Spotlight on Zoe Pocock of Muck 'N' Brass
Top image credit @pinkhouseliving.
If you are looking for a truly unique piece of furniture then you have come to the right place. Zoe from Muck and Brass certainly knows how to create something different, be it up cycling furniture, to finding new ways of utilising shop manikins. Zoe has branched out into wallpaper, prints and home accessories too.
She's managed to create this business through organic growth; financial discipline and determination (taking furniture home on the bus until she could afford a van). Go enjoy this story and if you want to shop, you can do so through the button below.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I was made redundant and I was just floating ideas around of how to fill my time and what to do next when my husband suggested upcycling furniture. Throughout marriage I was always making and creating something for our homes.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Started on the dining table and then moved onto the small balcony of my Bermondsey flat.
3. How did you fund your business?
I have funded this business organically. I had just been made redundant when I started the business and I didn’t have a car which meant that the first piece of furniture I bought to upcycle I had to collect and bring home on the bus.
The revenue from selling that paid for the next piece and so on. Apart from a loan I eventually took out for a van the business has never had any debt. This method of funding can work with this type of business because of relatively low inputs, adding a large percentage of value from my own labour and selling mostly single items to individuals with payment taken on order (although the remittance systems on online sales platforms can cause a few cashflow headaches)
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
There weren’t any difficulties as such just tonnes of new things to learn and new skills to acquire.
5. What help was missing for you?
Learning the skills of upcycling.
There were only workshops on how to do shabby chic or paint a chair. That’s not what I wanted to achieve with my pieces. I’ve had to develope my techniques and hone my skills. I now do workshops teaching the art of making a piece look new and share all my secrets to achieve this. I teach everything that I wanted to know when I started basically.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
In the first year I was over-reliant on selling on eBay which is expensive, difficult to use, very unhelpful and at times intent on sabotaging a small business. It was a very stressful couple of months taking a big hit on sales when I was forced to move away from eBay but having filled the gap with sales on Etsy and my own website it turns out to have been the best move ever. I can’t recommend Etsy highly enough, the vendor tools, customer service, analytics and integration are all excellent.
7. What have you learnt?
I have learnt that you really can start a business and build a brand from nothing with pretty much the change in your purse. I often hear people talking about the huge sums of money they’re going to need to start their business. Even if I suddenly had a large amount of cash to invest in Muck N Brass I would still apply the same rigour and discipline I’ve been forced to apply over the last four years. I think it’s easy to be wasteful and ignore the fundamentals of whether a product is selling or if a PR initiative is good value when you don’t take notice of the direct relationship between what’s working and selling today and what you’re going to be able to reinvest in tomorrow.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Be adaptable. I’ve seen people start off in the same sector as me and a year later they’ve still got the same pieces unsold. I set a limit of a month on an item and if it doesn’t sell I change it. It’s either the price or the product. Take new marketing pictures or in some cases completely redesigning the piece. I know what sells now and I know my pricing is perfectly set for my customers.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I love lots about what I do. I love seeing who has bought as piece as we deliver most pieces ourselves. I love redesigning and seeing how something discarded can look so fabulous and I love what crazy directions I’ve been taken doing it. Like the BBC Cbeebies Junk Rescue and Flipping Profit TV shows.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
It’s hard and it’s rewarding. But it’s never as hard as the monotony of going to a job you hate. Even on the hard days I love going to the workshop and working hard. It’s your and you are working for yourself. Nothing beats it.
Nicola says "I love that Zoe recognises that this type of business can be grown without a huge financial input, great financial discipline and determination have helped too. Being adaptable when eBay wasn't working, learning how to do PR and marketing and having a great and unique product have seen this go from strength to strength."
The Girl with The Green Sofa