Hello! Good to see you, the kettle’s just boiled – what would you like to drink?
Tea! I’m a proper Yorkshire tea belly.
So, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
Well I’m a Yorkshire girl and I’d say by now I’m an adoptive Scouser with a bit of a hybrid accent! I made my home in Liverpool at 17 and just loved it. I started Token Homewares after graduating last year from Liverpool John Moores University with a first Hons Degree in Product Design.
When I started Token it was my desire to create a brand that specialises in making things that people want to keep. I spent my teenage years fixing broken furniture for pocket money, it stuck with me that people keep the things they like and have an attachment to. It occurred to me that this was the way to counteract the throwaway nature of a lot of fashionable homeware products. I never wanted to design and make things that people grew tired of and threw away; it just seemed a bit pointless.
I want Token Homewares to be a brand known for exclusive, high quality products that are distinctive from anything you will find elsewhere. I design timeless pieces, beautifully designed and put together with care to be loved and kept for the long term.
What inspired you to start your creative business? How did it all begin?
I don’t think I ever chose to be a designer it’s just something inside of me that just comes out! I’m not sure quite what, maybe an overactive imagination, but what made me go for “it” and do this as a profession was people’s reactions to my work. As a creative, a lot of the time I would feel a bit like a child with a painting, I was never sure how biased people’s opinions were when they said something was good, but I found exhibiting at New Designers 2012 in London was a feeling of complete vulnerability and I have to say finding that other people enjoyed what I did and actually wanted one was an absolutely fantastic feeling! It filled me with confidence that I had a place to fill in the design world.
How has your business changed and developed since it started?
Well we launched in May this year so it’s not really a long time to gauge over. But in that time the business has come a long way essentially from scratch, it’s great to type in “Token Homewares” into Google and a whole page of links to my company come up where there was nothing before!
What are the main ways you promote your business? Which methods have been the most successful for you?
I spend a lot of time onTwitter. But not just self promoting the whole time, I enjoy reading about and meeting new people, it’s a great way to find people who enjoy the same things and a fantastic way to collaborate. It really makes so many more avenues accessible in a way that’s never really been there before, with this interview for example! I never would have had the chance to talk to you lovely people about my passion if it weren’t for Twitter!
What’s your workspace like? Can we have a sneak peek? And do you have any workspace organisation tips for the rest of us?
I try to not work in the same place every day, especially if you’re at home, after a while home starts to feel like work and there’s no escape! I love the days when I’m out in the laser studio, cutting my designs. I have a home office/studio which I only really use for assembling my lampshades and storing things. The rest of the time I like to be out and about, if I have a set task to do I tend to take my laptop and sit in a cafe with a cuppa, it’s great for people watching too. As for organisational tips I’m not the best to ask, my whole world is organised chaos!
What are the best and worst bits of running your business?
The worst thing is the uncertainty, you don’t have a regular schedule and the money worries and isolation can really take over you if you’re not careful. The absolute best thing is doing something I love, even though there’s some days I think “why did I do this to myself” the thing that keeps me going is that this is an investment in my future and it’s all worthwhile, and I can see it developing into something brilliant!
What other small (or not-so-small) creative businesses do you admire?
I’m all for UK business, I’m so happy that more and more business is coming from right here in the UK, it’s the way we’re going to pull out of the recession and have a healthier economy. I really admire Liberty London; they’re such a British legacy! Their message is always so consistent and their products are always beautiful pieces of craft.
What tips can you give to others who run (or hope to run) a small creative business?
Well if you’re already running or considering starting a business, you’ve obviously already got a clear vision of what it is that you’re going to do with an “end goal” in sight, that’s really important. Secondly don’t underestimate the importance of creating a buzz about what you do, that’s half the mountain.
So you’ve designed and developed a product, set up your business, got your funding, learned the financial and legal stuff, sorted copyright, testing, photography, packaging etc and then you have a beautiful product. People don’t just find you. With publicity comes branding, self-promotion, web design and SEO optimizing, contacting stockists, and then there’s PR and press releases.
I’d say having a mentor to talk you through this is absolutely fundamental, even if it’s just to vent to and talk you back off the ledge once in a while. I’m really lucky that I have two! I have a mentor with LJMU and with the St Helens chamber of commerce and having their support (and contacts) makes all the difference. Before I started my business I was pretty naive, I was just a girl who liked making things! But I have to say starting my own business has been the biggest and most rewarding learning curve of my life.
What are your hopes, plans or ambitions for the future?
I see Token Homewares as a lifelong mission for myself, and who knows where it could go, but it’s important to me that the brand retains its personality throughout. In the near future I see us working on commercial projects; our lighting is perfect to be shown off in hotels, cafes and trendy bars, that’s the dream! Personally I want to go back to University and do a masters, I feel that as a director of a company it’s so important to have a clear vision and the way to do that is to be the most informed practising designer possible, so for me education is the way forward!
Finally, where are the places we can find you online if we want to partake in a little friendly cyber stalking?
Facebook I’ve put together a lovely album where you can see the whole making process, called “The Making Of” which you can see here
Thanks so much for stopping by – it was so nice to be able to take the time to chat with you!
Thanks for this interview, it’s great to be able to talk about what I love doing! If anyone would like to ask a question don’t hesitate to contact me by twitter or at email@example.com