Spotlight on The Loft and Us
If you follow me on Instagram you will instantly recognise this paper as the wallpaper that I have in my bathroom, wallpaper that I had been coveting for months until I got my hands on it. It’s based on the designs of Rebecca Loftus.
Rebecca's paper is based on her art and inspiration and you can find out more here.
"Hailing from a small town called Lytham in Lancashire, Rebecca moved to London at twenty years of age to further pursue her career within the music industry. With a couple of career changes along the way somehow Rebecca ended up working in the corporate sector; a nightmare for any creative. Although art was always a passion of hers she never thought it could be used as a plausible career choice so just kept her hobby to herself occasionally doing art work for friends and family.
It wasn’t until Rebecca started posting her own art work on her personal Instagram account and watching how other artists were carving careers out of showcasing their art work in those little square boxes that Rebecca thought she might be on to something. People started enquiring about her work and asking where it could be purchased. Although cautious at first as Rebecca is essentially a self-taught artist she decided to follow her passion and venture into the potential of starting to sell her own artwork online.
Rebecca launched The Loft and Us in 2015 with the concept of creating bold, eclectic and unique designs for the home guaranteed to make a statement. She designs all the art prints, wallpaper designs and homeware herself. Rebecca’s ethos behind the brand is to simply have fun with your interiors, as they’re ultimately an extension of you. She sees her designs as almost a prescription for the home banishing boring magnolia and beige wherever possible!"
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
It all kind of started organically really. I originally moved to London as a singer in the music industry when I was younger then one thing led to another and a few years later I somehow ended up on the corporate ladder. I cannot express to you enough how much working a nine to five made my skin crawl. Watching on as my emotionally unstable office manager showed everyone YouTube videos of her cats as I scowled at the IT guy who knew everyone was annoyed with him because he’s the one who showed her how to use YouTube. I sat back and thought, a) How have I got here? b) Why the hell am I still here and c) I wonder how long it’s going to be before she realises the reason her beloved orchid never grows is because the entire staff pour coca cola into it when she’s not looking.
I could never get around the concept of standing around with a bunch of people talking about how much we hate our job and it wasn’t just my job, I found a lot of people complained about where they worked too. I refused to be that person so I started thinking about ways to escape it. Plus, I have always been a creative and I knew in my heart I had to do something that was true to myself.
2. How did you start up kitchen table, mums garage, renting premises?
Like a lot of small businesses, I started on my kitchen table. God I’m such a cliché! I’d been thinking about a few different ideas for a while but nothing ever really came into fruition. I’d started to post some of my own artwork on my personal Instagram and a few people began to enquire about my work so like any normal person I thought sod it lets start an entire business! I originally launched a website selling just my art without doing any research what so ever on target markets, cash flow and how to run an actual business, yeah this will be great! To be honest though after talking with a few other small business owners my story isn’t too dissimilar from theirs, sometimes it’s about just having an idea and beginning then your business naturally evolves along the way.
3. How did you fund your business?
I didn’t really need much to begin with, as I didn’t actually know what I was doing, no seriously. I just plonked my art on a website and waited, a few tumbleweed months later I realised ohhhhh right, I need to actually let people know I exist.
Over that time, I also decided to expand into homeware and wallpaper and to do that I secured a small business loan.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, people to buy, marketing etc?
Well I’d pretty much have to say all of the above! Isn’t the life of an entrepreneur great! Insert eyes rolled up emoji here.
I’d say good advice is crucial especially from someone who has actually successfully set up his or her own business. Also, money really does help. I have so many things waiting to launch but because of funds a lot of things have to take a back seat. I’m well aware my marketing needs serious improvement too.
Also, can I add sourcing good manufacturers, where do you all hide? Is there some secret “manufactures cult” I don’t know about? I have a couple of great manufacturers but the others are somewhat questionable. Seriously why is this not easier?
5. What help was missing for you?
At the beginning, a mentor, someone who had actually built a product selling business and knew all the pitfalls and gateways. Google became my best friend.
6. What went wrong in your first year?
I wouldn’t say anything necessarily went wrong as in the first year I set up my website but at the same time didn’t really take it too seriously. I was still working full-time so I just looked at it as some extra pocket money. I’d say for me the first year was just about improving my products, seeing what worked and what didn’t and learning how a business actually ran so I was just literally a sponge for that first year watching webinars, buying books and generally getting clued up.
7. What have you learnt?
Consistency and engagement with your customers is key. I also think motivation and shear drive play an integral role. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to work an 8-hour day at home and jump from designing to finances to marketing and business strategies it all can all get a little overwhelming, so I think wherever it is possible to source outside help, do it.
Oh, and money helps. A lot.
8. What is the most important piece of advice you could give others thinking about starting a business.
Hmmm, I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one or two things. Knowing your target market is crucial, when I started I was all over the shop and I’ve really only just, over the last few months gotten to grips with who my customer is, from what they like, where they shop, what they do in their spare time, what they watch on TV, it’s all relative.
Also, I know this sounds obvious but remember it’s a business you have started not a hobby so that means you need weekly and monthly sales targets. Don’t fret if you’re not killing it straight away though, who is? Just create a plan and stick to it, don’t look left or right.
9. What do you enjoy the most?
There is no better feeling then knowing someone has spent his or her hard-earned cash on buying something you’ve created. Obviously being your own boss and not having to answer to a complete nut job also has its charms but mostly I just love creating and building something I love and want to spend my time on.
10. On a scale or 1 – 10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
Hmmm it honestly depends, some days I want to cry into my pillow whilst eating mashed potato and Jaffa cakes (not eaten together). Then the next day I’m flicking back my hair like Beyoncé seriously contemplating if I might actually be the next Peter Jones or Sophia Amoruso. So, let’s go with a solid 6 out of 10.
Nicola says, "Some fabulous, honest and funny advice from Rebecca about how she got started on her journey, the challenges of juggling it all, the need for a plan and targets (or how are you going to judge how you are doing?) and where to get good solid business advice either via a mentor or as we've heard before "google'. It's hard starting out when your passion is art and you have to learn the "business stuff" and there is not enough advice out there to go around, judging by almost every business post I've done on this blog.
We need a network of business mentors, which is why I created this blog, so that new starters can find out other people's journey and hook onto someone similar to go for advice.
Thanks for sharing your journey Rebecca!
The Girl with The Green Sofa