SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Cambridge Puppy Training

In the Small Business Spotlight:

Gail Stafford, professional dog and puppy trainer based in Cambridge UK, walks us through her new business venture - Cambridge Puppy Training.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Gail and I live in Cambridge, UK. I've always had a love of animals and in my early 20s started my 'dog journey' as a dog walker, then progressed to complete an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management. From there I went on to complete a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

I am a puppy class instructor at CCEG (Cambridge Canine Education Group) dog training, and the great loves of my life are my dogs. My life does, as I am sure many dog owners will relate to, revolve around dogs! I spend my time working with puppies, training my own dog, and writing articles for my blog relating to dog and puppy behaviour .

Describe your business

Cambridge Puppy Training offers 1-2-1 puppy home visits, and I've just started puppy training classes locally. I usually visit puppies when they just arrive in their new homes, before they are allowed out on walks. It gives new puppy owners the opportunity to learn the basics of puppy behaviour, tackle any potential issues within the home early on with my advice, and get training started early. I also offer an email advice service, puppy sitting/training (so fun!) and offer a Puppy Guide manual which I have written myself. I use positive methods of training, and follow as closely as I can the science behind canine behaviour to help with training.

Gail-from-Cambridge-Puppy-Training-with-dogs.jpg

What inspires you?

Dogs! Specifically my own dog. She inspires me every single day. I may be a dog trainer but I am not immune to being 'trained' by my dog! She knows how to get around me, and I love her for it. I work with different puppies every single week and I learn from all of them, they make me think and make me try different techniques and see what works with them. I love that they keep me on my toes!

Other dog trainers inspire me too, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some incredible dog trainers who are truly experts in their field. I have learned so much from the fellow instructors I work with. 'High profile' dog trainers inspire me daily, from Ian Dunbar to Lewis Nicholls to Suzanne Clothier to Nando Brown, all inspire me and keep me motivated to keep learning, keep researching and keep polishing my skills as a trainer and puppy instructor.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I've been dog training and teaching puppy classes for over 6 years, whilst doing various other 'normal' jobs alongside. However it felt the right time to create my own puppy business, and I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could fully concentrate and dedicate my time to it.

I truly thought setting up my own business would be too difficult for little ol' me! But I was determined to have a go and see where it took me. It was daunting at first, having the confidence to put yourself out there and sell what you do was a bit scary! But I'm more relaxed with the process now.

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

A little, yes. When I first set up my business I was very focused on setting up puppy training classes on varying days of the week, whilst doing 1-2-1s 'as well'. However, the interest has largely been in my 1-2-1s and this was a surprise to me - a very welcome surprise as I love working one to one with owners! Now I offer classes once a week as a four week course.

I also didn't realise how much my blog articles would not only give me so much pleasure, but other people too. I thoroughly enjoy writing them - I never planned to write articles but it has been a natural progression and I love researching, writing and posting the articles every day.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

Puppy-training

The technicalities! Going self-employed is something I have no experience of, so it was a tad daunting to face the dreaded tax system and figure it all out. I have friends who are more experienced than me in the working of business, which has been invaluable. Social media was a bit of a challenge too. I have never been hugely active on social media privately, so using social media as a platform for my work took a bit of getting used to. Also, self-doubt. I'm sure all small business owners fret periodically about the popularity or success of what you have created, maybe it's part and parcel of running your own empire!

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Seeing puppy owners happy! Happy puppies, and happy owners. I can't ask for more than that. When you're working with a client, you have moments where things suddenly click; they get it, they get the training and they get their puppy, and that moment is fantastic. I see it regularly and it's brilliant, seeing an owner improve with their technique through the advice I have given, consequently seeing a puppy improve is just wonderful. I get so much joy from owners telling me that the advice I gave has been helpful, that is what I get a real kick out of.

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

Don't panic! It takes time to gain interest, so have realistic goals. Don't try to do millions of things at once, think of your priorities for that day and work your way through. Accept 'hiccups' in your planning, not everything always runs smoothly in the beginning but don't panic, it's a lesson learned which you can improve on.

Don't get so bogged down with the 'other stuff', the websites, social media or business cards etc, that you forget why you're doing what you're doing. If you have a passion, keep it and don't let it get lost in amongst all the other bits and pieces of business. Forget competition! It doesn't matter what others are doing, focus on what you do and making it the best you can.

What's next for your business?

To keep working hard. To continue delivering a valuable service to my clients, stay up-to-date with the science behind canine behaviour and training so I'm always improving, carry on with writing, and continue to run my puppy training classes. I have LOTS of ideas and things I want to achieve with my business, and a range of new things to offer clients. I aim to be original in my approach as the only purely puppy-based company in this area, and I aim to be the first in other areas too. I can't give all my secrets away though, can I?

Gail regularly posts puppy training videos on Facebook, so follow her page if you'd like to learn some simple tips for training your pup!

Learn more about Gail and connect with her online using these links:

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Of Alp and Ash

In the Small Business Spotlight: Debs Slater - designer/adventurer based near Blackburn, invites a behind-the-scenes peek into her brand of laser cut wood and acrylic gifts inspired by the great outdoors!

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hey! I’m Debs, and I live in a little village just outside Blackburn with my husband, in a chaotic mess of a home that we’ve been renovating for far too long.

I’ve loved making things for as long as I can remember, took a degree in Graphic Design, a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration and get excited for the outdoors (mainly hiking & camping), documenting life in photographs, beautiful coffee-table books, mid-century modern decor, plant-based cooking and strategy-based board games.

Debs Slater from homeware brand Of Alp and Ash, in Digibloom's Small Business Spotlight

Describe your business

I create under the name ‘of Alp & Ash’ and make laser-cut products in a workshop at the bottom of my mum’s garden (which is conveniently located only two streets away from where I live!)

My Contoured Coasters are aimed at those that love adventuring in the UK as they depict the most popular hiking spots, and I’ve recently introduced map art to allow customers to select their choice of location (in the UK) to be recreated in wood and acrylic.

Topographical contour map art - laser cut wooden gifts by Of Alp and Ash

What inspires you?

I’m mostly inspired by my adventures outdoors. The idea for my Contoured Coasters came about whilst I was undertaking a personal challenge: to hike all 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District to mark the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing.

All that time spent studying maps during my challenge gave me the idea to recreate popular hiking areas in coaster form, with blue-tinted acrylic to represent the lakes and tarns.

Why did you decide to start a business?

Bad bosses! Not all my bosses have been horrendous, but the majority have. The last terrible encounter I had, working for a startup in Toronto, was the last straw for me. I came home to England vowing I’d never work for anybody again, used my savings to buy a laser cutter, and then had to think up something to make with it!

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

My products have definitely changed since I launched. The first products I designed were wedding frames, Christmas decorations and matchbox-style greetings cards that weren’t at all related to my business name. Some of them can still be found in my Etsy shop, but since developing my coasters I’m trying to be more conscious of my brand, so all the products on my website are now related to the outdoors.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

I think the hardest thing about being a small business owner is having to wear all the hats, at least until you can afford to outsource some jobs. I particularly struggle with marketing as I’m not confident enough to shout about my work, and I’m also much more excited about the design stage of the process; when it comes to repeatedly manufacturing the same products I struggle to stay motivated.

I’ve faced many challenges during production too. My coasters took quite some time to prototype and even now the focus of the laser or the thickness of the acrylic can throw some things out. It’s a constant learning curve, and I’m always trying to think of ways to improve the process, but I’ve come a long way since I first started.

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Not having a boss, a tiny commute to work, being able to time my lunch to align with Neighbours ;) Top of the list though is the fact that people are parting with their money to purchase something I’ve made. Regardless of how many meltdowns I may have had in the production stages, popping a set of coasters in a box and packaging them up for someone is an amazing feeling.

Feedback is also wonderful to receive, especially when a customer tells me that their dad loves their coasters, as I’m pretty sure my dad would have loved them too :)

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

If you can afford to outsource a job in an area you’re not skilled in, do it! Also, use social media as a tool to inspire you and to connect with other business owners, rather than to compare yourself to other sellers.

You will always find people that are more successful than you are on the internet, but it’s important not to let this put you off your own journey. You’ll never truly know the backstory to these businesses... they could have been working on their craft for years longer than you have, have had more money to invest than you, got lucky with a marketing opportunity, etc.

Focus on your own work and one day you’ll be that super successful business that somebody just starting out is in awe of! (This is definitely something I have to remind myself of.)

What's next for your business?

This is a question I wish I knew the answer to! I know I definitely need to get the word out as I’m still not where I’d like to be in terms of sales. I’m also hoping to add more products where I can outsource the manufacture.

Debs Slater from giftware brand Of Alp and Ash, laser cutting contoured map coasters in wood

My coasters are extremely labour-intensive to make, which means I can’t sell them in shops and that makes it harder to scale the business up to where I’d like it. I’d love to get drawing again, and come up with some products featuring my illustrations.

I also have some other business ideas that aren’t related to ‘of Alp & Ash’ at all, and will be exploring those this year too. I’m excited to see where my journey takes me, the opportunities are truly endless when you’re creating your own career path, and that’s one of the most incredible things about it!

Debs Slater of Alp and Ash with one of her topographic coasters

Shop for 'of Alp and Ash' products - click through images to see more:

Learn more about Debs and connect with her online using these links:

Website: alpandash.com
Etsy Shop: alpandash
Instagram: @alpandash
Pinterest: alpandash

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Hannah of Hesperoo!

Digibloom's Small Business Spotlight with Hannah from Hesperoo

IN THE SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: HANNAH - TALENTED DESIGNER BASED IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, DISCUSSES HER BRAND OF KIDS DECOR, HOMEWARE & GIFTS

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi, I'm Hannah and my business is called Hesperoo. I live in a village called Wollaston, in Northamptonshire UK. I live with my partner Chris and our six year old daughter, Hesper. My workroom is a converted outbuilding at the bottom of our garden, which was once a cobblers workshop!

Every morning, I drop my daughter off at school round the corner and head down to my workroom where I spend most of the day processing orders, sewing, photographing products, etc. I can even hear the sounds of Hesper's school when it is playtime!

  Image ©Welcome Photography

Image ©Welcome Photography

Describe your business

My business is called Hesperoo, named after my daughter, Hesper Roo! Some people think I named her after the business, but I'd like to think that most people realise that I named the business after her!

Hesperoo is a range of kids decor, homewares and gifts featuring my printed designs. Most of these designs are quirky characters that are inspired by little doodles that I have done for Hesper or were inspired by the imaginary characters she invents when playing. She seems to have a flair for creating original names and so I created little characters to go with the names!

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

They are printed onto fabric which I make into shaped cushions, but they are also available as prints, cards, stickers and melamine ware. I wanted to create decorative pieces that appeal to children, but don't look out of place in modern, stylish homes. I also know how frustrating it can be when your child's clothes, toys and decor are plastered in TV or film characters and I wanted to offer an alternative to that.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

I try to use ethical products or small/UK based businesses where possible. For example, my cushions are printed in the UK with eco-friendly inks and are backed with organic, ethically-produced cotton.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

What inspires you?

I suppose the obvious answer would be my daughter. When I was expecting her, I discovered the joy in sewing and making things for her and her room, like toys, clothes, quilts. I think prior to that, as I'd studied art and photography, I'd always felt that I had to be a serious artist, which is probably why I'd always struggled to make a real success of it.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

I'd always loved making things, but spent years thinking that enjoying craft was something to be embarrassed about, and now it is this huge movement! It was making things for Hesper and getting involved with online craft communities that made me realise that it is okay to just enjoying making things that look pretty!

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

So I would say that having my daughter inspired me to focus on what I enjoy making. Having her has also opened my world up again to children's books, films and toys, especially vintage ones from my own childhood. I love sharing a childhood book or toy with her and a certain image or sound will take me right back to my own childhood. I'm inspired to try and create things that are playful and fun, but still have that timeless and ageless appeal.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I would love to say that my business just evolved without any conscious effort on my part, but no! Having my own creative business has been my dream since I was little, but it's just taken me a long time to get there! My degree is in photography (from many years ago!) and I tried pursuing this for a while, but my heart wasn't in it, or I just wasn't cut out for it.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

When I met my partner in my late twenties, I was fed up of struggling and needed to get a 'proper job' as I felt that I was running out of options. So I spent several years in pretty soul-destroying jobs, but spent my spare time still being creative and dreaming of having my own business.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

When I had my daughter, my maternity leave felt like a last chance to try and make a go of it. I had always wanted to screen print and was interested in textiles and homewares, so while looking after a baby, I taught myself to screen-print. I began by printing kids t-shirts and onesies and sold these on Etsy for a while. When my maternity leave ended, I had to return to my civil-service job and so my Etsy shop was put on hold, as I just couldn't devote the time it needed.

After two years of being miserable at work, we took the risky decision for me to leave my job, so that I could spend time with my daughter before she started school and so I could devote time to my own business. I have been limited by time and money, but I am finally at a point where I am doing exactly what I want to be doing!

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

Absolutely! I began Hesperoo by selling screen printed kids clothes on Etsy. When I returned to Hesperoo after two years at work, I started printing fabric and made tea towels, lampshades and cushions. Around this time, I also started selling vintage goods and furniture, as I had started selling at local fairs and shops. Selling furniture was a good way to display my other items and it meant that I was under less pressure with my handmade stuff, which was quite costly and time-consuming.

  Image   ©Welcome Photography

Image ©Welcome Photography

Eventually, my daughter started school and I had more time to devote to my business which had now become a mismatch of printed goods, hand-printed textiles, vintage pieces and furniture! Towards the end of last year, I felt that I had completely lost my way and that my product range no longer reflected me or why I began Hesperoo in the first place.

I'd always wanted it to be a fun, modern brand with an emphasis on kids design, which is why I named it after my daughter in the first place! What I really loved was making things for Hesper and other children. I had lots of little doodled characters in notebooks that I kept meaning to make into little printed dolls, but they never seemed to fit in with I was doing before. I decided these should be the new focus of my business. I stopped with what I had been doing, cleared out all the vintage stock and completely started again.

I started creating digital designs from the various sketches that I had collected and I soon had a few characters to start over with. In February 2016, I re-launched Hesperoo with a small range of character cushions, eventually adding new products and designs to the range. It was a long-held goal of mine to apply to Not on the High Street, but I knew there was no point in applying until I was happy with my product range.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

Within a few weeks of re-launching my business, they invited me to join as a partner! At the beginning of the year, I decided that 2016 was going to be the year that determined whether to I should keep going with this. The business still has a long way to go, but I am pleased with what I have achieved this year and want to continue to build on that.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

Finances, admin and my own negativity. I left a paid job to pursue this without any real start-up money, just trying to build on any spare cash or any sales I've made. Keeping motivated and focused is tough when sales are low. I have a tendency to panic and think negatively about my work and I start thinking of other directions to go in!

Of course I am much more confident with my work when orders are coming in and I've learned that the self-doubt comes and goes. It can be very isolating working alone. As much as I do love it and I always hated working in an office, there is no-one to bounce ideas off or share ideas with.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

Having to do every single aspect of the business myself is also testing, especially when it is something I don't fully understand. I am constantly having to learn new things whether it's to do with tax, accounts, social media, marketing, etc, and I have a constant fear that I have missed something!

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

I love the fact my daily commute is a walk down the garden path! I'm also grateful for the time it allows me with my daughter and to be at home. While we have had to make financial sacrifices as a family for me to do this, it has also given me this time with her that I wouldn't have got from going to work every day.

I'm also still over the moon with every order that I get. The fact that people see my work online and willingly spend their money on things that I have designed and made is still amazing to me!

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

I have had customers tell me that their child loves my "Brunta Bear" cushion and it is so rewarding to think that someone else's child is enjoying something that I made and my daughter named!

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

I still feel like I'm just starting out myself as my business still has a long way to go! I wish I'd been more focused and cohesive in the beginning. Instead of trying to be all things to all people in the hope that something will stick, I wish I'd just started with one solid idea and concentrated on making that good.

When I re-launched this year, I just had one product in four designs. I concentrated on those and gradually built on that. It not only makes your brand look more cohesive but I think mentally, it helps you see a clearer path to where you want to be and what you need to do to get there.

What's next for your business?

I would like to incorporate patterns into my designs and maybe some designs that are a bit looser in style. I've been playing around with digital patterns, trying to emulate the free, abstract effects that I used to get from hand-painting fabrics. I've also recently been sketching a series of girls with different coloured hair! They are done digitally but look like ink drawings and I might combine these with the patterns I've been creating.

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

I want them to be a bit more sophisticated, but still have a sense of fun that appeals to all ages. I would also like to extend the products that I offer to include more homewares like placemats, coasters and trays. I have had some melamine pieces but want to invest in this more next year. I'd also like to see my characters on a range of kids clothes, or in a children's book!

A photo posted by Hannah {UK} (@hesperoo) on

Hannah has kindly offered one of her Brunta Bear cushions as a prize in Digibloom's 7 Days of Christmas giveaway! Click here to enter for a chance of winning this gorgeous handmade treat just before Christmas!

Win a handmade Brunta Bear cushion in Hesperoo's giveaway!

Learn more about Hannah and connect with her online using these links:

Website: hesperoo.co.uk
Twitter: @hesperoo
Instagram: @hesperoo
Facebook: hesperoohome
Pinterest: hesperoo

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Tim Easley

Tim Easley Small Business Spotlight with Digibloom

IN THE SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: TIM EASLEY - talented FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR BASED IN LONDON, DISCUSSES HIS GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION BRAND

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Tim and I'm a self taught designer, illustrator and photographer from London. The technical word for what I do is Designustratographer. Although don't look for that in the dictionary because it's too futuristic to be in there yet.

Tim Easley graphic designer and illustrator - interview with Digibloom

Describe your business

I attempt to arrange things nicely on pages, doodle stuff for people, and use a camera to steal people's souls. In return people give me money, which I mainly use to buy pizza. My business is unique because I made up my own job title to make sure nobody else is one.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What inspires you?

I'm mostly inspired by Oprah, motivational quotes on posters in offices, Morris dancers, tinted windows on cars, and people who say they work hard and play hard. These things inspire me not to be terrible.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I hated where I was working, and couldn't find another job, so I decided to go freelance and survive on dust and grass rather than get a regular wage. I never looked back, mainly because I was too weak from the dust and grass to turn my head.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

Definitely. It was going down for quite a long time, then up, then kind of level for a bit, then down a bit, then up again. Hopefully it keeps going up because that's the direction I like the best. Oh wait, I get you. Yes I think I've become slightly more specialised as I've been going, concentrating on things I find more interesting rather than projects just to pay the bills, which is a lot more rewarding. Mentally and financially.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

A video posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

Admin. Admin. Admin. I hate admin. It's the worst. The only good thing about working for someone else is that they do most of the admin. It's just so boring, especially when you're doing something creative. It sucks all of the creativity out of you and spits it into an Excel spreadsheet where you watch it die a slow and painful death.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Definitely the fact that I can work in my pants. I mean you can't generally do that if you work in an office. That and the fact that I do what I want, when I want. It's a lot more work than a 9-5 but if there's something I want to do one day, I can just take a day off and catch up later. It's very flexible. Just like me in my pants.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

Make a plan and try to stick to it. It's sometimes tempting to change your plan slightly and compromise when you're not making as much money as you want, but in the end sticking to what you know you want to do is the best way. If you were just in this for the money, you probably wouldn't be in it, so keep that in mind!

What's next for your business?

Every year or so I look at how things are going and try make sure I'm still pointing in the right direction, as well as set myself new targets and clear out old work so everything feels fresh. I'm just gonna keep going where I'm going and cross my fingers! Also I might invest in an underground lair with some kind of flying boat with lasers on it. But don't tell anyone.

Learn more about Tim Easley and connect with the man himself online using these links:

Website: timeasley.com

Twitter: @timeasley

Instagram: @timeasley

Facebook: @iamtimeasley

Behance: be.net/timeasley