Top tips for starting your own business

We first caught up with Product Design graduate Jamie Boult a few years ago when he told us about J Boult Designs – a business he started whilst still a student. Having been an alumnus for five years now, Jamie regularly returns to the University to speak to the students who are thinking about following in his footsteps. Keep reading to hear his top tips to starting a business.

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Product Design alumnus Jamie Boult crouching down with the Scottish Highlands in the backgroundJamie founded J Boult Designs while in his third year of studying BDes(Hons) Product Design at Edinburgh Napier University. 

Combining his experience of growing up in the Scottish Highlands with the skills he learnt at university, J Boult Designs up-cycles waste products, such as bullets, antler, reclaimed wood, and turns them into handsome everyday pieces.   

These stylish gifts, including cufflinks, hip flasks, earrings and belts, can be found in over 150 shops worldwide in countries such as France, Germany, Norway, USA, as well as the UK.  

Jamie credits Edinburgh Napier for giving him the skills required to start his own business and has returned to the University on an annual basis to speak to the current students. He remembers what it was like to be in their position and is keen to show that there is an alternative career path for those who don’t want to enter a graduate scheme. This year’s visit had to be a virtual one, but Jamie enjoys giving back to the University and was glad to still be able to share his experience of starting an eco-friendly business.


Jamie's Top Tips

What guidance would Jamie give to someone thinking of setting up shop?

Start small

Selling on Etsy or starting a low-cost website is a fantastic way to dip your toes in. Website builders like Shopify and Squarespace allow you to build a professional website for very little money.  

As long as you can fulfil your own orders and try and reduce the things that you pay other people to do, the costs can be quite low.

Now's the time to do it

Starting something at university or just after you leave is the best time to do it - you won’t have to leave a safe job and you probably don't have a mortgage or dependents relying on you. 

But remember, it’s not wasted time if it doesn’t take off like you expect it to; it will look good on your CV to say that you started a business during this difficult time. Plus, employers are calling out for intrapreneurs - individuals who can use their innovation and creative skills to develop new products and services within an organisation.

Attend trade fairs

If Jamie did things differently, he would exhibit at trade fairs much earlier than he did. They seem expensive; however, they are great places to put your products in front of buyers who are from all corners of the globe. Plus, there are often discounts available for new businesses.

Use inexpensive marketing techniques

Don’t overlook low-cost marketing methods like writing press releases; sending wholesale catalogues to potential stockists (remember lots of shop owners appreciate having a hard copy and are more likely to look at it rather than an email); working with bloggers and influencers; and having an active social media presence.

Price wisely

Jamie also recommends pricing the products so that you have a good profit margin and making sure your minimum order is high enough. When you deal with overseas customers, shipping and transferring money can eat into your profits.

What does the future hold for J Boult Designs?

Jamie aims to grow J Boult Designs' wholesale customer base as well as their online presence. He’s always designing new products and looking for new trade fairs to attend.  

J Boult Designs are based in the Scottish Highlands and each piece is made by hand by Jamie. To find out more, please visit their website or follow their social media channels, Facebook or Instagram.


If you’re interested in giving back to Edinburgh Napier University through volunteering, get in touch via alumni@napier.ac.uk.

And remember, all alumni, students and staff can access the resources and support available through Bright Red Triangle - the University’s hub for innovation and enterprise!