Alumnus Sidsel Bockhahn-Tylecote (Full-Time MBA 2011)


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After nearly 9 years in the world of pharma in both account management and marketing roles, Sidsel Bockhahn-Tylecote (Full-Time MBA 2011) decided it was time for a change. With a passion for arts and crafts, Sidsel took inspiration from childhood memories, her Scandinavian heritage, and drew on her marketing skills to release her inner creative entrepreneur!

Despite the challenges of lockdown, in January 2021 Fay&Mamie was launched selling sustainable table decoration kits, alongside creative blogs and videos on how to create your own beautiful lunch and dinner tables.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My memories are full of wonderful festive family gatherings and dinner parties where my grandmothers would whiz around the house setting gorgeous dinner tables with things they found in nature or bits and bobs from around the house. When I started hosting myself, I quickly found that tableware and table decorations were missing something. Everything I saw was too pricey or too boring and trust me, I’ve been looking!

I decided to change that. Through Fay&Mamie I sell cool, affordable table linens which you don’t need to iron, and easy-to-assemble table decoration. Most Fay&Mamie products have a crafty element because I believe in the value of making something your own.

I also took inspiration for the company name from my childhood and family: Fay - or fairy, as my hope is to add a bit of magic to the everyday and make a meal more than just a meal! And Mamie - a nickname for grandmother, to honour my two grandmothers.

'Very Berry' Christmas table

Why did you decide the time was right to set up your own business?

My plan was to launch in 2020. I had the idea and I’d been working towards reducing the hours of my full time job for over a year. I’ve heard of lots of people taking the opportunity during lockdown to kick off their entrepreneurial dreams as they suddenly had all this time on their hands, for me however, 2020 was a big challenge professionally speaking. I had a small child, who wasn’t able to go to nursery for half the year, so there wasn’t really any time for a side gig. I officially launched in January 2021, but that was after a lot of behind-the-scenes work during evenings and my daughter’s nap time!

I also took inspiration for the company name from my childhood and family: Fay - or fairy, as my hope is to add a bit of magic to the everyday and make a meal more than just a meal! And Mamie - a nickname for grandmother, to honour my two grandmothers.

How did you feel leaving the corporate world to become self-employed?

I thoroughly enjoyed working for Johnson&Johnson; it’s an amazing company where you really get to see ‘best practice’ in action in a lot of areas of business. While there, I was in marketing, account management and sales and I was lucky enough to work in several different countries. Leaving the corporate world behind was not an easy decision, but I simply had to give my business idea a go. I must say, I love being self-employed! It comes with a lot of responsibility and uncertainty but I love the freedom that it also gives me.

What lessons have you learned so far?

I’ve learnt so much but let me stick to three points:

  1. Make sure to share your idea. Whenever I have a conversation with someone about Fay&Mamie, whether it’s someone who could be a potential customer or a fellow entrepreneur, I almost always leave having learnt something that influences how I go about building my business.
  2. Structure your week. It can be quite overwhelming the number of tasks you need to do when you run your own business and though you may work really long days it can still feel as if you get nowhere. A friend of mine, who is also self-employed, suggested planning the whole week keeping the tasks specific (e.g. find fabric for new placemat kit), instead of broad and vague (e.g. built 2022 strategy) and make sure to be realistic about time needed. This way of working has helped me feel a lot more satisfied as I can see exactly how much I’ve accomplished after a working day.
  3. Get into PR & SEO. No matter how great your product or service is, no customers will ‘automatically’ find you. You need to drive the traffic, and if your marketing budget is zero then you need to get into PR to generate it. Consider local papers, online magazines, blogs open to guest posts, influencers and more. There are a lot of options out there. If you’re an e-commerce business then SEO (search engine optimization) is equally important and online PR related mentions can help here; but SEO is much more than that of course.

As a startup, how do you go about sourcing products and suppliers and setting price points?

As Fay&Mamie is still at a ‘proof of concept’ stage, I’ve decided to invest in a broad range of products with limited stock to test as many options as possible, rather than build up a large warehouse of stock. I use local suppliers who are happy to sell very limited quantities at any given time; in several cases, I make the products myself. This is all intentionally done to keep cost low while ensuring a quality product. For startups that do not have such an opportunity, for example, because their product cannot be made by hand, I would start by visiting relevant trade shows for contacts and reach out to supply chain agents specializing in the category. 

Pricing is a really interesting area and something I love working on! I firstly started by taking a jumping off point in the consumer, rather than what made more sense from a profits point of view. The former is of course crucial but should come at a later stage, I believe. I asked myself: What would they be willing to pay? What commercial and non-commercial competitive solutions are available to them? And at what price points? I have intentionally priced my products rather affordably considering most are handmade, as this is where I see an opportunity. Example: In the UK, to set a table with quality fabric napkins and a tablecloth or a table runner, you can easily spend £100s! In other words, tableware becomes something you have very little of and typically not something you buy for yourself on a regular basis. It’s a classic wedding present and something most people only use for Christmas and similar major annual events. I’m hoping Fay&Mamie can make setting a gorgeous table a more everyday activity requiring a series of different linens and decorative items you can pick and choose from - and acquire yourself without breaking the bank. At the end of the day, food does taste better served at a gorgeous table and in lovely company!

Image of table setting kit from Fay&Mamie

What is next for the business?

This year I’ve dedicated to prove the concept, meaning I have a full website and social media channels up and running but my focus is on learning about my ideal customers, drivers of purchase and product specifications rather than sales as such. My priority right now is generating enough traffic to the website via PR and some paid advertising.

What has been the highlight so far?

Managing the development a whole portfolio of very cool products despite of the fact that I’m not a designer! My background as an innovation consultant and marketer certainly helped me structure the process but I’m still pretty proud of pulling it off!


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