Today’s biz story is a long one, but I wanted you guys to read it in it’s entirety as it’s so inspirational. For anyone stuck in a job they don’t love or wanting to pursue a career in retail, meet Rebecca. She did just that, and has recently launched her own online art and homeware business The Loft and Us.
Rebecca has a fascinating back story too, she moved to London just over ten years ago to pursue a singing career. It was all going swimmingly well until the record label went into liquidation. She then went into the photography industry through a friend. Although she was happy to still be working in a creative field, it simply wasn’t her chosen choice of career. I think we’ve all had those jobs we landed in more by accident than planning. Rebecca had always loved to paint but didn’t think this was something that was even possible to make into a career, so she just continued down that path of not knowing what to do with her life.
After growing increasingly bored of the photographic industry she decided to take the plunge and apply for a job in the fashion world. Maybe this was her true calling? To quote Rebecca… “Oooh how wrong I was!”
I worked as a studio assistant for a very well known Italian designer fashion label and to put it lightly, it was sheer hell. In fact it was the Devil wears Prada on speed. After not being able to take another second of working with Cruella De Ville’s long lost sister I applied for the first job I came across. It was working in administration for a wealth management office – how I ended up working in the world of finance is beyond me?
As many a creative does when they’re trapped in a corporate, grey world, I started to paint again as a release, and to bring some sort of creativity into my life. It was the one thing that seemed to make me feel happy and content. Towards the end of 2013 I’d almost given up hope, I was staring out into the world like a spaniel denied a biscuit, wondering what I’d ever done wrong to deserve such punishment. Then at the beginning of 2014 something struck a cord within me. I realised if I didn’t do something about my life now I would be forever doomed to a life of mediocrity and disdain. I began to post online and got my artwork out there with the help of social media. Friends and even strangers started to comment on my art and some asking if I commissioned pieces. Suddenly out of nowhere an idea was born, what if I created my own online website for affordable art and design!
I would say the only saving grace of working in finance is that you receive a bonus at a certain point of each year. I received mine in April and with that I paid to have a professional website built. I focused on art, which then expanded into including homeware and from then on the ideas just kept on coming.We finally launched on November 24th 2014 so my company is still very much in it’s infancy. The response has been brilliant and I’m a little overwhelmed by it all but I’ve never felt more proud of myself. That feeling of finally being able to do the work you love is priceless and I’d also like to tell anyone over the age of 30 that it’s never too late to follow your heart! I launched my own company at 32 and couldn’t be happier.
I hope my story inspires others to follow their heart and remind anyone out there that it’s never to late to find your true calling. Sometimes instead of waiting for someone else to save you, you have to save yourself.
I told you Rebecca was inspirational right?? I drilled down further into her biz for more of an insight. Like I warned you it’s a long post, but I wanted to share all of Rebecca’s interview as she’s so insightful and clearly passionate about what she does! She has tons of wonderful practical advice for other people to make the leap into a job they love.
What led you to start your own business?
I’ve always been creative and I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I just never thought it was a viable career option at first. I think any creative person will tell you, the thought of working for somebody else and sitting in a stuffy, grey office for the rest of their lives as they’re forced to watch YouTube videos of their unhinged office manager’s cats is enough to throw anybody over the edge – not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.
At the beginning of 2014 I’d reached a point in my life where for my own sanity I had to follow my heart. I’d had a bit of rubbish previous year for a couple of different personal reasons and I’d basically hit a wall. I TRULY BELIVE WE’RE ALL GIFTED AT SOMETHING, AND IT’S UP TO YOU WHETHER YOU EMBARK ON IT OR NOT. Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event to make you wake up and take charge of your own life. I was currently doing the interview rounds with a few prestigious companies in London but I felt like I was running on autopilot. I remember being sat in the interviews thinking, God I’m completely talking out of my backside right now whilst beaming at my interviewer and trying to act as though I really wanted the job.
As an outlet I started painting more and more and sometimes posted my artwork on instagram. People started commenting on my work and asking where they could buy some of my pieces. It was then that the idea really came into fruition. It had occurred to me before, but I don’t think I’d been mentally ready until that pount. As I began to draw out a business plan other ideas came to me with regards to the direction I saw the business going. It’s crazy but as soon as I followed my heart, people, circumstances and ideas that were beneficial to me and my business started coming into my life.
What has been most difficult?
Wishing I could do everything myself without having to direct others. When it’s your business you have such a specific idea of how you want things to turn out in your mind that it can be frustrating when someone else doesn’t completely see your vision.
What advice would you give to people starting out?
I remember sitting in Pinkberry in Selfridges Foodhall with my friend, talking about the idea of launching my own business and not having a clue how or when to start. SO MY FIRST PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD BE TO JUST START. I know, yes it’s not rocket science but I’ve come to realiSe we all talk too much about the things we’re going to do and don’t even end up doing half of what we set out to. Actions speak louder than words so don’t wait until you’ve moved house, split up with your boyfriend or left that crappy job… just start.
Also if someone tells you your goal seems unrealistic remember they’re viewing it from a standpoint of their own version of reality not yours; we create what we’re brave enough to build so if you truly believe in your vision protect it. God that sounds like something out of a self-help book but whatever it’s true!
What has been most successful about the business?
It’s still early days yet, The Loft and Us only launched last year so I am still very much learning the ropes. So, for now, I’d just have to say that it’s the overall response to my company that has been pretty spectacular. I also have a few projects and collaborations coming up in 2015 with a couple of well known companies that I’m so very excited about. Even though I appear to be coming across all cool and nonchalant trust me I’m not. In my mind I’m doing cartwheels to the backing music of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” but no one would ever know!
How do you get your work seen by customers or galleries?
Social media. It’s a godsend for me, and probably everyone else in the arts world. Instagram especially has given art and design a whole new audience. Art is no longer strictly assigned for the tweed jacket brigade who traipse around galleries scoffing canapés. Young and old people from all walks of life are now buying art, which is pretty amazing in itself. I think it especially has brought the creative side out in us all, you only have to take a look at instagram sensations such as Donald Drawberton who’s transformed his entire career just by posting his amazing artwork online. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOW LAUNCHING CAREERS.
So for any new budding artists/business owners out there I would definitely say create your own instagram, facebook, pinterest and twitter accounts to show off your work. Just start posting and connecting with people. It’s most definitely time consuming but unless you have bucket loads of money to pay for professional marketing, it’s the only way to get your name out there. It’s incredible the audience you can reach via social media nowadays and if your work happens to be liked by someone within the public eye, even better! Galleries are also now contacting artists off the back of their online portfolios, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to get social media savvy.
Also with my line of work I would definitely say attending some of the trade shows plays a key role in your business growth. Having your products seen by major retailers, interior designers, architects and property developers all under the same roof is pretty much a win-win. They may be bloody pricey to exhibit in but I believe the pay off is most definitely worth it.
Any other advice to people starting out?
Well, firstly before anything else I would say chose something you really love doing. I know this may sound cliché but as any new business owner will tell you starting your own business pretty much takes over your entire life in the beginning so you at least need to enjoy the ride along the way.
Secondly do your research. Is your idea a viable business option? For my business I found there had been a recent revival in British design and heritage as well as a more prominent move to online retail. Shopping on your phone and laptop is definitely the future. With the revival of the housing market homeowners are looking for affordable ways to decorate their homes, not everybody can afford to spend £100 on one cushion, no matter how beautiful the design! People are looking for stylish ways to furnish their homes without the designer price tag.
Then just get going. It’s not rocket science really, a lot of the time it’s the difference between thinking you’ll do something and then actually doing it which tests whether you become successful or not.
If you can, get yourself a mentor. Although entrepreneurship can be exciting sometimes it can feel a little lonely and it’s good to have someone to talk/vent to who understands what you’re going through, and who can hopefully give you some advice to dodge the hurdles along the way!
Lastly I would also add not to beat yourself up about putting yourself and your business first for a while. Even if this means having to miss many social and family events. I didn’t have much of a social life in 2014 as I had to spend so much time focusing on the business. But I always tried to maintain my long-term vision and remind myself why I was sacrificing so much of my own time and money. That’s why surrounding yourself with positive people is also key! I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic support system of positive friends and family around me who lift me up and remind me why I started.
Thank you so much Rebecca for taking the time to share your story and I wish you every success in the world. “We create what we’re brave enought to build”…. cheers to that! If you have a story you’d like to share in my Biz Column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.