A BUSINESS that was born in a barn in rural North Yorkshire more than 20 years ago has grown to become an international online bra specialist retailer.

Farmer’s wife Sally Robinson was shocked by how difficult it was for one of her employees to find a nice bra for her wedding day back in 1999 and decided to take the plunge.

Sally and her husband John had already branched out to offer holiday accommodation in addition to the family farm near Helmsley which is home to 150 Beef Shorthorn cross Limousin cattle and 500 North Country Mule ewes.

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“I have always thought that farming was a dangerous profession to do on your own, so when the children were younger, I wanted a business that would allow me to remain at home and keep a watchful eye on my husband,” said Sally.

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“We first started with the more traditional farm diversification route of holiday cottages, which we still have today. Once I’d got that business up and running, I decided I needed a new challenge and nobody else was doing what I was thinking of.”

Ample Bosom started life as a mail order business supplying plus-size bras and lingerie, but now caters for women of all shapes and sizes.

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It has expanded to offer customers worldwide a vast online collection of underwear, nightwear, cup-size swimwear and lingerie from the world’s leading brands.

“Not everyone wants to go for a bra fitting on the high street and it can be really disheartening to walk into a store that doesn’t have anything to suit you, “ said Sally.

“More often than not, ladies will end up buying something that isn’t right for them, simply because it’s all that’s available on the day.

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“Our ethos is to treat every one of our customers as an individual and help them to find underwear that makes them feel comfortable and confident. Unlike many other retailers, we are not limited to one particular brand or range, instead hand picking our stock to ensure we have something that suits our customers, whatever their size, or budget.

“No two bras are the same and ladies can find it difficult to find a bra that fits them well,” Sally added.

“This is only getting worse as manufacturers at the bottom of the market are increasingly going for a one-size-fits-all approach with an increasing amount of elastic in the bras. This doesn’t offer the level of support and structure that you need, especially if you have a bigger bust.”

While Sally and her team rarely meet their customers face to face, their personal service is something which has seen AmpleBosom build up a loyal following.

“We have got to know our customers really well over the years and it’s always lovely to chat to them year after year when they reorder from us. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping somebody who has been struggling for years to find a comfortable well-fitting bra – that’s what I enjoy the most!”

Good relationships are important for Sally. Not only are her own family close by and involved in the business, but her team are treated as an extension of the family.

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Sally Robinson, of Ample Bosom, with her grandson Albert Picture: Frank Dwyer

“Everyone mucks in and does their bit, whether that’s helping with the holiday cottages or packing orders. It’s very much a traditional ‘Yorkshire’ approach and I think it’s important that we all have a good work-life balance.”

Looking ahead, the business shows no sign of slowing down, with a new website on its way designed to be intuitive for every customer that visits. “As long as I’m helping as many women as possible, I’ll be happy!” said Sally.

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Sally says her advice for running a successful online business includes: find experts you can trust and let them guide you; establish good relationships; know your customers and offer a personal service to keep them coming back; and keep investing to stay ahead.

“There are so many different sales and marketing channels, both on and offline, and it’s impossible to be a specialist in them all,” she added. “Have a clear strategy and make sure your team and suppliers are all working towards the same goals.”