Sisters Catherine (12) and Michelle (10) launched their 3D printing business at July 2019’s Children’s Business Fair in Guildford, Surrey. Here, Catherine describes how they got started, the critical stages of business development and about how careful planning helped them avoid disaster when technology failed them.  

We had always wanted to run a business, so when we heard about the Children’s Business Fair in May 2019, it seemed the perfect opportunity. We suddenly had lots of decisions to agree on. What would it be called? What would we sell? What roles would we take? And on and on… And so, the work began.

 

After much debate, we agreed to call our business Happy Hens (our surname is Henn!). We also talked about lots of different options as products, from baking to sewing. We eventually decided that to look at 3D printing, as we had a 3D printer at home. We felt it was original, more fun than the sewing, that the products lasted longer than baked goods and they could be made in advance. We then had to think about what products to print and finally decided on pencil pots. Everything’s so much tidier with them!

Team Happy Hens - Catherine (left), Michelle (right)

Happy Hens founders, Catherine (l), Michelle (r)

We also needed to work out who managed what, and agreed that Catherine would be looking after the budget and stock-taking and I would be in charge of marketing and branding.

Part of the application form for the Children’s Business Fair needed us to create a business plan. This was a great help in guiding us think through all the different aspects of starting a business. We had to consider where we were going to get the money to startup, we had to ask ourselves what we counted as a success and how we would market our business.

In May, we went to the CBF pre-fair launch session. Here, the activities helped us see what was valuable to a business. We learned how to add value to a product, the importance of attracting the buyer’s attention and how you could present your stall in a way that would make it noticed.

Happy Hens' 3D Printed Pencil Pots

Happy Hens’ 3D Printed Pencil Pots

Now, construction of our products began. We were aiming high in stock quantities, so had to ensure that we had enough time to print all the stock we hoped to sell. This was a real challenge, as some of the products took up to 8 hours to print.

To make sure we had enough time, we constructed a printing plan for each day, including how long items took and then a schedule of when items would be printed. To ensure maximum productivity we always printed the larger products while we were at school to avoid wasting any time. The printer was running almost 24 hours a day!

About two weeks before the fair, disaster struck! The printer malfunctioned and we couldn’t work out how to fix it. We honestly didn’t even know what the problem was. The hours continued to pass and the printer still wasn’t working. Stress levels were through the roof!

Eventually we realised that we needed a new part and two days later we were back on track! We’re glad we pre-planned carefully, as we managed to print everything we wanted before the fair.

We arrived on the Saturday morning super excited and with big dreams. This was the first day we could truly call Happy Hens a business.

Happy customers at the Happy Hens' stall

Happy customers at the Happy Hens’ stall

Part two of Catherine and Michelle’s guest blog, here.

Want to launch your own business at the Children’s Business Fair? Apply here!