Thursday, 20 October 2016

Minding The Business: Restitched With Love

In this instalment of my small business interview series, I'm delighted to introduce Carolyn Eastwood and her business, Re-Stitched With Love.

Fabric wedding bouquets by Re-Stitched With Love.

I'll confess a particular admiration for Re-Stitched because it's similar in some ways to the sewing business I ran when I was younger, but it's so different in others and so much better! Carolyn creates hand-sewn clothes, accessories and upholstery, and carries out custom alterations as well. As if running her own business whilst working part-time as a fashion technician wasn't enough, just before our interview, she swapped Burnley for Beijing - teaching a university fashion course for two months.

Despite all this, you'll never meet a more down-to-earth person, and I'm happy to introduce her on my blog - over to the Q&A!

L. So Carolyn, what made you open your own business?

 C. I love being asked this, because Re-Stitched with Love started as an idea I had at uni, and one summer after doing most of my work I decided I was bored and needed a new task (nothing ever changes). I started making my origami flowers using scrap fabrics and putting them on headbands to see if I could sell any, and to see if the business idea would actually work. Within weeks I was taking 2-5 orders each day, it was crazy! The rest is history.

L. You make it sound so simple, but I know that you do work very hard at it. Also, you started whilst at university, as well as working part-time. What difficulties have you faced in starting a business as a young person?

 C. Learning about business has been hard because I am more of a hands on kind of person, not one for sitting down and reading. I have had to learn to be patient and focus more. I have learnt so much since starting and I still have lots to learn, but that's the exciting part.

I work a lot on my own and this has recently proven to be hard work because I feel I am taking on too much. Starting a business isn't easy - it's long hours, a lot of money at risk and also your own health and wellbeing if you are taking on too much, so always make sure you are 100% committed and passionate about what you are going to be starting, because you will definitely need it!

L. You've kept a part-time job whilst building up your business. How do you manage your time when it comes to running a business and working?

C. When I first started it was great, but as the business grew I realised that one person can't take on everything and it is ok to ask for help. I worked part time as a teacher/fashion technician until recently and I started realising that I was becoming stressed - maybe because I was taking on too much at my studio or maybe because I was unhappy in my part time work because I couldn't focus 100% on my passion? I have now left my job and am currently working as a fashion tutor in Beijing for two months, and when I return home I will be focusing 100% on Re-Stitched which I'm excited about because I am going to have to be strict with myself to make sure things get completed, and put my time management skills to the test.

Hard at work in her studio!

L. Working as a fashion tutor and technician - they sound like dream jobs for many people! Did any of your formal qualifications help get you to where you are now? What work experience helped you to become an entrepreneur?

C. I have a degree in Eastern Fashion which sometimes does come into some of my work (which it will be doing even more soon with some new products being designed for summer 2017), but it's just my passion for textiles, design, fabrics and my creativity that I feel shines through my work.

My degree definitely helped me meet people, travel, explore who I am and what my interests were/are, but it's having a deep passion to want to do something in the arts that has led me to where I am now. My business degree (alongside the Eastern Fashion) showed me one thing, and that was that I was capable of starting a business.

Trust me when I say 6 years ago I never thought I would be where I am now. Every day I still take a look at what I have built up and it blows my mind! I started off on my bedroom floor making items for Christmas fairs and now I have an upholstery studio, with a new dress making room being made. Ok - I have always been an entrepreneur from a young age (selling water with crushed petals in and painted stones to raise money for charity) but it's determination to succeed in what you love that makes ideas work.

Carolyn's flowers are her favourites.

L. Since I've known you, you've been very busy with weddings, but you also make a much wider range of items. There's accessories, soft furnishings, alterations - but what are your favourite products that you make or services you provide, and why?

C. Of course my origami flowers are my favourite because I can make so many things from them and use any fabric! I have recently started making fabric and paper bouquets which are amazing (if I do say so myself) and creating them is a wonderful way to make brides' ideas come to life.

The upholstery work is my second favourite because I started this business with the idea of bringing old fabrics back to life, and although I do that sometimes with dresses, finding old furniture and giving it a second chance is what this whole business was built on. The transformations created are amazing.

L. Thanks, Carolyn! I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Re-Stitched and for you - one thing I know for sure, you'll always be busy!

Carolyn and I have been friends for a few years now and I've been extremely impressed by her work ethic - she packs so much in! You can see more of her work and find out more about her through her Facebook page - Re-Stitched With Love.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Extra Income Report - September 2016

September really was the worst month of the year so far for me.

I'm not kidding, all the wheels fell off in the first week and I never really seemed to catch up again. I decided to write off the week that went wrong, but it kind of turned into a fortnight, and eventually I decided to write off the entire month and leave it at that!

In one week, we ended up spending two nights in A&E for two separate reasons, and the next week I was in at the doctor's myself.

One of the two A&E visits was a meningitis scare for Little Balders which turned out to be a total false alarm, thank goodness. We still ended up getting rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and by the time we were released around 2 am, I was starting to regret ever googling that rash... still, always better safe than sorry in a situation like that, and that's precisely why no doctor wanted to let us leave before they were absolutely certain.

The next day we were back, having Lord Balders' hand stitched up after he cut it very badly on some glass. Being self-employed, his income nosedived and I had to help with the window cleaning rounds. A bit of an eye-opener for both of us!

I guess the stress didn't help things but for whatever reason, I ended up having a whopping stomach cramp flare-up and carted myself off to the doctor. Of course, there were other stress factors as well that just had to jump in to the party. We were all in need of a long nap, and I was particularly ready to hibernate - money was absolutely not on my mind.

Anyway, the usual things have been ticking over, so here's my extra income for September...

My extra income for September 2016. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Zeek: Saving & Making Money With Gift Cards

Ever received a gift card as a present, but felt like it was more of an obligation than a gift?
Like, when you get a voucher for £10 to use in a shop where all of the prices start at £100? Or for a shop you'd never choose to go to? That's more of an obligation, and it's probably why so many of us have gift cards languishing in hidden corners until they expire.
I'd heard of, the online marketplace that lets users sell on unwanted gift cards, but I hadn't tried it myself until I had the opportunity to receive a £50 promo credit in order to review it.
Of course, it's hard not to like something once you've got £50 of someone else's money to spend! I wanted to write an honest and thorough review, so I did put a bit of my own money into it just so I could say I'd tried it properly. So what did I buy, and would I recommend it? Read on!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Keeping The Day Job

So often, young people who hope to carve out creative careers for themselves are told, "you can't make money from that". Well, that's plain wrong. There are people out there, plenty of people, who are making a living from art, design, music, performance, writing... well, every and any kind of artform you can think of.

What we should be telling young people is that yes, it is possible... but it is difficult. Difficult doesn't mean impossible. To make a living from a creative career you may need to be willing to do two things:

widen your outlook, and take on a support job.

When I say widen your outlook, I mean think about all of the varied aspects of your chosen artform. What goes into the creation of that industry as a whole? Art isn't only about selling paintings, and music isn't only about being on stage. Those are only the 'typical' end of the wedge, the tropes that get wheeled out time and again for movie and book characters because most of us recognise and understand them.

Going into every kind of job available for every kind of creative medium would take forever, so right now I'm going to focus on the support job. As I'm an artist by trade I'll focus on art, but the same principles apply to any unpaid or as-yet-unestablished vocation - for example, I have friends who've become full-time religious missionaries using the same principles.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Anti-Social Media: Sharp Practice Online

Although I'd rather refrain from self-reflexive writing, I thought I'd address something that's become apparent to me in the last few weeks of navigating the internet.

Recently I've been helping a few people, including my husband, to get accustomed to using Instagram and Twitter as a way of promoting their businesses. (See, this is actually about personal finance!) Lord Balders in particular has been enjoying lots of success and engagement on Instagram, so I'm pleased about that; however, we've both been faced with a bit of bad behaviour on that platform.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Extra Income Report - August 2016

We meant to do two things in August: start earning even more extra pocket money and get back into the DIY swing of things on the house, which would mean spending more as well.

Both have been hard, as there have just been so many distractions and so many new projects popping up. Last month I decided to leave my job after one year; then I decided to leave as soon as I could! Starting the process of job hunting (and just getting my head around the mindset) has been time-consuming and a bit wearisome at times, and working on my blog and artwork at the same time has added to the pressure.

Still, the usual things have been ticking over, so here goes: my extra income for August...

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Faff Scale

Most of the time, it's not that personal finance, budgeting and/or doing a little sideline online is actually too difficult for us - it's just that we can't be bothered.

It's this inertia that financial and insurance companies thrive on, and it's this inertia that can cost us. So with this in mind, I thought I'd break down my recommendations into an easy to read scale.

Friday, 2 September 2016

This Rug Has Ruined My Life

Why is it that we buy things, hoping that they'll dramatically improve our lives, even though we know that they won't?
Ok, my living room rug hasn't really ruined my life, but it has given me a lot more work than I had before I bought it. I wanted a rug for the living room. I felt we needed one. I spent ages poring over all corners of the internet, it seemed, before I found the one rug to rule them all.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Making A Difference - My Feature on CBB

It's been my privilege to appear on Mr Canadian Budget Binder's blog, in the Making A Difference feature. Can you tell that I'm excited? :)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Sad Case of Doig and Doige

Hoping to strike gold by stumbling across a masterpiece in the attic or at next Sunday's car boot fair? You wouldn't be alone.

It's a natural consequence of the stratospheric prices attached to works of art that buyers, collectors and viewers might as well be looking at a framed wad of cash instead of a painting. Found a lost Manet? Cash in and retire tomorrow. Found a lost painting by your uncle Manny? Well, that's nice. Maybe you'll find a frame for it if it's not too expensive.

Doig, Doige and millions of dollars at stake.

Disputes over the authenticity of artworks aren't new, but they've been usually confined to posthumous sales or discoveries. This year, I was explaining one such case of a painting attributed to Lucian Freud to Lord Balders.

Stranger still, though, was the recently concluded case regarding a painting made by Pete Doige in Canada in 1976. Robert Fletcher bought the painting for $100, and later was told that the painting was by a famous artist. Peter Bartlow, an art dealer, agreed to help Mr. Fletcher sell the painting... however, their plan was scuppered when the famous artist in question, Peter Doig, denied that the painting was his.