Meet the ocean-loving brand with a community spirit
Toby King shares his advice on how to stay afloat as an ambitious young business with a heart
“Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy all the small victories. Relish every time you post off an order. If you’ve managed to create something special, celebrate it.”
Tell us a bit about your business?
Merpola provides ethically-sourced and sea-inspired clothing, accessories and stationery to landlocked merfolk all over the world. We also raise awareness of ocean conservation issues and support ocean conservation charities.
What inspired you to set up your own business?
I’d been unemployed for several months and was facing a crisis over which direction to take. Even with good experience and a university degree, I found myself unable to find enjoyable and rewarding work that I could also make a career from, so I turned to the Prince’s Trust for guidance.
I’ve always been fascinated by the sea and wanted a way to celebrate it, bring a community together and raise awareness of the horrors being inflicted on it – making a difference in the process, as well as creating unique, fun products that would make people happy.
Do you think an Entrepreneur ISA and a Small Business Savings Allowance would have helped aid your company’s growth in the early stages?
I think having the option of an Entrepreneur ISA and a Small Business Savings Allowance would be fantastic, and I wish it had been an option for me when I was getting started. Money worries are endless and overwhelming when starting a business, and it would make sense for the government to nurture them as many lead to jobs and services which keep our economy going. Money earned through SMEs is extremely hard-earned, and should be protected.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Making big business decisions has been challenging, and it can also be lonely. Starting a business on your own is difficult enough, but the financial aspect – managing inventory, budgeting for the little unexpected things, and having to think about tax returns – can be overwhelming.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Do as much preparation as possible. Learn how best to handle and grow your money. Plan for where it’s going to come from and how you’re going to take care of it. Find a mentor, or at the very least a confidante you can share your worries, stresses and big wins with – this is essential. Finally, remember it’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy all the small victories yourself. Relish every time you post off an order or get a response to a speculative email, all the little things that make up your day-to-day business. If you’ve managed to create something special, celebrate it.
What is your proudest achievement to date as a company?
Probably when RuPaul (from RuPaul’s Drag Race) spoke about my business on his podcast and complimented my products. It generated so much excitement, especially as I was just getting started! I’m also incredibly proud of the small but vocal community I’ve built up on Instagram. There are a lot of ocean lovers out there who care deeply about the environment and support my business which makes me grateful every single day.
Toby King is Merpola’s Founder & Director