Tuesday 29 April 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Sophie Hannah Contemporary Houseware and Accessories

In this business profile we meet Sophie Walker, the founder of a lovely new business called Sophie Hannah which specialises in creating "Items of Loveliness". Read her inspirational interview and be motivated to follow your own dreams! 

Sophie Walker

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
I get up at 7.00 and then get my children ready, have breakfast together and take them to nursery for 9.00. I then go home, tidy up the kitchen while I make a cup of tea and then head upstairs to my workroom. I try to make my day as efficient as possible so I will start by doing any gluing or fabric printing so this can be drying while I work on making other items. I spend two or three hours working on products. At the moment it is some suede envelope purses. If there is time I like to photograph them before lunch so the pictures can upload while I grab a quick sandwich. That gives me an hour or so after lunch to do admin such as ordering materials and working on my website before I collect the children at 3.30. We spend some time playing, I get them fed, bathed and into bed. Then I will often go back to work for an hour or two to finish off any loose ends.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I previously ran a business making handbags. I took a break to start my family. We moved to a new house on the other side of the country five weeks before my son was born, when my daughter was two years and three months old. I was still registered as self employed and knew my maternity allowance would finish before I knew it. I had very little budget to work with. The handbags I make can be intricate and time consuming and I didn’t feel ready to return to it with a new house, a toddler and a newborn. I also realised when we moved that I had a lot of fabric, a lot of haberdashery and a sewing machine. So I decided to turn what I have into lovely items for sale, so I set up Sophie Hannah’s Items of Loveliness. It allows me to make anything I like as long as it is lovely! This gives me a greater variety of products and I can work when the children are in bed and at my own pace. I started by making a small range of items, set up a website myself using a template and opened a Folksy shop. I have also sold through a couple of local retailers.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
It is very early days for Sophie Hannah but my website is a big achievement for me as it was a challenge to do and took a lot of hard work and late nights! www.sophie-hannah.co.uk

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Juggling work and childcare. My son is now 13 months and has just started nursery. So for the last year I have been working with him at home with me. I have also been extremely sleep deprived and it is hard not to feel guilty about catching up on an hours sleep here and there when I think I should be working. There is a tendency to overdo it and push myself too much.

What are your future plans for the business?

I would like to keep steadily growing the business; by finding more shops willing to stock my work and other selling opportunities online. We live in Yorkshire, near my husband’s family, which is great, there are many options for me to explore here. My family are in south London, so I would like to be able to combine work and London so we can spend more time with my side of the family too.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have believed in myself a bit more. It is very difficult to have confidence in your work when you are your own biggest critic. It is hard to effectively market your work and I would have undertaken more advice or study in that area.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

It can be difficult for other people to take you and your ideas seriously. It is easy to give up and think you need to do something that isn’t what you love but offers you more financial security. Sometimes it is necessary to do both. Dreams take a long time to come true, businesses don’t make money overnight and when you are young it is hard to see the bigger picture.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Against much of the advice I have been given I would say: Do what you are passionate about and what you love and want to do. Your work will be better; if you try to do what you think other people want, you will lose your passion and it will show in your work. - It look me a long time to realise this.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I know a very inspirational lady called Zoe Humphries. She is based in Liverpool and runs a company called Networking Mums. It’s a monthly networking session with selling opportunities, a lot of fun networking and goal setting activities, and a crèche. It is for all women, but especially caters for mums and is something of a lifeline when you work on your own from home. It is so good to meet other women and promote your business, knowing that your children are safely playing in the room next door. I hope she expands to Yorkshire soon!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” – George Bernard Shaw

Twitter @sophiehannahs

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