Welcome to another brand new Small Business Chat, this time with Sarah Hodgkins from mural company Charlotte Designs.Sarah’s been going for nine years now, so she’s learned a lot and developed her business in that time, starting off with general interior design, for example, then moving to specialising in murals. Although she had some experience of running her own business, I’m going to bet that it’s quite different now from in the 80s, with all the networking and social media that goes on now – I’d love to have some comments on that aspect from readers who’ve done the same!
Hello, Sarah! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Charlotte Designs, and I set it up in May 2005.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I needed to work but wanted something that would be flexible enough for me to be a good Mum to my children. This seemed the best option.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I had interior designed on and off for many years, and whilst the idea of doing straight interior design again wasn’t appealing, specialising in children’s spaces was a differentiator and a new area of interest. Over the first four years or so of being in business, the mural side grew and the other areas didn’t, so I decided to specialise.
Had you run your own business before?
Yes, in the late 80s.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I started part time; in fact officially, I still am. I did a few jobs for friends free or at cost price to get a portfolio and some testimonials, then did some exhibitions to get the name out and networked.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That the ebb and flow that you get in business is normal. It takes a while to not panic when things slow down.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Enjoy it, you are doing something that you love, and every mural you paint will make you better.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
What are you glad you did?
Networking: it transformed my business.
What’s your top business tip?
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
The business has grown steadily. Specialising in the murals was a brave decision, but turned out to be the right one.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
More of the same, really. The commercial side is growing faster than the domestic side and I see that continuing. I would like to be doing more in the dementia field and more workshops.
I can really echo what Sarah says about ebb and flow – I’ve learned to embrace the lulls and use them as an opportunity to recharge my batteries and catch up with other projects (or do power-blogging and scheduling!) but it does take a while to trust that the work will come back! I’d love to know more about her work in the dementia area, and look forward to finding out how she’s doing in her tenth anniversary year, next time. And see how she was doing in 2015 here!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.