Spotlight on Johanna Franks @Lovefrankiedotcom
This lady has just opened her new shop in Totnes, Devon but has been in the business for a lot of years and through several different iterations, so her story is a compelling one. Selling online for as long as I've know her, I have one of her gorgeous lampshades in my bedroom, it's the brilliant and funny Johanna Franks of @lovefrankiedotcom who sells the most amazing lampshades and homewares through instagram and her website here
Johanna gives most of the background to her and her story in the answers below so I'm going to leave you to read and chuckle a little at her funny and honest appraisal at her journey. Fluffy toilet seat covers anyone?
Love Frankie also collaborates on products such as that with surface pattern designer, Abigail Borg. Working together they have released an exclusive range of botanical inspired lampshades available exclusively on both their official websites and seen below.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to run my own business, with a passion for interior design and being a dab hand on the sewing machine I knew I wanted to make and create for a living. Plus being made redundant from my interior design job whilst pregnant will really make you assess your life choices!
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Love Frankie started in a very different guise, in my early 20’s I had a weekend stall at Camden and Spitalfields markets. My signature product being a fluffy toilet seat cover...yes I’m absolutely serious. Think neon, think leopard print and marabou feathers, all adorned with the faces of legends such as Elvis or the Hoff!
I began making lampshades because I saw a gap in the market for decent, reasonably priced handmade lampshades with an edge. Lighting is so personal which is why I knew I wanted to offer a variety of different sizes and colours, plus a made to order service allowing customers to supply their own material if needed.
After moving to Brighton in 2009 I grabbed Love Frankie by the balls and opened my first shop. Here I sold my lampshades, cushions and some pretty awesome kids clothes, all hand made in the studio at the back of the shop. I also sold my wares on Etsy and Not on the High street, this was the perfect way of getting my name out there on platforms which were already established.
After relocating back to London, and popping out another sprog, I made the decision to keep Love Frankie solely online so I could be on hand as mum as well as run my business. Fast forward 6 years or so, we’re now based in Devon and I’m about to open my second shop in Totnes. The kids clothes had to go as running that side of the business alongside my interiors brand was becoming two full time jobs. I love designing for kids, especially my own so I decided to turn my hand to kids interiors rather than clothing. A natural progression from the kids clothing, so 2016 saw the first drop of my kids bedlinen, beanbags and tableware which has been a real success. Wallpaper and more kids interior products to follow...keep your eyes peeled folks!
3. How did you fund your business?
By spending within my means, I am so proud of the fact that I’ve never had to borrow money. I started very small and have grown and grown from there, constantly checking in with the bank manager and understanding where best to spend the funds and at what time. I also have an awesome accountant who keeps me in check!
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
I think the most difficult thing can be understanding how to get your product out there. Promoting yourself, your brand and your company can be a tiresome and often expensive game. Social media however has been the best marketing tool for me, with Instagram being the most successful. My instagram account allows me to be me, although it is obviously a business tool, allowing me to share photo’s of not only my new lampshades, cushion or kids bedding but also allows me to share my shop renovations or weekend fun with my family and friends. I think it’s always good to show the face behind a brand which is why instagram stories have been such a brilliant invention!
5. What help was missing for you?
The internet wasn’t quite what it is today when I first started out, being and old grandma and all that! Finding suppliers, distributors and even customers wasn’t as easy as it is now. I would say knowing what to do at the beginning in terms of finding my market was tricky.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
7. What have you learnt?
Be a risk taker, be ballsy, don’t always take no for an answer and most importantly BE YOURSELF!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Be You. Don’t copy, don’t try and mimic the style and success of someone else. They’re already doing it, whether they’re doing it well or not doesn’t matter.
Make, write or sell the things YOU like, not what you think people will like. You’ll be surprised at the audience you’ll grow.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I have a few favourites. I love designing new products but also love just playing around in my studio. Whether it’s putting mood boards together, splashing some paint on a canvas or getting my sewing machine out, I love it all! Inspiration comes to me from all around, and often just starts as a little doodle that I pinned to my wall for years and years! Looking back at how some of my designs began, how they developed over time to the final products they are today is so wonderful to see.
There’s also a lovely image that does the rounds every now and then on social media which says something like “when you buy from an independent shop an actual person does a happy dance.” This resonates with me, as after nearly 10 years of trading, those happy dances continue to come, It’s such a buzz.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
I’d say a 3, I think when you love what you do, it never feels like hard work. Sure there are difficult, stressful and some serious ass clenching moments, but I know I certainly have more drive to succeed knowing its my business, my brand and mine and my kids future on the line. Pulling late ones is a regular occurrence as running your own business from home, with two kids simply doesn’t allow the normal 9 - 5 working day! All in all though I feel super blessed to do something I absolutely adore.
Nicola says " I love the journey that Johanna has taken from fluffy toilet seat covers to lighting and kids homeware, all the time with a sensible tight reign on her finances allowing her to grow without the need to borrow money. She's practical about her business, knows how to market it through instagram engagement and through just being herself. Clearly Johanna has a love for what she does, i think she is the first person to actually rate the challenges of running a business as low as 3, perhaps due to the length of time she has been doing this but also through her love of what she does"
thanks for sharing!
The Girl with The Green Sofa