Spotlight on Dodo Flugge of Diedododa
Today's spotlight is on the very talented artist Dodo Flugge and her business partner Stuart of Diedododa. Dodo's artwork is wonderfully maximalist and a riot of colour and her strap line "stare at art not walls" is wonderful apt for so many of us in the interior space, especially those of us fond of a gallery wall or two.
You can shop the art here.
Dodo set out with one concept in mind; to start a business around her art, and has taken a few different journeys to get to where she is now; initially about up cycling furniture before realising that customers were asking about how to buy her work and so now selling exclusively prints and cards. Read on to hear about her business journey.
My business partner Stu and I set up Diedododa in 2012. In case you were wondering what the name means or how it is pronounced:
it’s “dee-doh-doh-da” and simply means “that Dodo there” in German.
We had no idea what we were getting into at the time and the whole adventure has been and is a delightful learning curve. The concept was always to have a business set up around my artwork and creations….whichever shape they might take.
Initially I worked a lot with furniture - revamping old pieces that were structurally sound but in need of a colourful maximalist makeover. My actual artwork was more of a backdrop to sell the furniture pieces.
More and more people started asking about the artwork and if we sold prints of it. We didn’t. Thought we might as well though, and soon the decision was made to solely focus on art prints and cards…..although I still can’t resist doing up the odd piece of furniture!
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
To put it simply: to play! See where it could go. My business partner and I had run businesses (totally unrelated to this creative/retail business) together before and knew that we worked well together. So when the opportunity arose we thought: hey, what about giving a creative business set up around my artwork a go. There was no clear plan as to what shape that might take ideally initially though. diedododa was set up solely around a desire to learn, make, and lots of it ;)
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
We started looking for premises that were reasonably priced yet big enough to allow to have a retail space AND workshop for me to work on furniture upcycling and other messy painterly bits. Because yes, while we are now specialising in art prints and greeting cards, the business started out creating one-off pieces of usable "furniture art”. In between we used to have our own candle ranges and finally realised that what people were really into was actual prints of my artwork - from canvas paintings to ink drawings. We started by outsourcing the printing part but it was too slow and expensive for the amount of designs I created, so we did a lot of research into paper types, printers and finally set up out own print studio from where we now produce all our art prints. It’s still a work in progress…
3. How did you fund your business?
Setting up and the studio premises was funded from our previous business’ savings.
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 thing was and still is not knowing if there is a wrong or right way to do anything. No, seriously though; having run a successful hospitality business before did not prepare us much for the realities of running a retail business (other than the numbers and administrative side of course). Creating a loyal and solid customer - and since more recently- also trade partner base is our main goal right now. Definitely still winging it though!
5. What help was missing for you?
None. Or well, any and every? Depends which way to look at it. We didn’t expect help and didn’t think to ask for any either. Definitely the hardest way of doing things and while so far it was the quickest way to get our shit together and learn things, rethink, refocus and develop in different areas….in hindsight it could’ve also just gone utterly wrong. Lesson learnt: sometimes it’s smarter to ask for advice from someone who really knows and trust that advice!
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
We didn’t properly realise that just because you build a nice shop and make nice things people won’t just find it and buy your wares. Sounds pretty “duh!” But there you go. And while marketing is still a big fat mystery on the whole, we are slowly but surely getting better at that side as well.
7. What have you learnt?
There’s so much business wise but also lot personal stuff. Since diedododa is about my designs and creations I’ll go with what I have learnt so far as a creative from it: being proud of my own creations is as important as remaining critical about them, each at the right time. I trust my instinct almost explicitly when it comes to projects and commissions now, and say no a lot more without worrying about upsetting people. Networking (for lack of a less offensive word) is important, and has become quite fun since I stopped trying to force it.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Might sound obvious but make sure you have a passion for whatever your business might be, but also a passion for actually running a business. Be prepared to put in all the hours, face many doubtful, sometimes downright depressing days, and then keep doing it. With more conviction. Look at your product/service/whatever it might be with analytical eyes. Do your numbers.
While I do believe in not taking anything in business personal, I also believe that the way you treat your business should be an extension of your personality: keep moving with an open mind, never stop learning, challenging yourself, and adapt, adapt, adapt!
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
Easy, the best is the making and learning new skills. It’s like an addiction, that sense of euphoria when that first flicker of an idea for a new drawing, collage or entire series hits! I am currently looking to start a fabric range to be used on custom built furniture. So much excitement!
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
It’s either a 1 or a 10 with far and few in betweens! Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all and I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do! Cue an onset of impostor syndrome….just kidding!
Nicola says " I love Dodo's honesty about totally winging it still, which to be honest unless you've been in business for years, most people should (but probably won't) admit to. Starting a business with a partner you have worked with before, is usually a good bet. Simply, because you know you can get on when under pressure. I often see management teams crumble especially when things go wrong; it's the first real test and something I have to actively manage as a non executive director, so a good working foundation is an excellent start.
It's also good advice, that setting up a shop filled with pretty things, does not immediately get you sales. People have to know about you and your marketing strategy is key."
"Be prepared to put in all the hours, face many doubtful, sometimes downright depressing days, and then keep doing it. With more conviction. Look at your product/service/whatever it might be with analytical eyes. Do your numbers" This is advice I give time and time again throughout these posts, you have to really love what you do, to want to do it in times of doubt"
The Girl with The Green Sofa