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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Farmer's wife reaps rewards from bra business
Sally Robinson - Ample Bosoms
Sally made the unexpected leap from B&B's to bras
With a Bed & Breakfast and holiday cottage business already under her belt, Sally Robinson decided to branch out into the underwear world in 1999.

She was spurred on to create Ample Bosom - which sells larger size bras - by an employee desperate to find good underwear for her wedding day.

The business - launched from a barn on her Yorkshire farm with an 80,000 bank loan - originally offered only larger size bras, but now sells a wide range of sizes.

What was your first car?

I've never bought one myself as I've never liked the idea of owning a car.

But, my first car actually belonged to my dad. He bought it for me.

It was a bright orange Mini Clubman with a black vinyl roof - which gives my age away a bit.

What was your first job?

I used to run errands for the ladies in the village where I grew up for sixpence at a time.

What was the first house you bought?

My husband and I actually built our first house on land belonging to his mother and father's farmhouse.

It cost us 13,000 and we now live in his parents' farmhouse - but he'd like to move to Scotland and he's seen a farm up there he likes.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

I don't really have any big heroes as such, I think business is genetic - I don't have any interest in sport or celebrities and all that, just in making my business work.

But I suppose Sir John Harvey Jones was one of my favourites, his TV programmes where he turned businesses round was fascinating.

I'm interested in what people do - not how much money they make - and how things work and how factories streamline their businesses.

That's probably because I live on a farm and lots of different things happen there, and I'm always interested in looking for a better way of doing things.

What's the best bit of business advice you've had?

I suppose you could say that a girl who was working for me in 1998 gave me some good advice.

She was looking for a nice bra for her wedding and couldn't get one, so she suggested I start selling them.

So discovering that the bra market was good makes that advice important.

But for me its all about never giving up, tenacity and keeping going.

I don't really listen to advice - but I'm very good at giving it.

What is the biggest problem facing business at the moment?

Well for me it could be the interest rates threat.

Rates affect the amount of stock you can keep if you have to borrow to buy it - so the higher the rates the higher the loan cast.

It also affects repayments on new equipment.

But the major problem I face is the inability of suppliers to supply generally.

Coming from agriculture where animals need regular and reliant feeding and a B&B business where people need a room on a certain night I can't offer false promises and not deliver.

The businesses that will succeed will be the ones that can supply people on time otherwise they will miss the boat.

The attitude of big companies that "people can wait" is a problem - why promise to do something if you can't deliver?

Manufacturers and suppliers seem to be getting a bit blase and its a constant problem nowadays.

If you're out of stock, you can't supply the orders as promised and that makes you look a fool.

What business story has grabbed your interest recently?

Nike ordering Harris Tweed. It's amazing that one of the last people you'd think of has ordered material from a small company in the Hebrides.

Originally, it came out that they'd ordered just 40 metres, but then it turned out they actually wanted 10,000 metres which rocked the boat a bit.

But I think its a wonderful story, a big company ordering off a struggling one. I always do tend to support the underdog I suppose.

Harris Tweed is a quality product that has struggled on in recent years and its really nice when a small company gets a big order - and makes the news.

And a firm like Nike ordering it, well, its different, not run of the mill like ordering nylon or something like that.

Who knows what kind of Harris Tweed sportswear we'll see on the streets in the future.

What was the proudest moment of your career?

It hasn't happened yet - to be honest I just don't look backwards.

Every day is full of some achievement somewhere, as we're seeing continual growth.

It's a difficult question to think about, but if you equate my career to a new son or daughter, well the child arrives and its lovely but there are problems.

A year on they're still coming on leaps and bounds but then its well, 'why aren't you walking' and so on.

I'm always looking forward and so sometimes perhaps I don't enjoy the moment.

But I was asked to a Royal Garden Party last year. No I didn't get to meet the Queen but she was there - along with about 6,000 other ladies.

It was very nice, lovely and a nice atmosphere.

And I was also invited along to the Women in Business awards last year, so I suppose you could say I'm at the top of the trees in my business now.

Working from a small farm in North Yorkshire, Ample Bosom set up in 1999 with just one member of staff.

The company supplies quality underwear and swimwear in a large range of sizes and styles.

With a catalogue and a website attracting plenty of customers the firm now employs 10 staff to handle its orders.


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