Today’s interview post is with Karen, creator of Freya Spawton Furniture Designs, who after suffering from Post-natal Depression started her own furniture design business.
Another wonderful and inspiring post to any mum considering turning a hobby into a business and we are extremely please to add this interview to our spring interview series.
Tell us a little bit about you and your business. When did you start and what made you decide to start your own business?
I am a 32 year old mum of one and creator of the interiors and décor brand Freya Spawton Furniture Designs. After the birth of my beautiful daughter Liv, I sadly suffered with Post-natal Depression (PND); an illness which has fundamentally changed my life in many ways. Over a difficult two years with the right medical treatment, support and love from family and friends, I have reached a happy place in my life and surprisingly from that dark, sad place, my venture grew!
I previously worked for the NHS as a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. Unhappy in my work for numerous reasons, I was reluctant to return to the post following the birth of my daughter. Once PND struck I was psychologically not in a position to return to my role when the time came, so I handed in my notice. Leaving something behind, which in many ways defined me as a person, was a scary transition and left a void in my life despite knowing that one day I would return to practice in some form. I have always been a productive person, always on the go and although being a full-time stay-at-home mum is a blessing I just had to do something to occupy my mind.
Did you have any professional experience in Furniture design? Was it a hobby?
I didn’t have any professional experience in furniture design at all. I always had an interest in interiors and became tired of searching unsuccessfully for unique, high quality items at affordable prices for my home on the high street. I decided to abandon the mass produced offerings and bought a beat up old chest of drawers for ten pounds! After a little research I made a reasonable effort at it’s restoration. It triggered something in me and I quickly became fascinated by properties of different woods, restoration and decorative techniques, the history of furniture design and so on. Here’s the key, it was a passion. To have the drive and ability to pick yourself up when you get knock-backs, to put in the hours needed to start and grow any venture you have to have a true passion for what you are creating/selling. Customers will sense this and that becomes the heart of your brand, this is why your customers will come back.
How did you decide on the name?
My daughter’s middle-name is Freya and I wanted her to be part of my journey too so Freya Spawton Furniture Designs seemed like an obvious choice. I am also embarrassed to admit that I have had a long standing love of Grace from ‘Will & Grace’ who’s interiors business is ‘Grace Adler Designs’. . . this also had an influence, sad but true!!
Did you get lots of support from family and friends?
Unfortunately we do not have any family nearby so it is a challenging juggling act between children’s entertainer, creator, wife!! It means I have to utilise my time incredibly efficiently so I work during Liv’s afternoon nap and unfortunately spend many evenings working late; I have an understanding and supportive husband! It’s exhausting but I love it.
At what point or milestone will you feel like you have established a successful business?
At the moment the amount of time I can invest in the business is so limited but once Liv starts pre-school in September my production time will increase immensely and I hope to see that reflected in sales.
What types of furniture do you design and create?
I design vintage and mid-century modern furniture with a contemporary edge. I take current interior décor trends and combine them with the beautiful craftsmanship and quality of vintage furniture to bring customers one-off, on-trend pieces at high street prices. One of a kind pieces are big for 2014, it’s these curiosities in a home that keep people asking ‘where did you get that’.
What has been your favourite piece so far?
Every piece is my favourite- Louis style dressing tables, retro Ercol chairs with film script quotes! I put my soul into each piece that I design and saying goodbye to them all is challenging! I love to see them in their new homes and how customers combine them with their own unique style. I especially enjoy custom orders in which I salvage an item and design to the customers specification of colour, finish etc. We work together to create something bespoke and truly unique for them at such affordable prices and it’s delivered fuss-free to their door! I am yet to have an unhappy customer and the feedback I receive spurs me on.
What are the best things about running your own business?
Independence, creativity, flexibility and the adventure!
What are the worst?
Undefined home/work hours, lack of work space, jammy toddler finger-prints on my fabrics and book-keeping!
Is there anything you wished you’d known before you started?
Right from the off-set, deal with customers in a professional and timely manner. Particularly for online businesses this is your shop front, be conscious of the language you use and the service you are providing- timely, informative and easily contactable.
Utilise social media for marketing but keep a balance. Work out where your customers are coming from and the best way to reach them. There’s no point in investing hours a day on a fabulous Facebook page if that’s not how your customers are finding you. There’s a fine line between people who ‘like’ what you do and potential customers who are looking to buy.
Pricing- you won’t get it right straight away but it’s crucial not to under-price or price yourself out of the market. This depends where you are selling i.e. ‘Ebayers’ are looking for a bargain, ‘Etsy’ or ‘Not on the high street’ are customers looking for handmade items and they expect to pay for that service. Research you competitors, what are they charging for similar items? Ask family members and friends to be honest, what do they think your products are worth? Remember it’s all trial and error!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I am a keen swimmer and this is virtually the only time my mind stills! It helps keep me physically fit and mentally fir too. I’m hoping to complete a charity swim of 22 miles (the length of the English Channel) at the end of the year in aid of Post-natal Depression, every little helps!
What advice would you give to other mums thinking about starting up their own business?
I have learnt that the three main components to running a successful business are
1) That you have a passion for what you do
2) That you provide great value for money- in an ever competitive online market this is more important than ever
3) That you make a healthy profit- sounds obvious but if you are borrowing money to set-up you need to keep overheads as low as possible to maximise profit margins.
If you can’t satisfy all three you will never make the move from hobby to business.
What plans do you have for your business in the future?
This year is looking very exciting. I am hoping to improve the business website, complete a traditional upholstery course to expand my product range and triple my current production levels. I am also working on a ‘Room Service’ concept to take the hassle, decision-making and leg-work out of your home improvements! A room will be designed to your specific style including colour and fabric schemes, furniture, accessories and soft furnishing recommendations; your one-stop shop. Watch this space!
Where can we find out more about Freya Spawton Furniture Designs?
You can contact me directly at email@example.com
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Freyafurnituredesign
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