08 February 2017

Grangemouth customer turns hobby into a living

We all have hobbies and passions – some more quirky than others – and one of our Grangemouth customers has proved that there’s nothing stopping us from making money from our interests. Leslie gave us some insights into how he turned his love of comics into a successful business with a team of seven staff.

Young man wearing a beanie hat and jeans in front of merchandise and the Geek Gear logo

No one is more surprised than Leslie Lenaghen at the success of his business GeekyCraftStuff.

The 25-year-old started selling superhero merchandise and hand-crafted items at car boot sales as a hobby, before joining the online marketplace Etsy. He moved into a small unit at Bizspace’s Grangemouth Business Centre in Scotland in December 2015 because he was struggling to cope with the demand from customers from his own home.  And things have progressed very quickly since then.

He says: “When I first started it was just me and my mum packing hundreds of boxes on the living room floor. It was chaos so I knew I’d have to find proper business premises.”

Good things come in surprise packages

Business was already going well when in March last year, Leslie decided to start a subscription box service called Geek Gear and sales suddenly exploded. For a monthly fee of £20, subscribers receive a mystery box through the post with high quality ‘geeky’ items worth at least £40.  Each month’s box has a different theme, and items include merchandise from comics, computer games, movies such as Star Wars and books such as Harry Potter.

Leslie explains: “There was a company offering a similar service in America and thought we should try it in Britain. My original target was to have 1,000 subscribers by the end of 2016 but we now have 4,500 subscribers.”

In fact, the service has been so popular with customers, the company has had to limit the number of new subscribers each month to stop the business becoming too big too quickly.

No barriers to business

Leslie, who spent seven years working as a care assistant before going into customer services, says:

“It started as a hobby but it certainly isn’t a hobby anymore. I have no qualifications or business experience, I’ve just been learning everything as I go along.

“When we ship the boxes at the end of the month, it is such a good feeling. I also love it when our customers get in touch and say they are amazed by their box, it’s wonderful to hear.”

GeekyCraftStuff now employs seven people including Leslie’s mother, sister and partner. And Leslie expects to take on more staff and expand the business further in the year ahead.

Stay as you grow

The company has already rapidly grown in size. It quickly outgrew its first unit at Grangemouth and expanded into the unit next door. Now GeekyCraftStuff has moved into two large adjacent units, which are connected by a door, and is about to move into a third one.

Leslie says

"It’s great that with Bizspace I have been able to move as the company has got larger. I was shocked by how popular the subscription service turned out to be."

“We had 70 subscribers in the first month and it has just exploded from there.”

GeekyCraftStuff has also opened a shop in one of the units where it can sell merchandise directly to customers. Every Friday, it hosts an event where people can come along and play card games like Pokemon with each other.

Confidence shines through

Leslie’s advice to other budding entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business is simply to have confidence in your own ideas and to avoid overstretching your budgets.

“If you have an idea and you have the funds to set up, just go for it. Use the money you have available, but don’t go into debt,” he says.

“Always grow gradually. We have always been careful to limit our subscriptions so we could expand and cope with the demand.

“If we hadn’t, we could easily have around 20,000 subscribers now and then we would really be in a big mess as we wouldn’t have the staff and capacity to cope.”