I’m taking this weeks interview back to Nottingham with fellow crafter and Nottingham Etsy Team member Rachel Ward who runs REW Homeware, a gorgeous shop filled with hand knitted and hand dyed cushions. I had the pleasure of first meeting Rachel at last years Bird in Borrowed Feathers market and have been totally inspired by her knitting skills ever since!
How long have you been a creative powerhouse business for?
I started my business about 18 months ago. I have always dabbled making presents for family and having a stall at the occasional craft fair but I always found it difficult to get going with a lack of space living with parents and as a student. When I relocated to Nottingham in 2013, we bought a house and I had the luxury of a spare bedroom! I straight away knew exactly what I wanted it to be… my very own mini designer & maker studio! (Sorry partner Phil, no Playstation room for you!)
When did you decide that you wanted to take your craft & talent to the public?
Being a commercial Product Designer, I am always designing for other people. I really wanted an outlet which allowed me to design and make what I wanted. I really just wanted to pursue my own interests and (to start with) sell enough product to buy more gorgeous yarn!!
Do you think creative businesses face greater challenges than non-creative enterprises?
I am not sure if we face greater challenges but we do certainly face different ones! There has been a lot of social media noise recently about setting the right prices for products that have been hand crafted. It can be really disappointing to hear that your item is “too expensive” or “how much!” when potential customer don’t realise the time, effort and love that we put into every single product we make. We can’t compete with high street prices or we wouldn’t make a living. I also think unlike other businesses, creative businesses are less likely hide away from the competition. I have found that other craft business who making similar products are more than happy to share experiences. I had a lovely chat with Lauren Aston the other day who also makes knitted cushions who was just lovely!!
What have been your highest highs?
I was very pleased with what I achieved last Christmas. I worked really hard on building up new and exciting stock for the Christmas fairs and it was an absolute delight to hear positive feedback from all my customers. I felt that my time spent making all the Christmas products was very worthwhile and I was so pleased I was able to invest the money I made into buying a new imac!
And what would you say are your greatest challenges?
Finding the time! (isn’t it always!) I would absolutely love to dedicate myself to REW full time but it just isn’t realistic. Sadly I have realised that having your own creative business is ALOT of REALLY tough work and at the moment, working 9-5 for a commercial design studio, earning a good wage is the sensible option for me. I always wish I had more time for REW to make it bigger and better!
What’s the work/life balance like?
Crazy! I work full time as well as running REW Homeware so I try and squeeze every minute I can out of every day! I have had to learn to set realistic goals but still push myself to get things done. I started REW because I wanted something to enjoy in the evenings so I try not to let myself get stressed about it.
More and more of us ladies are taking up arms and going into business to make our own fortune. What do you think about the current state of women in self-employment/business?
As young women, we are faced with so many challenges and decisions; progressing with a career, saving to get on the property ladder and the big one… deciding the right time to take a break and start a family. I think making our own fortune is the ideal situation for some women as we get to make the rules. We get to choose when we work and how hard we need to work. Working for ourselves gives us options and we aren’t forced into a 9-5 role which let’s be honest, it’s ideal when you want to consider having a family. I think we will see more women turning to self – employment in an age where career progression and family life need juggling.
Paying it forward, who is your favourite female run creative business?
My gal pal Lauren Holloway owner of Maybe Mabel! She has been a huge inspiration to me over the last year and I am devastated she has just left Nottingham (Bristol, you are one lucky city!) She has worked so hard and managed to make a decent living from doing what she loves best. I just love all the fabrics she chooses especially her new Japanese collection inspired by her recent trip to Japan.
Any advice for gals out there looking to make their creative mark?
It’s never going to be perfect first time! Just give it a go and you will learn. Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you keep trying hard enough, you will get there!
Favourite quote: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” Walt Disney
Weapon of choice: Chunky Fat British Wool (alongside my 20mm knitting needles!)
Currently working to: I’m actually a big fan of the radio. I work in my studio in the evening so I usually listen to Annie Mac on Radio 1. If I fancy a chilled evening, then I flip over to Classic FM with a G&T! I’ve also started following Pom Pom magazine’s Podcast which I listen to monthly. (If my Boyfriend is out and I fancy a sing, I head straight for Beyonce!)
Illustrated & Handmade in the UK.
Deborah Ballinger Illustrations © 2015