Spotlight on Anna Straw of Anna's Attic Interiors and Events.
I've known Anna from Anna’s Attic interiors and events, for a little while now and watched her appearance of Great Interior Design Challenge, earlier this year with great interest...... so it’s a great pleasure to invite her onto the blog to hear all about how #GIDC changed her business and what she is up to now. Correspondingly, she is launching a new set of products on her website today; wall-hangings from Parisian artists Sandrine Chambery, which are exclusive to Anna and which you can see in the first three pictures below.
You can follow Anna on Instagram here.
Anna is age 43, lives in Lincolnshire with husband Mark, daughter Sadie and Springer doodle Ralf. Passionate about interiors from a very young age and lucky enough to now be creating interiors for others, following my appearance as a contestant on BBC TV’s Great Interior Design Challenge. Magpie and shopaholic, satisfying my addiction by sourcing products for my online home wares range and clients alike.
Anna’s Attic providing: Interior Design – Both commercial and residential.
Online homewares store – Stocking a curated range of home wares.
Styling services - events, photo shoots, retail styling.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I was made redundant from my PA career back in 2012, during this time I set up a business with my husband providing training for one of his clients, during this time my daughter also started senior school, so I took time out to settle her in, taking advantage of the free time I had to take stock and think about what I really wanted to do. Neither my career as a PA or the training business provided me with the creative outlet I had craved for many years.
I’ve been upcycling furniture and sewing soft furnishings for myself for years, more recently I have sold items through online retailer Layer Home (now Vinterior). I’m currently working on a couple of furniture pieces that will be added to the site shortly, I plan to have at least one unique upcycled piece available at any one time on the website.
A keen Pinterest fan I was constantly coming across images of beautifully styled events, mostly weddings and mostly in the US, I investigated further and realised that there was a gap in the market locally for stylish event décor. I’ve amassed so many vintage, antique and modern decorative items over the years that I took the plunge and offered to style a wedding in return for the images, which I planned to use for marketing. From this, bookings for weddings have continued to come through and through working with some fabulous photographers and other creatives my work has been featured on some of the top UK wedding blogs and in print too.
Interior Design has always been my real passion and having appeared as a contestant on this year’s BBC Great Interior Design Challenge interior design jobs have followed, which is exciting. Similar to event styling in as much you are creating a scheme for a client and turning that into a reality and using the same skill set, building relationships and trust, translating ideas, sourcing products, working to budgets etc.
The homewares collection available on my website has been a natural progression, I have always loved sourcing unique items for my own home, now I can help others do the same. The range includes belly baskets, vintage glassware, decorative items and today I am launching as exclusive UK distributor of a Parisian artist, stocking a range of stunning wall hangings. The range will grow as I source items true to brand.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
I’m lucky in that I have space at home, which is great as I have reduced overheads, however this can mean that it’s sometimes difficult for me to switch off as I can be tempted into the office when I should be doing other things.
3. How did you fund your business?
The start-up costs have been minimal so I have been lucky and have been able to self-fund.
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 for me is marketing, I have found that Instagram has been fabulous in terms of growing my following and reaching out to potential clients, but marketing and raising awareness is something I need to work on.
5. What help was missing for you?
I’m actually very lucky in that my husband has ran his own business for 18 years, so he is my go to for advice and guidance.
As mentioned above marketing strategy advice is something that I feel would really benefit me.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
It’s important to me to ensure clients are happy with my services, this means you can often spend more time than originally budgeted on projects. When you are providing a service you really need to be able to measure your own time and ensure that this is covered within your pricing. Often, I have priced jobs and ended up spending much more time on them than I had originally planned, time is money and it’s important to ensure that you allow for sufficient hours on the job when pricing for clients. You must also learn to value your own worth.
7. What have you learnt?
The importance of building strong relationships. Be it with a bride and groom, interior design client, website customer or other businesses I come across in my work. If you build strong relationships people will trust you, this isn’t something that comes overnight, it takes time but is worth the investment, if people trust you they will buy into you as a person, recommend you, shout about you to friends and share their positive experiences, this is invaluable in growing your business.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Starting a business on your own can be a lonely place, you should prepare yourself for this. Until I was made redundant I had always worked with lots of other people, I’m very outgoing and sociable and for me not working as part of a team is something I really missed when I first started out. I make up for this by working with other creatives on styled photo shoots throughout the year, this way I’m able to collaborate with others in the planning stages, enjoy great days out together shooting and ticking the “Team work” box at the same time. Prepare yourself, you’ll need to be independent and be able to make decisions on your own. I’d recommend finding ways of meeting other people in similar situations, network where possible, it’s a great way of sharing experience, getting advice and creating a support network. I’ve met so many lovely people I now count as friends in this way.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I love creating beautiful spaces for people to enjoy, I really believe that a home should reflect the people who live in it. To me there is nothing worse than walking into a home and having no clue who lives there. I enjoy really getting to know my clients to create beautiful interiors that are personal to them. One of my favourite parts of my job is sharing an initial scheme with a client via a mood board, I love the excitement this brings, as well as the big reveal of a new scheme, I love to see the reaction of clients when they see their scheme complete for the first time, so rewarding.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
If 1 were super easy and 10 incredibly hard I would have to say 5, I’m relatively new to all this, I’m getting there and very proud of what I’ve achieved in such a short time but still have so much to learn.
Nicola Says "Anna mentions how lonely it can be to be an entrepreneur, something I have alluded to a lot on this blog, and it is especially true if you are used to working in a large company or are particularly sociable. Making decisions on everything that comes with running a business is hard, luckily Anna has her husband to turn to for advice, but not everyone does.
Marketing is an interesting topic picked up here. Gone are the days when people paid to take an advert out in a magazine (of course they still do) and that was the extent of the effort to reach an audience. Today social media plays a huge role in getting your brand out there. Using Influencers, bloggers, and combinations of social sites are all big in marketing now and it is essential to have your own website and (often) blog. But we here on other stories how that is often still not enough and you have to work hard to engage on a personal level with your customers and convert the interest into sales.
Making sure you price and value your own time properly are good tips from Anna"
Thanks for sharing your story Anna.
The Girl with The Green Sofa