.
“But after quitting my job as a pediatric nurse in January 2020, I started to make more because I was at home more. I wanted a change and was looking for another job in the NHS at the time and doing shifts where you float between hospitals.
“I always questioned if I was good enough to make a career out of labels – but thought I’d just start by selling them on the side and seeing what happened. I never expected it to take off like it has!”
Alongside her job as a nurse, Jemma had previously run an events business where she would label party decorations and balloons before deciding to focus solely on her new venture.
Having bought a £200 specialist sticker machine online, the aspiring businesswoman spent £100 on extra paper, ink, envelopes and stamps to set up The Label Lady.
She explained: “It was a very small personal investment because I didn’t ever expect to need to buy much more.
“I researched software and machinery online and learnt how to use the printer with YouTube tutorials. I taught myself how to do everything and never had any background in business.”
Within the first month, Jemma was receiving hundreds of enquiries a DAY after supportive sister Stacey, 31, featured her products on her Instagram stories.
At first, she worked from her family home in Essex – which she shares with husband Lee, 36, and their three children Darcy, eight, Mila, six, and Hudson, three.
“I’m so lucky to have such a supportive family,” Jemma said. “My dad David always taught us to go for things. And it’s obviously so helpful when Stacey talks about it on social media and I’m so grateful for that.
“My brother Matthew built the website from scratch. We launched in February and in the first week, we got 140 orders. I squealed when we got the first one through. I kept thinking: this is insane.”
As Jemma didn’t have to rely on Instagram adverts to get the word out, she spent all her energies designing every label and packaging each order herself.
To begin with, Jemma only sold custom labels available in five colours – but since then, she’s created collections for Mother’s Day, Christmas, Back to School and her Love designs.
What’s more, she’s branched out into five different fonts, ranging from cursive to typed, and also includes pictures in her labels too.
She added: “My first-ever order was softener and detergent labels, which are still top sellers today.”
One month after launching, however, the coronavirus crisis hit – and threatened to put an end to Jemma’s business before it had barely even started.
- Wax Melt Label, £1.35 from The Label Lady – buy now
Since April 2020, nearly 100,000 of the small businesses that were forced to temporarily close due to lockdown have folded.
When Jemma’s husband Lee lost his job as a tradesman in March 2020, it was a nerve-wrecking time for the couple – but Jemma says it gave her the drive to make The Label Lady a success.
“We didn’t really know what to do at first, because Lee has been in the same job since he was 15,” Jemma said. “It was scary because I had to make sure the mortgage was paid and the children were fed.
“But I knew I could pick up extra shifts back at the hospital if needed. I thought, if we’re ever going to take a chance, then it’s now.”
As a one-woman operation, Jemma continued making labels out of the children’s playroom while Lee finished off the garden den, which became their home office.
In order to keep customers coming back, the savvy businesswoman has set up a VIP club for The Label Lady, which gives her biggest fans a preview of new collections before anyone else by signing up to her newsletter.
“My VIP club is something I’m so proud of,” Jemma added. “I’ve built it up from nothing and now we have 50,000 subscribers.”
After operating out of the 100 sq ft garden den for months, Jemma signed the lease on The Label Lady HQ in January 2021 and hired six members of staff – who print, package and post the labels – to keep up with demand.
I always questioned if I was good enough to make a career out of labels – but thought I’d just start by selling them on the side and seeing what happened. I never expected it to take off like it has!
“All my labels are made here in the Essex office and I’ve taught each staff member how to do every step of the process,” she said. “But I still design each one myself and I’m currently working to branch out into patterns.”
Although sales have increased a staggering 170 per cent from last year, Jemma knew she needed some expert advice on how to continue growing her business – and there was only one person who sprung to mind.
She said: “I’ve never done a business course or anything like that so I literally just emailed Lord Sugar last November for advice. He was asking small business owners to reach out to him last year, and I’m a massive fan of the Apprentice so I thought, why not?
“I told him I wanted to scale up the business and how extra machinery and more staff could help me do this. I didn’t hear anything for a month and was then invited to a meeting with his team.
How YOU can Boss It like Jemma and launch your own business:
- When approaching potential investors, go to them with a really clear business plan. Explain where you are now, where you'd like to be and how the business could be beneficial to them
- Be consistent with social media. Create a posting schedule and stick to it.
- Don't forget to interact with followers too – I'm consistently sharing things I've tagged in and feature a different small business on my Instagram every Friday which increases engagement
- Posting videos on Instagram has been a huge selling point for me but you don't need lots of special equipment. I film on my phone, make sure have a nice bright background and pretty props
- Keep your videos short and sweet to get the most engagement – but always take more footage! You'll be surprised by how much you need and you can delete it later
- Whatever the core of your business is, that’s where you need to splash out. So for me, my biggest expense has always been technology because that’s how I make my labels.
- Don’t set your prices too low because you’re doubting yourself. You need to know your self-worth.
“I had three meetings with him over Zoom and many more with his team. After explaining how I run the business and my plans for the future, he made an offer and said he’d like to invest. I couldn’t believe it.
“It’s amazing knowing I’ve got access to his team of people who are there to listen to your ideas and help and support you.
“He’ll never tell me what to do with my business but he’ll tell me if he thinks I’m not doing something right.”
So how is Jemma going to spend Lord Sugar’s investment?
“It’s all open for discussion at the moment,” she said. “But definitely things like new machinery so I can make the best labels possible. One even arrived this morning!
“I’d love to be stocked in places other than my website and I want to expand the team.
“Imagine having a whole building with The Label Lady on the front. That’s the dream – and I’ll keep pushing towards that everyday.”
Lord Sugar said: “I was very impressed with Jemma when I met her. She is highly determined, hard-working and with The Label Lady has created a brand that taps into the trend for home tidying.
“I was particularly impressed with the way she had managed to scale the business in such a short-time on social media, and built such a loyal customer base with little to no marketing spend. I am looking forward to working with Jemma to help take her business to the next level.”
For more inspiring stories, we spoke to Molly Robson who set up my first business when she was 18 – now Mrs Hinch has turned her furniture company into a £5m empire.
Plus lockdown nearly killed their fashion business but now sisters Natalie Reynolds and Lexi Panayi are making £600k a month selling face masks – and Sam Faiers is a fan.
And Pamela Gruhn gambled her life savings to set up my chalk paint business – now Frenchic is worth £16m.
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