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Creating a 'vintage' business - We talk to Hunted and Stuffed
by Startacus Admin
Startacus talked to self starter Ellie Laycock of Hunted and Stuffed about what inspired her vintage startup, running a business and developing business expertise...
Ellie has been running Hunted and Stuffed for the last 18 months or so and feels like it is all going great. The idea of her business all came about when she saw a beautiful piece of silk and wanted to bring it back to life. She had always been a vintage lover and was missing doing something creative whilst she was on maternity leave. She began making quality vintage cushion covers, then, when other people asked her to make ones for them, itorganically evolved into a business.
Ellie opened a shop on Elsy.com (an international website for handmade goods) which allowed her business toexpand. Upon joining makerhood.com (where goods are made and bought locally), Ellie heard about a competition called Brand Exemplifier, which she then went on to win. This allowed Ellie to see herself as a business woman for the first time and she launched her own website. She was then asked to join ‘My Deco’ and saw ‘This is my Kingdom’ which encouraged her to apply for Schools for Creative Start Ups. School for Creative Startups has been helping her work on the foundations of her business and her business goals.
First, talk to us about before Hunted and Stuffed, what was your career background, and had you always had a yearning to work for yourself?
I had some really bad jobs in the early days from working in a carrot packing factory in Norfolk to cleaning toilets in Barcelona and soon decided that if I was going to spend 40hrs plus a week doing something it had better be something I loved! After graduating as a Fine Artist in London, I took art department jobs in the film and TV industry and discovered the life of a freelancer, eventually specializing in commercial photography and winning clients such as Giorgio Armani, Tate Britain and Sony Ericcson. After 12 years of that I had a baby and as a single parent you find time becomes so precious, so I decided to start this new company that I could build and develop on terms that suited my new situation.
What, so far is the biggest difference between working in business and running a business?
I was lucky enough to win the Brand Amplifier award in February (for female entrepreneurs in Lambeth) and as a finalist we received mentoring from it’s founder Jeanette Pritchard of JP Creative. The distinction which had most impact on me was her question: How much time do you spend ‘cutting hair’ and how much time actually growing your business? I realized then that they’re two completely separate endeavours.
Hunted and Stuffed is a rather mischievous but clever brand name, tell us how important getting the right name was for the business?
I went through a huge list of names first, running them by people, trying to rework relevant words into a suitable name. When I thought of ‘Hunted and Stuffed’ it just felt right. I love that’s it a bit mischievous because the brand is too and people respond to and remember a fun play on words – I think Startacus is a fantastic name!. Although I exhibited at Lambeth Open Studios recently and had people who were unfamiliar with the brand coming in saying they were nervous they’d find stuffed badgers.
Since becoming self employed, how have you grown your support network and business expertise?
I have been astounded by the generosity of other people in business. By applying to Brand Amplifier I discovered a network of local businesswomen who are incredibly generous and mentors who are amazing and inspirational. That gave me the confidence to really see myself as a businesswoman for the first time and I haven’t looked back. I got to the final of StartUp Britain’s PitchUP! competition and won the chance to pitch to John Lewis last month. I’ve just signed a deal to write a book on upcycling (which will be published next autumn) and I’m on Doug Richard’s School For Creative Startups programme which is just fantastic. I can’t praise it highly enough as it has further expanded my horizons to include more amazing mentors and another peer network of 100 business people in a nurturing and supportive environment. My advice to startups would be to get on the internet and look for networks online, sign up for newsletters and find out what’s happening and enter competitions too.
Up-cycling seems to be all the rage at the moment. Why?
I think there are many reasons. Vintage is a huge trend right now and so is personalization of items, especially for gifts. People are appreciating handmade more and are asking questions like ‘where was it made and is it sustainable?’ and with the country tightening it’s financial belt we look at how to make the most of what we’ve got rather than consume and discard. Upcycling is all about not seeing an item for what it is but what it could be. There’s a freedom and a creativity that’s fun and you also get to feel great because you didn’t throw something into landfill but got another (better) use out of it. It’s probably an inherent urge in anyone who grew up watching the Blue Peter presenters make an advent candle out of wire coat hangers. They started it!!
Following on from this, how important is it for you to develop and evolve the brand and business?
It’s vital. I can already see imitators springing up and it’s not easy to fit ‘square peg’ handmade, unique products into the ‘round hole’ of high street retail but the customer feedback we’ve had so far has been phenomenal and that’s what drives us. Trends will come and go but we always strive for one constant: to be the best at what we do and customers appreciate that. After all, without them we wouldn’t have a business.
And on that note, we wish Ellie and the business all the best and thanks to School for Creative Startups for arranging all...