Spotlight on Emma Krause of Light up North
If you want show stopping art or you just want your favourite phrase written out in lights, then you've come to the right place as Emma Krause and her business partner Dave of @light_up_North are today's blog post feature.
Here you can see some of the art they have produced, some in collaboration with graphic artist Turtledust, as seen in my dining room below and others produced by themselves, as seem in my living room, or the garden of Pati Robins @patirobins below, or the kitchen of Amy @thisstyle_rocks.
Find out about their amazing journey below.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I met Dave when he came to rewire my house. He was working as a domestic electrician, though his background was in theatre and commercial lighting. After working on my wreck of a house, we talked a lot about wanting some exciting lighting solutions, but without the exciting price tag. The renovations had not left any cash for designer lighting.
At the same time, I had moved to the North East for the first time as a result of my husband’s job, I had planned to return to work as a social worker but quickly realised how difficult this was to do with no family support to help with my three young children. My husband’s job often takes him away. I needed a job that would work for me and give me the freedom I wanted and needed to be available for the children.
Dave and I looked at El wire, electroluminescent wire, we soon realised the potential of the idea, even though at the beginning our execution was way off, and Light Up North was born.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
We literally did work off the Kitchen table, until we moved into a workshop in the garage. It became so difficult and inefficient. To have to pack up the tools as the children came home every day, slowed production and development, not to mention that the children and my family felt like Light up North was taking over our life. This is a difficult sell at the beginning, when the orders are really hard fought and the product is still not that great. Our friend Marty, did see the potential of birth El wire and Light Up North, he commissioned us to make a few things for the Empire Night Club in Middlesbrough. This kick started our social media and really gave us the touch light we needed. This year we have moved to our first proper premises, two workshops and an office, we now employ two-part time workers.
3. How did you fund your business?
We had fantastic support from the business growth team of Redcar and Cleveland council. Who also saw some potential on us. They helped us write a business plan and found a local source of funding, interested in supporting manufacturing. This was the support we needed to move from the dining room table and into the garage. Dave was able to work part time as an electrician, and I was so fortunate to have a husband who did see the value to our family of me being self-employed. To be honest though, I think the way we funded it was self-sacrifice, some months we didn’t get paid, and we still don’t earn a wage that is fair for the hours that we work but were both invested in the long-term picture and just want to get this fledgling business off the ground. Cash flow is going to be king in the beginning.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
It’s hard to think which part was the hardest. I think it’s all hard. To be very honest! I was able to go and find support for lots of it, like an accountant for the books, or training for social media. I have a business mentor, which is tremendously useful and supportive. Honestly, I think the hardest part is keeping your nerve. When you have all the sleepless nights, which still come, it’s hard to keep going and not think, it would be easier to go and get a job!!
5. What help was missing for you?
Honestly, I do think that there was great support for new business in this area. The local authority needs to promote new business and I have found other local business very supportive. It has been great from that point of view. I could do with more hours in the day, more days in the week.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
It is still difficult to deliver on time and with a reasonable lead time. We make everything ourselves, and do all parts of design and customer service. We hope that this run up to Christmas we will be more efficient and be able to make even more. The El wire itself can be very unreliable and this is disappointing for people when it fails. We buy it via a supplier in the UK, but it all comes from China and quality can be unpredictable. Can you imagine, we spend hours on a project, and when it arrives at the other end of the county it doesn’t work, that is very disappointing. Soul destroying.
Couriers, couriers upset me a lot!! We have to wrap our pieces like they are bombs as couriers treat them so badly. I get so jealous of company’s who can send out their stuff in dainty slick looking packaging, whilst ours goes in a meter-thick bundle of cardboard and bubble wrap.
7. What have you learnt?
It is important to be nice. This is not made up. If our suppliers hadn’t chosen to support us through difficult times, we would not have been able to continue.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Listen to everyone, doesn’t mean you have to do what they say but do listen. Seek support from the people whose skill set is different to your own and work smart. The best example I have of this was the hours I was spending trying to keep the books and manage all the admin. I was paying out lots of extra childcare at nearly £13 an hour, until I met Judith, a virtual PA, who can do it all in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. No brainier.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I went to harvest festival at my son’s school yesterday, I’m able to go to everything. I understand that this is not possible for so many and I’m grateful. I do still get excited when I see our work in print, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
It’s still in the high numbers, when will it go down?? I’m sure it will soon!!!
Nicola says "Emma has managed to find and use quite a lot of local support, something which is available in a lot of the regions, where the development agencies are pushing to get more innovative businesses growing outside of London, try and find it if you are starting out. Emma has also learnt the art of when it better to outsource work, freeing her time to concentrate on the business yet it is still challenging, nearly all start-ups are, it's so hard to know where the challenges will come from and when it's your life (as they often become) its very hard to switch off from them. holding your nerve, as Emma suggests is the hardest thing to do"
Thanks so much for sharing Emma.
The Girl with The Green Sofa