Home Business Heroes, in association
Home businesses generate £284bn of the UK's GDP making
them the true heroes of our economy. So to continue Smarta and Viking's celebration of
these brave entrepreneurs, we tracked down the founder of TeeTweet, Bethany Wells.
Name: Bethany Wells
Can you sum up your business?
TeeTweet is a new tweet-inspired clothing label, printing the
best of twitter onto bags, t-shirts and pillowcases. We offer
one-click printing from your tweets; each item is unique, and we
don't intend to stop printing until we've got everyone wearing
their hearts on their sleeves.
What were you doing before?
I've studied and worked in architecture for the last 8 years,
and am now a freelance designer and tutor. My design training
means I'm always researching and thinking; seeing inspiration
around me and thinking how to draw from it and work with it.
When I had the idea for TeeTweet, it seemed too good a
concept to stay in my sketchbook - I have always had an
entrepreneurial streak, so decided to see what it would be like to
try and get it going as a bootstrapped startup.
How did the idea come about?
I have a favourite printed scarf that is getting worn thin
because I wear it all the time. I was planning on producing a
limited edition screen print - to make more prints of the same
scarf, but in the bath one evening it occurred to me that it would
be a stronger idea if the content was drawn from social media,
rather than providing ready-printed quotes. Freedom of
personal expression and inspiration is something I value, and I
wanted to give people an easy and attractive way to wear their own
words. I stayed up so late that night, nervous with
excitement about the idea, registering the domain name and
sketching logo designs.
How did you fund it?
TeeTweet is only a few months old, and I've set it up this far
without any outside investment, putting any profit from my
freelance design jobs into the business. This means I haven't
bought new clothes this year (apart from TeeTweet samples...) It's
all very hand-to-mouth at the moment - I sold the first TeeTweet
after only spending around £50 setting up the business, which felt
How did you market it?
So far it's been a combination of loyal friends and family
spreading the word, and then reaching people through twitter.
I scour twitter trends for particularly #TeeTweetable tweets,
and retweet them, getting into conversation with people about what
they would get TeeTweeted. I've held a few giveaways which
have helped to get the name out into new countries and to new
audiences. The good thing is that once people start chatting
about their TeeTweet on twitter, it spreads wider by itself.
How did you build a list of customers?
I keep in touch with customers on twitter through the ordering
process, tweeting them to let them know when it's been sent to the
printers, when it's been posted. This helps spread the word,
as well as making TeeTweet more approachable. I often get
photos back of people wearing their TeeTweets, and ideas for future
products or collaborations.
Where did you find manufacturers for the
I'd heard about direct-to-garment printing, and knew a great
studio in Sheffield www.YorkshireTee.co.uk, who are able to produce
one-offs and small runs. Knowing that there was a technology
already used for high quality fashion and design printing, and a
company already up and running offering this printing service made
it easy to start producing trials and samples straight away.
Where's your office?
I'm based in Haringey, North London, with regular trips up to
Sheffield for fresh air and to meet with my printers. My
office is my bedroom, my seat on the bus, a bench on the
underground platform, my kitchen table, the garden on a sunny day,
the train, the train station cafe, my friends' kitchen tables, my
laptop on my knee on my sisters sofa.
Do you have set working hours?
No. I'm always multi-tasking, out and about. As TeeTweet
is a brand new business, and not paying my rent (...yet) I'm
fitting it in around a number of different design and freelance
jobs - including architecture, teaching and theatre design.
At the moment, for example, I'm house sitting for some
friends so I'm working from their house this week. I love the
feeling of being a traveller even within London.
How do you make sure you're focused and never get
distracted at home?
One of the great things about TeeTweet is that tasks like
checking twitter and writing tweets - things that might ordinarily
be considered a distraction from work - are some of the key tasks.
If I'm working from home all day, I'll go out for a coffee
before starting work in the morning, so when I return to my room
I'm coming to work, with lists or plans for the day ahead, not just
falling out of bed. I'll break up the day with a swim, sauna
or a walk in the early evening if I need a change of environment or
pace. If I'm inspired I'll often sit up in bed late at night
working or researching (it's 1.30am at the moment).
What was it like at the start?
I still feel like I'm at the start with TeeTweet. I don't
have investment or savings, just huge student debts and overdrafts
from my architectural education, so I don't often have the luxury
of clear days or weeks to spend on the business. This means
it's taking longer to get off the ground than I originally
anticipated, but I'm now starting to think about ways to delegate,
outsource, and collaborate in order to build the business, without
the need for me to work on it full time.
What's the worst thing about working from
Can't think of one. I could do with more space for laying
things out, sewing, packing, but as TeeTweet is a small business at
the moment, it's manageable.
What's the best?
I often work barefoot with the windows open and good music on,
and my room is filled with my favourite things, objects, quotes - I
can't stand working in offices or corporate environments, I need to
feel free, so working from home suits me well.
For more information about TeeTweet, click
Home Business Heroes, in association