Home Business Heroes: Catherine Lloyd-Evans

Every week 1,400 people join 2.8 million others running a business from their home. Together these entrepreneurs contribute £284bn of GDP. With this is mind we decided, along with Viking, that these businesses are the heroes of the UK economy.

 

To continue our search of the entrepreneurs swapping a desk in the office to work from their kitchen table, we tracked down founder of OriginalStich, Catherine Lloyd-Evans.

 

Name: Catherine Lloyd-Evans

 

Business: www.originalstitch.co.uk

What's your business?

I run OriginalStitch, a recycled fabric homewares and accessories business, specialising in personalised, custom and bespoke home accessories such as kids' artwork cushions, tailor-made cushion covers for a new interior, and lovely personalised Christmas stockings and bunting for kids (or grownups!).

What were you doing before?

I worked in media sales in a magazine publishing company before having my children, so I'd had a good grounding in many aspects of business.

How did the idea come about?

I decided to start a blog about my efforts to only make presents for a whole year - not buy them -so many friends loved their gifts, and told me I should go into business, that one day I found I had.

Do you make the products yourself?

Yes - along with my business partner Amanda. She was the first stitcher I recruited to help make the products.

How did you fund it?

We both invested a small amount initially, but it is very much a kitchen table business - we refuse to get major funding because we feel in this current economy we have to get 'proof of product' - i.e. sell enough items, and also get repeat bulk orders, which is not in line with the bespoke nature of the business.

Home biz 2

How did you market it?

We are an online business, and we use social media and word of mouth as much as possible - most of our orders are repeat orders from loyal customers who come back with more and more customised orders, which we are able to deliver.

How did you find suppliers of all the materials?

All our fabrics are vintage, pre-loved, recycled or second-hand because the ethics and fundamentals of OriginalStitch are that cotton growing is a disastrous environmental burden on the planet. We acquire fabrics where we can - either buying things from second-hand sources such as charity shops, or often taking old soft furnishings, fabric remnants and bedding off our friends' hands. We also have several interior design consultants who don't need their sample books each year once their new collections come in, so they are grateful that we take swatches from them - beautiful designer fabric scraps that we use in our work. All other materials are scrutinised for the eco credentials rather than their pricepoint; we will only use products with good green provenance.

How do you store all of the products?

We don't - we work to order, unless we are doing a photoshoot to show off our work; generally we have only around 20 samples at any one time, so space is not too much of an issue.

Where's your office?

At home - I use both an office, and my workroom; for discipline reasons this works best. If I'm too close to my sewing machine and all my towers of beautiful fabrics I have been known to just leap up and start sewing, instead of finishing a computer-based task.

Do you have set working hours?

I work while the children are at school - if they're occupied with their own stuff I often also get an hour in the afternoon but of course that might well be interrupted by demands to help with a science experiment or a craft project of their own.

How do you make sure you're focused and never get distracted at home?

I don't find it hard to focus - I enjoy being immersed in something; it's very much in my nature to dedicate hours at a time on a task, so I actually have to set the alarm on my phone to tell me to go and get my children from school.

What was it like at the start?

Tough - I never found the designing, sewing, or even the social media or blogging tough, but I found the legalities and technicalities of business daunting. I think we started off too 'formal'; I would recommend kitchen table businesses now to just get going on selling before worrying about taking on sole trader or limited status, as long as they have informed HMRC and are keeping receipts and sensible accounts, and have insurance. We also set up business banking too early - again, the bank was rather threatening about using personal accounts for business, but our turnover was so low, and remains very modest, that we were simply not big enough to deal with the very punitive business banking costs - it swallowed up our profits, quite simply. I was so worried about being in the wrong that we spent a lot of time and effort getting all those things done, rather than actually focusing on our business plan.

What's the worst thing about working from home?

There's no separation from the sink full of dirty dishes. It can be difficult to run a family and a business in the same space - when you work in an office you don't have voices in your head saying "Oh darn, I'd better just put a wash on." Even the post arriving with a distracting bill can be enough to throw your work to-do list off-course. And friends and family may also not view it as 'work' when you work from home. It is quite a mental leap in many ways.

What's the best?

Flexibility, which is essential when you are also the primary child carer.  I have been able to show my children I support their efforts at school, and their need to see me share in their successes by being able to attend their harvest festival or class assembly, without going through the tremendous stress of having time off work. It's how we roll in our setup at home; I'm the one 'on call' for the kids, geographically and because I'm my own boss.

For more information on on the OriginalStitch, click here.

Home Business Heroes, in association with

Vikingnew

We use cookies to create the most secure and effective website possible for our customers. Full details can be found here