From the boardroom to the craft room, via soft play!
Ten years ago I was an HR Manager for a major insurance and risk management company, the one that now sponsors Manchester United. It was challenging work but I had great colleagues, many of whom I still regard as friends, a decent salary and exotic holidays.
I was also about to start a whole new chapter of my life, starting a family. It’s fair to say there’s quite a difference between life in the board room and life at soft play, and it took a lot of adjusting to, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Children grow up too fast, and I was lucky enough to be able to look after them full time. That isn’t to say it was all a bed of roses and I hid myself away under a pile of nappies singing ‘The wheels on the bus’ all day. As much as I loved being with my children I needed to keep my head occupied too so once a week I volunteered at the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity office, and I also helped at a local toddler group and was on the committee at pre-school. It was a great way to occupy my brain and still be there for my children.
There’s plenty of evidence to prove I am never going to be a domestic goddess so 18 months ago, with the children both at school, it was time to do something. I’d always dreamt of doing something creative, possibly working for myself, but I had no idea where to start. In the absence of any direction I booked a stall at the school Christmas fair and made felt decorations and key-rings to sell, and I had a series of my photographs produced as cards too.
In the meantime I went on a workshop to make a lampshade for my daughter, it was the ultimate lightbulb moment! I loved it and so did lots of my friends and family, so I bought lots of fabric and lampshade making materials to make more shades to take to the school fair as well. I was so excited to sell two lampshades and received loads of great feedback. From that Jo Jones Creative was born in December 2014.
A website, an online Etsy shop, a social media presence and a bespoke service soon followed, all produced by myself, mainly to keep costs down but also because I’m a bit of a control freak! A year later I had customers from the Shetland Islands to Cornwall, and was a finalist in the ‘Best New Business’ category of the Epsom and Ewell Business Awards.
Sales are growing steadily, as is my stash of beautiful fabric, and a network of local contacts and friends. I’ve started to experiment with new designs and new materials - so many ideas and so little time when I’m trying to fit it in to the school day.
So my advice to anyone thinking about setting up a small business is just do it! Starting a business is time consuming, and at times all encompassing, the children have had burnt fish fingers more than once while I’ve been distracted by the laptop. But the buzz I get from creating beautiful objects that other people are willing to pay me money for is worth every minute and every hour. So stop reading this and get out there, if you don’t try you’ll never find out what could happen!