Creating a giftware brand - Startacus meets Ellie Ellie
by Startacus Admin Published on: 26th February 2013
Making your mark on the design world isn't necessarily an easy thing, so when someone does it and does it well, it's pretty impressive.
One such person is Danielle Ellen Plowman, founder of Ellie Ellie - the "sustainable giftware brand with a touch of nostalgia". We were pretty chuffed when Danielle agreed to take a few minutes out to answer a few of our questions on everything from starting a business to where she gets her inspiration from for those wonderful designs.
Here at Startacus we’re all about people following their passions and doing their own thing, which is exactly what you’ve done with Ellie Ellie Ltd. What was your main inspiration for starting the business to begin with? I’d always wanted to work for myself and I thought I could offer something different, and a bit better than what was already on the high street. I wanted to bring back British craftsmanship. Everything we see is now is all ‘Made in China’ with very little being made by Britain’s own fair hands! I wanted to fill that gap.
When you were first starting out, what was the biggest issue or obstacle you faced or was it all plain sailing? The biggest issue I faced was lack of funds! I had to work 3 other jobs to fund my business in the early days, which was incredibly hard but it got Ellie Ellie on its feet and to where it is today. I have never been shy of hard work and this one of the most important qualities you need to have to start your own business, however if you do what you love and love what you do you’ll never really have to work a day in your life and its this motto that keeps me focused everyday (even when I have worked 14 hours!)
Your designs are quirky, innovative and really ooze creativity. Where do you get your inspiration from? The brand’s ethos is ‘re-design, recycle and re-love’ and this inspires me when designing new products. I think it’s crucial to relate every product back to the original mission, to make sure you don’t lose track. I spend a lot of time at car boots, jumbles sales, flea markets and charity shops to constantly access what is being ‘thrown away’ and no longer needed in today’s society, I then take it upon myself to try and redesign the item by recycling it and turning it into something in which to re-love.
How long does it take you to design a new piece and how do you source your materials? Some of the best ideas have been the simplest ones. A high percentage of our products are made by us in our HQ, making our lead times pretty variable depending on what we have at hand. Most of our materials are pieces we have rescued from charity shops and jumble sales over the years! Recycling and sustainability have obviously always been a key part of the Ellie Ellie ethos.
How would you convince someone that this is ‘the way’ if they’re more into throwaway consumerism? I would ask them to think about their money as a voting card and what they voting for when they purchase a very cheap product that has been made thousands of miles away and what affect that can have on the future of our countries landscape. I would explain the benefits of buying sustainable, recycled, eco-friendly, and ethically /locally sourced products; It’s all about education and getting people to see the lifespan of a product with compassion & care.
The Ellie Ellie brand has had lots of really great press and publicity and has been featured in everything from Vogue to The Sunday Times. Pretty impressive! What is your top tip for a startup trying to get press coverage like that? My tip would be to find a really good pay per result PR company. Most companies do deals for smaller brands and it’s the most efficient way of getting your products in the press and you don’t pay until you see results. One of the most important things I had to learn was that I CANNOT do everything myself - learn from the professionals around you and it will improve your expertise and company simultaneously.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given and did you take heed of it? The best piece of business advice was that I needed to invest, in order to see a return. It really is who dares wins in business and when it’s your baby it is sometimes very hard to gamble with it, but it is these gambles in a recession can push your business forward when others businesses are going backwards. I always ask myself what I would regret more, trying and failing? Or to have never tried in the first place. Of course I would always regret never trying.
Finally, apart from obviously creating lots of amazing new products, what other plans do you have for Ellie Ellie? We are hoping that the brand will continue to grow! There are many many plans for the business as a whole, including a new website as we are aiming to strengthen our brand’s online presence. We are also planning to move Ellie Ellie closer towards becoming a lifestyle brand, introducing vintage clothing and home accessories and hopefully one day we’d like to open Ellie Ellie shops on Britain’s high streets.
Thanks Danielle! Some great answers - inspirational in themselves!
Do check out the Ellie Ellie site to see Danielle's creative designs in all their splendour - we just love 'em!