Meet the retailer: Games 4 Hens
Today we publish the first of our eBay for Business Awards ‘Best in Category’ articles and it’s the story of Hannah of Games 4 Hens who won the ‘Be Your Own Boss Award’.
This isn’t a story of mega-bucks, in fact Hannah barely mentions money! It’s a tale of how eBay is more than a faceless internet marketplace; it’s how low barriers to entry, simple interface and ‘no sale no fee’ structure mean that anyone can be part of it, even Hannah. Here’s how in her own words:
Hannah’s dream job
In 2005 I secured a job in my dream school straight after qualifying as a Secondary School English & Drama teacher. My first summer break was approaching and I was young, free, single and happy – it was going to be awesome! Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. That summer I became very ill. After a few scary weeks during which bowel cancer was suspected, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease; a chronic incurable bowel condition. My illness was so advanced I underwent emergency surgery to have parts of my bowel removed. Alone with no family nearby, my Aunt took me to live with her, three hours drive away, in South Wales.
So there I was: twenty-two, single, diagnosed with a highly embarrassing chronic condition, recovering from major abdominal surgery and miles away from my friends and the job I loved. It was devastating. Sat alone in that house whilst my Aunt was at work, all I had for company was rubbish daytime television and my little laptop. Enter eBay.
eBay to the rescue
I began by selling random items from my Aunt’s wardrobe but getting to the Post Office was too hard. I decided to sell some of my teaching resources as electronic downloads: Powerpoint presentations, e-posters, worksheets etc. BOOM – they sold! I felt this buzz, this validation, this moment of excitement that I’d never experienced before. Teachers across the world were lapping it up, loving every item, leaving glowing feedback. It was exhilarating! Much as I loved ‘Hannah’s Resources’ I was lucky enough that my health improved sufficiently to return to my beloved teaching post so I waved goodbye to eBay, or so I thought.
The good times and bad times
The following few years were hectic and wonderful for me. I found love and got married to my amazing husband. Professionally, I was promoted to a leadership post working with the most vulnerable young people such as those with Special Educational Needs, Attachment and those who required Safeguarding. But the shadow of Crohn’s Disease was never far away and in 2011 my health deteriorated and I needed another operation to have more bowel removed.
This time I knew I wouldn’t be alone during my convalescence: I turned straight to eBay. Sadly, digital products had been prohibited on the platform so I began searching out a new niche. Prior to my operation, I was enjoying that period of my life when everyone was getting married and having Hen Nights.
The business idea
I always turned up at a Hen Do with a little game for us all to play which I had made up, it was my thing. These became my new niche: handheld hen-party card games. Each time one sold I would print the games out, cut them in to cards, package them up and walk – incredibly slowly! – to the post box at the end of the road. Mental Health is so important, my experience working with troubled young people has taught me that in spades, and each day leaving the house was so positive for me and essential to my recovery; I had to leave the house, I had a commitment to my buyers. The designs changed and developed as I listened to my lovely ladies but the essence of ‘Hannah’s Games’ was the same; great value and good fun! Then, in summer of 2012, with a grateful nod to my old friend eBay, I returned to the classroom.
Becoming a mum!
In contrast to these challenges, April 2015 brought the happiest moment of my life – I became a Mum! Becoming pregnant was a real battle for me, given my Crohn’s Disease, but our wonderful little boy, Sebastien, finally arrived. He was everything we had dreamed of, and so much more. Once the flurry of activity had stopped, my husband was back at work after his Paternity Leave, I discovered that it was really hard work and a bit lonely being a Mum. I needed to do something to develop myself, and my mental health, to ensure I was the best Mother I could be. It was time to dust off my Hen Do Games and get back on eBay!
The market had developed but my games still offered something special and unique in my niche. Games 4 Hens was powered by newborn naps and copious cups of tea and I loved it! It also meant a little source of extra income for little treats for my baby and not losing my identity to become a Mum Blob. Life was good.
Quitting the day job for good
After the best year ever it was time, once again, to return to the ‘day job’ as I had done twice before. But this time wasn’t the same. Management had changed in my school and my desirability as an employee had plummeted as I became a mother. Requests for flexible working were not met with much enthusiasm and the message was clear: Leadership and Motherhood aren’t mutually conducive. I was in crisis. Choosing between being the best Mum I can be and having a successful, fulfilling, professional career? The choice was heart-breaking and I had a nervous breakdown.
It took being at my lowest ebb to realise I didn’t have to choose. I could continue to lead, develop, be strategic, successful AND be a devoted Mum. I knew I could do it, because eBay had given me the confidence. I quit teaching in December 2016 and am now Managing Director of Games 4 Hens selling a range of Hen Party Games on eBay, and on other platforms too. I work around the needs of my son and family and we are thriving. eBay has literally transformed my life; it’s such a special and unique place. I’m so grateful to be part of it.