Meet the makers: Ellie Laycock

When Makerhood launched two years ago, Ellie Laycock of Hunted and Stuffed was one of the first makers to sign up – and her journey over that period has been as momentous as ours! So we thought we’d catch up with what’s happened to Ellie’s business in the past two years.

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• Tell us a bit about the products you make.
All of our products are inspired by the rare vintage textiles that we discover. It’s all about how to reinvent them into something modern, relevant, beautiful and useful for the home. A lot of people love vintage style but wouldn’t necessarily know where to find originals or how to bring them to life.

We do all the sourcing, editing, cleaning, designing and upcycling so you get the best vintage finds but re-imagined for the 21st century into something unique, current and beautiful.

Our main offering is a selection of cushions ranging from small throw pillows made from vintage handkerchiefs right up to large statement bolsters made from rare vintage Japanese wedding kimono silk brocades. Most pieces are totally unique (we only make one like it), others are very limited editions where we might make three the same.

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Working with original vintage, it’s not like you can order five more metres of a popular design from your printer. It’s what you can hunt down that dictates the rarity of the finished pieces.

We’ve also recently launched a brand new range of luxury handmade aprons with upcycled vintage ‘kitchenalia’ tea towel pockets, made with all-British materials. They’re proving quite popular, and Country Homes and Interiors magazine called them their ‘Buy Of The Day’!

• You were one of the first people to sign up to Makerhood when it started – how did you get involved?
Makerhood started up at around the same time (and in the same place) as Hunted and Stuffed did. I was a new mum and had just decided to go for it with my new business, so when I heard that there was a new collective of like-minded people forming right on my doorstep, I didn’t hesitate in signing up straight away. I thought that there would be nothing to lose, it sounded exciting and like a good opportunity for both the business and for meeting more people in my community.

The things I love about Makerhood are the emphasis on community both online and offline, the friendliness and unlimited optimism – I like their attitude!

• You won the Platinum Brand Amplifier Award for female entrpreneurs – what effect did this have on your business?
Yes, I was very surprised and honoured. The biggest and most powerful impact of winning that award was to gain confidence in my business. Prior to the win I viewed my business as an experiment; after the win I started to view myself as a businesswoman, and that was a crucial pivotal moment for me.

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Also, all the finalists received mentoring sessions about PR, marketing, branding and other practical advice that helped us shape our business visions, and I found women in business who were willing to mentor me and offer the benefit of their experiences and vice versa. It was a very nurturing and encouraging experience.

ellie-book-coverOff the back of that I applied to the Startup Britain Pitch Up award and won the chance to pitch to a major British high street retailer.

I also plucked up the nerve to approach a publishing house with my proposal for a book on upcycling vintage, and they took a risk on me and agreed to publish it, for which I’m so grateful.

It’s called Creating the Vintage Look (Cico Books), features 35 step-by-step upcycling projects that repurpose vintage finds into beautiful homeware, and will be published worldwide in September 2013.

• As a single mother, how do you cope with running your own business?
Well, I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy – because it’s not. It’s a hard slog. I have certain times when I can act within my business and it helps me focus on what needs to be done. It’s working to deadlines all the time. Ones you impose on yourself but know will move the business on: create a new product, get that bit of exposure that might lead to new customers finding you.

I find myself thinking about work a lot of the time. I think the key may be to try and compartmentalise things a bit. Focus on what you are doing completely, whether that is the business, your family or time off, otherwise you lack effectiveness by spreading yourself too thin.

• And now you are at the School for Creative Start Ups – tell us what this involves and what you have learnt.
ellie-cushion1S4CS has been great. It’s a year-long course for creative start ups and kicked off with a three-day boot camp given by Doug Richard (a former dragon on Dragon’s Den). Doug is truly inspirational and has devised his course to get you to ask the right questions of your business and research where your place might be (although as Doug is fond of saying, “Just because there’s a gap in the market, doesn’t mean there’s a market in the gap!”).

We met every month and the course culminated in the Startup Showcase at Somerset House in spring, which was a fantastic venue to exhibit in. The course runs again this year and I thoroughly recommend it.

One of the many things I learnt is what my strengths and weaknesses are, which means I’ve identified the kind of help I’d like to employ/find and what’s holding back the business from certain goals.

• How has Makerhood helped you on your journey?
Without Makerhood (and especially the forums) I would never have heard of Brand Amplifier and won the award that kick started it all. The workshops Makerhood put on are great and contain really valuable information that is hard to come by for indie makers on a budget. I just think it’s such a fantastic endeavour to create a social enterprise that helps build a community and encourages people to flourish.

• What advice would you give to other makers wanting a successful full-time business?
Well, firstly there’s no shame in doing a day job to support another passion. We all have to eat. Use evenings and weekends to start with and get the foundations in place.

I would say make use of the excellent workshops and events that Makerhood put on. Jane Doxey’s workshops are great for demystifying the retail world and she is a real fountain of knowledge and experience!

ellie-cushion3Sign up for a market stall opportunity, because it will increase your exposure and even if you feel you haven’t got much to sell then you could always use it for market research. Take products with both versions of that packaging label you can’t decide on and ask people which they prefer and why, or research prices people would pay for your product. Talking to potential customers is the best way to find answers.

Starting a business requires wearing many hats. Find your strengths and let yourself delegate your weaknesses.

If you decide to do it, then really go for it. It will be tough at times, you’ll wonder what you’re doing, the little negative voice inside will pop up and try to ridicule you. Learn to ignore it -it’s just jealous.

Take stock of every success – you’ll progress in baby steps, but after a while you’ll realise that you’ve come a long way. Be proud of that.

Whatever you make, it’s all ultimately about people. Being nice is free. You’re an artist and you make things that bring joy to people, or feelings they want to feel. They’ll pay you for that. Then you can make more. It’s a simple and beautiful thing.

Creating the Vintage Look is published by Cico Books on 13 September. Hunted and Stuffed, in collaboration with Cico Books and The Old Cinema, will be presenting projects from the book and new upcycled pieces for sale  in a pop up exhibition from Friday 20 September – Sun 22 Sepembert at The Old Cinema, 160 Chiswick High Road,  London W4 1PR.  The Old Cinema is famous for championing upcycling in the UK. Pop along, pick up a copy and have a look at what else this amazing vintage and upcycling emporium has to offer.

 

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Join us for Brite London: the Makers & Creatives edition

Are you running or thinking about starting a creative business? Looking for advice on how to succeed? Come to our free business development event on 18 June.

Makerhood has teamed up with Eventbrite to bring you the Brite London: the Makers & Creatives edition – a night packed with great advice from successful creatives who’ve done it all themselves.  Insightful talks, Q&A and plenty of time for chatting to fellow makers. Drinks and snacks will be provided, too!

The event is at 7pm on 18 June at the Craft Beer pub  in Brixton. Please book your free ticket on Eventbrite, or read on to find out more.

Crowd funding: how to raise money for your creative business

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The buzz word has been around for a while, but what does crowd-funding mean in practice? Does it actually work – and for whom? If you are thinking of a crowd-funding campaign, or simply want to find out more about raising funds from the public, this is your chance to learn from someone who’s run a recent successful campaign.

James McBennett is the founder and chief designer at Fabsie, a start-up making beautifully crafted ready-to-assemble furniture. 

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For their first product – a rocking stool – James ran a kick-starter campaign, raising over £26,000 and attracting over 530 backers. James will explain how to get your crowd-funding campaign off the ground.

How to use events, workshops and exhibitions to build support for your work

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Events can be great fun and promotion for your business, but how do you know when to use events, and how to run them well?

What are the big Dos and Don’ts, and how do you spend your time effectively?  Organising events is a lot of work – here’s your chance to learn from an expert on how to make that work for you.

Katie McPhee is the Community Manager at Eventbrite UK.

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Katie has organised numerous events, and has seen many others do that – she’ll share her experience of what succeeds and what doesn’t.

 

Social media: how to promote your work on social networks

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Social media is the order of the day, but with so little time and so much to do, how do you pick the right channels for your business? What messages work best? How do you find time to do social media alongside running a creative business?

Hannah Needham is founder of This Is Your Kingdom, a curated online guide to the UK’s most lovely places to eat, drink, walk, think, potter, ponder, snuggle and shop.

Hannah left her day-job to start the venTIYKture with her business partner – soon after launch their readership soared, and they grew a loyal community of readers and contributors. Hannah will share her experience of using social media, how they formulated a strategy, and what was key to their success.

Makerhood: local makers working together

477341_10152162104216515_1013092982_oMakerhood is a social enterprise that supports makers and skills in south London, founded and run by a team of local volunteers. A maker’s life can be rather isolated, working away in your studio (or back bedroom!), wondering how much to charge for your work, worrying about stock, and where to get tax advice… Makerhood supports local makers, builds partnerships with local business, helps with business development advice and facilitates a local network for makers to help each other.

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Kristina Glushkova, the co-founder of the project (and author of this post!), will talk about Makerhood’s mission and how being part of a makers’ collective can promote your creative work.

There are 50 spaces available for the event. Click here to book  yours.

We look forward to seeing you there!

When: 18 June, 6.30pm – 9pm

Where: The Craft Beer Company, Upstairs. 2 mins walk from Brixton tube.  11-13 Brixton Station Rd, SW9 8PA

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