Spotlight on Wilful Ink
Today’s spotlight is on Wilful Ink, an independent creator of homewares and wallpapers based around insects, botanical and tropical illustrations. Based near Brighton, the company was set up to create items based on the art work of Emma O'Brennan-Pizer. Her homewares have featured in both the Sunday Times Home section and the Evening Standard.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I wanted to be able to work from home to be near my children and have flexibility on my hours. I wanted to draw and create for a living and be my own boss!
I'm quite solitary so I enjoy being the only one in the company most of the time.
2. How did you start up? kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
I started on a desk in my daughter’s nursery. When she was big enough to have her own bed and not be trapped in a cot anymore I used all my savings to build a cabin in my garden.
3. How did you fund your business?
I had a small grant to get my first 3 wallpaper designs printed and the rest I have funded from my wages and my husband was kind enough to let me use his tax return amount for the first couple of years to pay for trade shows and stock. We haven't had a big holiday or treated ourselves for quite a while!
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
Finding the time to work was very difficult, especially when my children were babies. I felt pulled in a hundred different directions.
5. What help was missing for you?
It would have been amazing to have had a mentor or to have help for tradeshow costs.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
For my first kitchen linens order the company only sent me one design in each product! I had ordered 3 of each to test what would work but I got 30 of 1 design. With a selling show just 2 weeks away and everyone giving me turnaround times of 4-8 weeks I was panicking. Luckily a really lovely company helped me out and I got a selection of new bits just in time.
7. What have you learnt?
To be disciplined in my working schedule. People think working from home means you can stop any time and do something else, but you have to get the hours in somewhere and the week is shorter than you think. I have also learned not to take rejection personally and to never give up.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Make a plan and refer back to it often, even if it changes as you go you need a strong framework and direction. Also, connect with others in the same business. They will be your support network!
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
Being in my cabin with the music on and making art.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
Probably an 8!
It's tough and it's only the love of what I do that keeps me going. I'm also not sure I could cope with going back out into the world and working for someone else again...
The Girl with The Green Sofa