Spotlight on Hope Gallery, Redbrick
Top Image Credit: Cody Choi, former Matthew Bourne ballet dancer and now photographer and dance teacher.
Today's Spotlight is on Caroline Gillatt of Hope Gallery at Redbrick, specialising in print making, ceramics and art; by British and International artists. This is Caroline's first venture outside of employment and so her perspective and advice make really interesting reading. I also always love someone who bites the bullet and launches their own business, because to not to just doesn't feature in their life plan. “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life”.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I hit 50 and decided enough! I knew there was so much more I could do, I just never felt brave or even ready enough, until I finally realised time was running out. I had seen a post on Robin Sharma’s Facebook page and it struck a chord with me “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life”.
Check him out – very wise and motivating.
2. How did you start up?
I had been employed at Redbrick in West Yorkshire for several years. I left when I sold my house and moved to begin an art agency, hence my business name Hope Art Publishing.
A space became available within Redbrick and they offered me the space to create my own art gallery. I named my gallery Hope Gallery; you must always have hope and despite everything, I had a huge amount of hope for my future and for the future of the artists I would be representing.
Redbrick is an amazing company. They are hugely supportive of all their retailers and as an entry level business, that support is vital. I would not have survived on the high street
3. How did you fund your business?
From the sale of my house. Although I had help from a friend and so I actually didn’t need a lot of money.
At the end of my first year, I joined FSB – Federation of Small Businesses and managed to get a start-up loan. FSB offer so much support and guidance and run their own local networking meetings. Well worth joining.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business?
I didn’t know how to run a business. I had been employed all my adult life. I loved art though and I knew what type of art I wanted to represent in Hope Gallery and so I wasn’t too concerned, until not knowing tripped me up.
It is so easy to become overwhelmed, especially when you are, essentially, ‘winging it’. I was in business on my own and in my personal life and so my mind never switched off.
5. What help was missing for you?
I was motivated and driven by a passion to represent independent artists and create an art gallery you would feel comfortable to walk in and be wowed by incredible art. I knew how to manage an art gallery, to curate a collection and to connect with people. That is all I knew how to do.
For me, everything else was missing. I didn’t find the business support I needed until my second year, this year 2018. I met two people who have become my business angels. I now know, with their help, I can continue living and working my dream.
6. What went wrong in your first year?
I didn’t have a handle on how to run the finance part of my business. I have always been scared of money, personally and this transferred to my business. You don’t wake up on day one of your new venture and suddenly know how to run all aspects of your business. Also, we all work differently; what might work for one, will not necessarily work for you.
My business model tripped me up. I knew I didn’t want to earn more than my artists, however in those early months you do not have enough clients and so I was not making enough money to run my business and frankly, to live. I know friends were concerned for me. However, it wasn’t until a friend asked me what my ‘Plan B’ was? I was so surprised to be asked this because I knew, with so much certainty, that I did not need a ‘Plan B’. Plan A will work. Hope Gallery will succeed.
7. What have you learnt?
Being in business by yourself and living alone can be hugely overwhelming and exhausting. Recognise the angels that are sent to you and why.
I am working with an amazing hypnotist, Linda Knowles, who helps me climb out of the dark clouds of anxiety and focus on my business and my life. We connected at a local networking meeting. You just never know who you will meet!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Do not wing it! If you are courageous and bold enough to start your own business, then you owe it to yourself to have the best possible start. Ill prepared businesses are closing every day in the UK. Every day. Such a shocking and an appalling waste of an idea and passion for a different life.
Find yourself a business coach that you connect with. Get references or spend time with them before you decide. Follow your instincts. If they do not motivate you and fill you with excitement for the future, then do not bother with them. This is the best thing I have done and although two years too late, I now know I have the best support and I am ready to continue on with my exciting journey.
9. What do you enjoy the most?
The art and the artists who make the art. My clients who buy the art and who receive so much joy from living with these gorgeous pieces.
The strapline for my business is “It’s not what it looks like, it’s how it makes you feel “. I want people to walk in and find a piece of art they will connect with. This is the most important part of my business for me.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
A high 8-10 every day. I realise I am not sugar coating this and it is probably a little scary reading. Very few businesses will talk about how hard it is. Often, regardless how your business is actually performing, you put on a bright, brave face and pretend to be positive. Please do not pretend. You obviously have a gift that is enabling you to step out there and create something marvellous. Create a network of people who can help and inspire you and never, ever look back.
Nicola says "Caroline indicates "For me, everything else was missing. I didn’t find the business support I needed until my second year, this year 2018. I met two people who have become my business angels. I now know, with their help, I can continue living and working my dream." and this help and advice is so often missing for creatives who know what they want to sell, but oftentimes lack the business skills to make a real go of their business or find it further down steam. This advice form Caroline is vital "Do not wing it! If you are courageous and bold enough to start your own business, then you owe it to yourself to have the best possible start. Ill prepared businesses are closing every day in the UK. Every day. Such a shocking and an appalling waste of an idea and passion for a different life.""
The Girl with The Green Sofa