I was so skint I couldn't buy food – I started off making Yankee Candle hampers at 20 & now turn over £200k in a year

ON an otherwise ordinary day in September 2020, Olivia Crabtree was walking home from her part-time job at Molton Brown when her phone buzzed.

Expecting it either to be a text or Instagram notification, the 20-year-old couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a total stranger had purchased one of the gift hampers she put up for sale on Etsy the day before.

“I raced home,” Olivia, now 21, exclusively told Fabulous. “I got in my uni house and just screamed. I couldn’t believe it. That was the moment my life changed.”

At the time, the aspiring entrepreneur, from Hull, was studying geography at the University of York.

But as she went into her second year, Olivia struggled to make her student loan and part-time wages cover her weekly food shop and private rent.

In an attempt to make ends meet, the student set up Olivia’s of York, an Etsy shop selling handmade hampers containing silk roses, candles and chocolates wrapped up in bows.


To begin with, Olivia’s goal was to make £20 a week which she could then use to pay for food.

Olivia said: “The £100 I had saved up from my job was the only money I had in the world. 

Most read in Fabulous


The Queen’s favourite fast food revealed – and it isn’t McDonald’s or KFC


I had a great date with a guy – but what he texted after made me swear off men

Wax off

My new waxer quickly noticed a problem down there – I've never been so mortified

Loud and proud

I’m a labour nurse and I REALLY don’t care if you poo while giving birth

“So it was a massive risk investing that in the business. I used it to buy enough stock to make one of each of the five hampers I wanted to sell. 

“I got all the Yankee Candles just off eBay because I couldn’t afford anything else.

“I made the logo myself on Canva. It wasn’t very good but I didn’t really understand the importance of all that stuff back then. I didn’t know a single thing about business!”

In total, it cost Olivia £15 to make each basket and she’d then sell them for £25.

She continued: “My dad bought my first hamper on the first day I opened my Etsy shop. 

“But the next day was when I got the order from the stranger. It was for the rose gold-themed box which became my best-seller. I ended up making over 1,330 of them in six months which was a profit of £15,900.”

I would do my lectures in the morning and then make orders when I got home. So I’d be up from 6am until past midnight everyday. I was absolutely exhausted.

At first, Olivia gave herself five working days to make and send each order – but as business started taking off, she would frantically have to re-order supplies and hope they would arrive on time.

She explained: “In the first month, I balanced things quite well. I would do my lectures in the morning and then make orders when I got home. So I’d be up from 6am until past midnight everyday. 

“I was absolutely exhausted and obviously all my friends were living the uni life and I wasn’t a part of it anymore.

“My uni room was absolutely tiny and all the ribbons, cellophane and candles covered every surface.”

According to Statistica, there were 4.4million sellers on Etsy in 2020 – which was an increase of 1.7million from the previous year – as businesses turned to the online marketplace as a result of the pandemic.

In her first four weeks, Olivia got a staggering 60 orders and sales continued to double each month before sky-rocketing to 300 in December.

How YOU can Boss It like Olivia and launch your own business:

  1. Video content is the thing people want at the moment. Photos only do so much. People can be sceptical about buying online because they don’t fully know what they’re getting. It’s not like they’ve got it in front of them and they can touch it and hold it. The closest you can get to that is through video. I think people miss out on a lot of sales by not using video. If someone is at least one per cent sure they don’t know what the product is, they’re not going to risk it. So use video ads over photo ads.
  2. Instagram has been my biggest hit with the new business – that’s where it started and that’s where it’s grown the most. 98 per cent of my customers come from Instagram. It all came through Reels which are short form video content. Consistency and persistence is everything. I get a lot of people saying, ‘I posted a Reel and it’s not gone viral, what am I doing wrong?’ I posted one Reel everyday for 52 days before anything came of it. They were just getting a few hundred views. But I saw other people doing so well with it and I kept thinking, ‘I know if I’m persistent with it then it will go somewhere at some point. And it did in the end. If you can’t be consistent with it, it’s probably not going to take off. 
  3. Use long key words in your titles and tags. But rather than using words that describe your product, you need to be using words that people are going to actually be searching for. I was selling bouquets but not that many people search for that. So I’d include words to do with gifts and birthday and anniversaries. 

She explained: “At first, I was too embarrassed to post on social media and paid £20 a month on Facebook adverts but I never saw much of a return.

“However, I was constantly scrolling on Etsy and noticed that lots of people had random words in their listings. 

“I started to Google it and that’s where I found out about SEO. I experimented with putting things like ‘birthday’, ‘anniversary’ and ‘special occasion’ in the title of my products and that’s when it started to kick off.

“I also spent $10 [£7.40] a day on Etsy ads so my products would appear higher up on the page when customers were searching.”

By Christmas, Olivia knew she wanted to drop out of uni to concentrate on her flourishing business – but her mum Michelle urged her to wait a bit longer now that the festive rush had passed.

“I actually did better in January than I had in December,” Olivia said. “I got 350 sales. From September to January, I made £10,500.

“It was the biggest relief to finally be earning my own money and getting something out of it. 

“I definitely splashed out on gifts way too much that Christmas. I got myself some Doc Martens boots that were about £150. It was a real pinch-me moment.”

Six months after launching the business, Olivia moved into her boyfriend Jack’s new house in Hull – which is around the time the business hit a turnover of £100k.

As such, she could now comfortably afford to pay the rest of her uni rent AND help with his mortgage payments.

“I had one of the bedrooms as an office so I finally had a space to work,” Olivia said. “But every week, it was just filling up with more and more boxes.

“I didn’t have the space to store loads so I had to re-order £500 of stock everyday. 

“I was getting between 20 and 40 orders a day on average and each would take me roughly 20 minutes to package

“I thought it was going to be easier now that I was concentrating on it full-time but I was still working from 6am until 2am everyday.”

By now, Olivia had conquered her fear of social media and started sharing tips for other entrepreneurs on Instagram in April 2021 – which is how she came up with an idea for her second venture, The Small Business Handbook.

She explained: “I lost my love for Olivia’s of York. I started it for financial gain because I needed money to live off.

My mum freaked out when I told her I wanted to drop out of university. And then a month or two later when I told her I was quitting my first business, she freaked out even more. But she’s really glad I did it now!

“I didn’t start it because I was particularly passionate about gifting and I burnt out with it pretty quickly.

“But I thought, ‘I’ve done this in such a short space of time and now I can help other people grow their businesses.’”

After a month of sharing tips everyday, Olivia decided to write an e-book full of advice for building up your business on Etsy and Shopify.

“I published the guide in May 2021,” she recalled. “The launch went better than I ever could have expected. My phone notifications were going off constantly from where people were buying it.

“I burst into tears and ran to my boyfriend. It was such a relief because I’d been working day-in, day-out and now I had this passive income rolling in.”

The same day she published her eBook, Olivia decided to close her Etsy shop – much to her mum’s horror.

This decision was made even harder by the fact that 2021 was an incredibly challenging time for small businesses – with the ONS reporting that 100,835 folded between July and September last year.

However, this made Olivia even more adamant that she could help.

She explained: “Olivia’s of York was massively hard to walk away from. It was really stable and I felt comfortable in it but I just couldn’t go on like I was.

“My mum freaked out when I told her I wanted to drop out of university. And then a month or two later when I told her I was quitting my first business, she freaked out even more. But she’s really glad I did it now.”

Flash forward nine months and Olivia has now sold over 3,500 copies of her £20 book and now makes a living as a business coach.

The 21-year-old offers pre-recorded masterclasses which you can purchase for £35 or one-on-one packages costing between £100 to £350.

Just last month, Olivia hit the £100k mark AGAIN with her new business.

She added: “With this business, a lot of it is profit because it’s digital and coaching whereas I had to spend a lot on stock for Olivia’s of York.”

What’s more, Olivia now even employs her boyfriend of four years Jack and wants to expand her stationery range in 2022.

She said: “I’m going to split my business in half so I have my products under the name of The Small Business Handbook and then I’m going to have my coaching under Olivia Crabtree.

“I’m looking to grow The Small Business Handbook into a full stationery range so creating more planners and journals and add in home office accessories.”

For more inspiring stories, we spoke to Sophie Marriott – who quit school at 16 and now turned her DIY door bows into a £310k decorating business.

And Jemma Solomon revealed her sister sister Stacey caught the labelling bug from her – she set up her company with £300 & now Lord Sugar has invested.

Plus Tropic Skincare's Susie Ma set up her £51m business when she was 15 – Lord Sugar fired her on The Apprentice but STILL invested £200k.

    Source: Read Full Article