Making a case for design
After years of running other people’s businesses, Helen Rolfe and her husband, Ash, decided to turn their backs on the London rat-race and escape to Buckinghamshire. “I had been in the facility management sector for 12 years, working long hours with little opportunity for personal creativity, and I felt it was time to search for a different way of life,” Helen explains. “I wanted to build a new career that would allow me to do what I loved most: working with colours and fabrics.”
“I had always felt that I was something of a frustrated interior designer, but with a young family and a full-time job, my dream never quite materialised,” Helen explains.
Encouraged by what she perceived as a gap in the electronic accessories market, Helen sought to produce what she terms “a range of tasteful, more British” tablet cases that would particularly appeal to a female audience. For Helen it was important to create something that both had a “truly British feel” to it and could allow customers to think of their tablet cases as matching accessories. “I don’t know if many people would say, ‘Well, I bought the case because it reminds me of my wallpaper and it looks really nice when I put it on my bedside table’, but now they can!” Through products designed and sold by her company, Lente Designs, Helen hoped that tablet and Kindle owners could use their cases to express their own personal style, as well protect their devices.
Within a few months Helen and Ash had set up their own business, built their website and successfully launched Lente Designs on Amazon.co.uk.
I don't know if many people would say, 'Well, I bought the case because it reminds me of my wallpaper', but now they can!
A gentle introduction
As new parents, they were keen to minimise the risk associated with building and investing in a new venture. “Selling on Amazon seemed like a gentle introduction to running our own business,” Helen says. “From the start it felt like a safer way of expanding, and it helped us check that we had a solid product that customers liked.”
That Helen’s beautifully designed Kindle and tablet cases were indeed “solid products” was soon established when the orders started to flood in. While still doing their day jobs, Helen and Ash worked every evening, seven days a week for over a year. After 12 months of hard work Lente Designs was able to expand its range--but it also had to reconsider its setup. “My house was bursting at the seams with product: we were pushed to find a chair to sit on or table to eat at!” By opting for Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), where sellers store their products in Amazon’s fulfilment centres – and then Amazon picks, packs and delivers them as well as provides customer service – Helen made sure that her home no longer looked like a warehouse, and became reacquainted with her furniture.
Over the course of three years, Helen has gone from curating materials that were available to her, to designing the patterns and fabrics for her cases herself.
Through exposure to Amazon’s customers Lente Designs has even expanded to the U.S., opened its own office and warehouse and grown its team with an extra pair of hands. Helen recalls, “Thanks to the success in the UK, we are now also employers. Having that additional support for a few days each week has meant that we’ve been able to enjoy family life a little more and even go on holiday for the first time in years – and a special one at that, taking our little boy to Disney World in Florida before he started school!”