Saturday 8 March 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Clare Brownlow, Pheasant Feather Artist

In this 2Inspire Network profile we meet, Clare Brownlow, a phenomenal mumpreneur who started her business from her passion for art and for the love of her family.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Sadly I am not one of those zen-types that starts the day with meditation nor one that gets up to a sleeping household to quietly check my emails over a cup of freshly brewed coffee by myself. No, a toddler poking me in the face telling me they are hungry usually, awakes me. I choose to start up my 
company exactly for this reason though – my family! The mornings are a whirlwind of cereal, Cowboys and Indians, email checking and trying to get my feathers and ink out. If I can fit in a baby group with the boys then I’m doing well then I’m researching new products, walking the dogs, a great time to gather inspiration as I live in the stunning Scottish Borders and then discussing commissions with clients or making sure orders have been processed and sent out. 

No two days are the same but if I can spend plenty time playing with the boys, painting and getting the laundry done then I’m a happy lady!

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

Before I started the business I was working for an investment management company but I always harboured a longing to paint. I decided to go back to art school, after I was married and soon into the course I became pregnant. As challenges go morning sickness and the smell of different concoctions and potions of paint and who knows what else are not the best combination but I knew I was doing the right thing!

We moved to the countryside after I had finished my course and I was determined to combine my creative side and being a full-time mum.

My unique style was developed quite by chance, while visiting my parents. On realising I had left my sketchpad and paints at home I picked up a pheasant tail feather and crafted a quill, found some inks in my father’s desk drawer and started to experiment with new techniques, which are now seen in my animal portraits today.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

The interest in my particular style has been phenomenal and has really driven the business forward. It is very humbling when complete strangers commission me to paint a picture for them or when people buy some of my products for their homes, it feel so personal.

We went to a lodge in the North of Scotland and there was a picture of mine hanging there that must have been bought at an exhibition, as I had no idea it would be there and I didn't know them.

It’s lovely when friends and family support you but when strangers find you and admire your work; it’s a real buzz.
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
I am determined to source and manufacture all my products in the UK and I really take great pride in this. It can be a challenge to find the highest quality products to use for my artwork that will have a reasonable retail price for customers. Trying to keep focused on this end goal, when you have a screaming toddler around you, adds another dimension to my day sometimes!

What are your future plans for the business?
I am continuing to pursue two lines that are important to the business. One is as a professional artist, exhibiting and doing commissions; it is this discipline that is really at the root of everything else I do. The other is growing my home wares range. At the moment I am working on a very exciting fabric project with an amazing independent supplier and I’ll also be enlarging the crockery range and investigating some new interiors products.

It is a very exciting time and 2014 has started with a bang.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Doing my accounting better! Everything has been a learning curve. When I started at the end of 2011 I had no funding, no contacts in the art world, no studio, nothing and I have built the business as and when I can around my family. But I am a determined so and so and as I learn and discover what works, it has driven me to make a success of it.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
It makes you happy. It’s as simple as that.

If women want a family there is nothing better than showing your children that you can be whatever you want to be but you have to work jolly hard at it to achieve your goals.

Even though you are a mum you can still find your niche and make it work and when they start school you are already up and running chasing your dreams.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Think about it a lot before and find a niche, take it from that angle, take it slowly and see where it goes. It will undoubtedly change as it grows and as people start to respond to your business, this is important, let it happen. If you set yourself a concrete plan and don’t allow for flexibility you could find yourself getting frustrated and disheartened with your business.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
Richard Branson works so hard building and maintaining his global brand and inspires people all around world by being honest about his successes and failures. He does all this while having blatant fun – he has an insanely epic island to play on but continues to work hard regardless of the fact that he has ‘made it’.

A fabulous female business icon is Kirsty Allsopp, she has a great public persona, is wonderfully creative, and gets straight to the point, oh and I wish I could carry off her ‘don’t mess with me just because I’m in a pretty dress’ style!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

“Good things come to those that work hard”

Clare Brownlow

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