Spotlight on Julia Eldon of Suburban Salon
Today on the blog I am featuring Julia Eldon of Suburban Salon who makes the most beautiful homewares from her home in the North West of the UK. Her sheepskin stools can be found in the homes of any discerning interiors person and she has gradually grown her business organically through the use of social media to showcase her products and attract people to her website.
Go and find out about Julia's journey below and if you want one of these gorgeous products you can shop her website here.
Hello, I'm Julia Eldon, married to James who’s a Secondary Head Teacher of 2 big Academies in Manchester. We both hail from Bristol but have been in the North West since I was 18 when I went to Lancaster Uni where I studied German and Marketing. Worked in brand marketing until I had Freddie who’s 14 and I have Amelia who’s 10.
I gave up my last marketing role (Eurocamp Marketing Manager) after having Freddie and decided I needed a change of direction so I studied Interior Design and then did night school classes in soft-furnishings and upholstery. Worked as an Interior Designer until I set up Suburban Salon 2 1/2 years ago.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I started making sheepskin and faux fur upholstered stools and footstools when I was working as an Interior Designer. Texture and layering is key to any great design scheme for me and I used to throw sheepskins over chairs, benches, footstools, beds - any piece of furniture to create a very soft, homely, textured, but also glamorous look. I had a vision of a footstool that was upholstered in soft fur, but found that it didn’t exist. Added to that, from my own personal experience, I knew that my children adore anything tactile and cosy, fabrics that they can stroke whilst watching their favourite TV programme. The concept of attaching a snuggly fabric to a bench or stool was now borne in my head and I researched the idea and discovered there was nothing like this in the marketplace. I developed the product and started to experiment, first by up-cycling vintage footstools and then after realizing that I couldn’t create a consistent product this way, taking the plunge and making the entire stool by myself.
I made prototypes for my own home, and then started to get requests and orders from friends so then I decided to turn my hobby into a business and Suburban Salon was created!
My aim was to create unique, hand crafted products that are both visually and tactilely interesting, a 'wow' piece of furniture
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Yes, I absolutely started the business on the kitchen table and in fact, I still do run it from home, although these days I have a designated studio which is great as it means I can close the door on the making side of the business at night and the weekend if necessary and switch off. You’ll never find me posting this room on Instagram though!
3. How did you fund your business?
We funded it through savings. We bought all my equipment and fabrics and also paid a graphic designer to create my branding.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
The most difficult part at the beginning was trying to figure out how I was going to get anyone to look at my website. I think it took about 6 months or so before anyone other than friends and family visited my website and bought anything! I had so much positive feedback from friends who loved my products, but inwardly I was starting to doubt myself and what I was doing. I really can’t describe the feeling of elation I had when my first order, from somebody whose name I didn’t recognise! It was a major whoop moment! I seemed to gain a real momentum then and sales just took off. Heavy hitters like Karen Millen got in touch as they wanted Mongolian footstools in some of their shop windows in London for a Christmas display then a fabulous journalist at Vogue magazine bought a couple of stools and she loved them and was so encouraging about my business that my confidence just grew and grew.
5. What help was missing for you?
I didn’t understand social media at all and could have really done with a masterclass 3 years ago. I really was completely clueless, but you can learn a lot yourself on-line. Without any advertising budget, I knew social media was the only way I was going to get my products out there but I also knew there were only so many hours in a day, so I had to focus my energies on just one platform so I chose Instagram. It was a good decision that paid off and I can attribute much of the success down to Instagram. My interior design background also helped as I quickly learnt that using my home to style my own products in was a better strategy rather than a more sterile, manufactured styling set up.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
I wouldn’t say anything terribly went wrong, once my sales started coming, I really did gain momentum. But I did make mistakes along the way in terms of things like not charging enough postage for some items.
7. What have you learnt?
So much!!! But, the most important thing is that a beautiful, unique product, priced competitively, along with excellent customer service is everything!! If you have these elements in place, chances are you’ll be successful. The best thing about Instagram, is you often get to see and know your customers. If you manage to delight your customers, they will tag you and this type of referral marketing generates more interest and really is the best form of marketing. I’m always amazed at how wonderful and kind my customers are and often overwhelmed at how much they help me. So, be good to your customers, deliver them a product they will love and you will get the payback.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Be original. Don’t copy what anyone else is doing as people will see through it. Be authentic as again, this is crucial on Instagram, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. Focus your time on building a following on the type of social media that’s most relevant to your brand and be prepared to work hard. Building a decent following on any social media platform takes a lot of hard work and is incredibly time consuming. Be kind and supportive to others within your social media community and you will find the favour returned.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I love the flexibility I have working for myself. I can go on holiday when I want, go to the gym in the day, meet friends for lunch and avoid rush-hour traffic in the main! I don’t answer to anybody and this works for me and my family. My husband works long hours, so working from home means I can be there for the children which is priceless.
The bit I love the most, in terms of the actual business, is when I receive the most gorgeous messages from customers who love my products and then take the time to let me know how pleased they are. This brings a huge amount of personal satisfaction!
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
I would say around 7. One of the positives and negatives is that I can run my business from my IPhone which means it’s constant. I’m taking calls, answering direct messages and emails 24 / 7 and this at times is all encompassing. Sometimes I wish I could have a proper day off, but in reality, this is a rarity!
And Julia not only has a great business, she has a beautiful home, which you can see below
Nicola says "I love the fact that Julia came across her business through working in interior design and finding a niche in the market because she was unable to find a product that she could use in her job. Creating unique and beautiful products that are priced sensibly has given her a lot of success. Knowing how to market herself on Instagram has also helped drive people to buy her products, something that brands are using more and more. Julia makes a very good point that without a big advertising budget many small companies rely on social media to get their products seen and bought, and this is only going to increase as time goes by."
Thanks for sharing Julia.
The Girl with The Green Sofa