Inspirational Woman: Ruth Thomas | Founder of Room31

 theo and ruth small-slide

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

picture profileIn 2010 I took the plunge to leave a secure well paid job and become my own boss. With just a few hundred pounds I opened a market stall in Bury selling ladies discounted branded fashion. To supplement market takings I sold excess stock on eBay and quickly realised that selling online was the way forward and that you could literally ‘sell while you sleep’ waking up to orders from all over the world and not having to get cold on a market stall. So I took lease on a 3000 square foot warehouse in Culcheth and employed one member of staff with the intention of selling on eBay and setting up a ladies fashion website.

Within 2 years the business has grown at a rapid rate and has gone from a one woman band taking home a few hundred pounds a week to a turnover of nearly 3M in year 2 and a passionate team of 10.

My role within the business is varied and changes from day to day; I can go from a meeting with a potential investor to packing orders in the warehouse within a few hours!

What changes have you made to the business?

Room31 Wholesale was launched in 2011 with the express purpose of providing a one stop shop for all independent retailers on and off line throughout the EU to have access to a stock database 24hrs a day.

Room31 really believe in supporting other small businesses so our aim through the wholesale arm of the business is to be able to provide affordable and smaller quantities for people to start their own businesses without the massive outlays that usually occur. The wholesale side of the business was born from a desire to support small and start-up businesses offering the opportunity to buy small quantities at volume prices and with no minimum spend.

This business model made the whole buying a level playing field for buyers who historically were unable to compete with the larger players.

By creating small and affordable pack sizes of branded sportswear and fashion we made it easy for budding retail entrepreneurs to start their own business with a minimum stock exposure and also advice directly from our team via Skype 12hrs per day.

Our database has not only attracted small businesses, we now have wholesalers and major retailers that we supply on a daily basis thanks to our ever changing stocks and ability to supply stock fast to market for replenishment.

Our model is unique in the field and because of our passion for success, our knowledge and experience we want other start-up businesses to have the same results that we have had and provide support and advice to our customers unheard-of in the sports industry

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think achieving a balance between work and life is possibly the biggest challenge I have faced.

Before becoming my own boss I was able to leave work at work whereas when you run your own business there are no set hours and you are constantly talking and thinking about business even if you are not physically there. I am now in a position though where I have a strong capable team who I can leave to run the business so I can take a holiday.

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

Despite dealing with lots of personal problems and in particular the loss of my brother, I have continued to remain positive and passionate about Room31 and determined to succeed.

team photoAs a team we have won several prestigious awards including Warrington Business Awards Start-up Business of the Year, Women in Business Start-up Business of the Year, Theo Paphitis SBS award, Jacqueline Gold WOW award and are shortlisted for 2 awards at this year’s Warrington Business Awards.

None of these could have been achieved without the hard work and commitment of my team.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

I cannot imagine life without Room31 after living and breathing it 24/7 for the last 3 years. If Room31 did not exist I would probably be running my own pub or restaurant –incorporating the other passions of my life – people, food and wine!

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My partner Tony is the one who has constantly encouraged me and told me he believes in me and given me the confidence to push forward with the business, he provides a sounding board for my ideas and is not afraid to give me feedback whether that is positive or constructive!

There are a lot of business women who also inspire me including Karen Brady and Jacqueline Gold, both of whom I would love to have lunch with and bombard them with questions about their careers and tips for success.

What does the future hold for you?

The future looks exciting for Room31 as our plans and dreams never stop!

We are opening our warehouse to the public for the first time in August for a 3 day fashion and sportswear clearance event. We have a huge PR campaign for this and hope this will become a regular event. We are already making plans for our next pop up shop in the local area over the Christmas period. For the wholesale side of the business our next step is to branch out into Russia and we are currently seeking a Project Manager to aid us with this.

I’m personally looking forward to being horizontal for a week on a family holiday to Turkey!

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