Home Business Heroes: Bethany Wells

Name: Bethany Wells

Loction: London

Business: www.teetweet.co.uk

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 great.

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 products?

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.

Home Biz Desk

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 home?

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 here

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