Want a Healthy Life? Just Follow Your Bliss!

Want a Healthy Life? Just Follow Your Bliss!

Photo by Millo Lin on Unsplash

Four years ago, Chief Financial Officer Alison Stevenson was a tired and overworked 40-year-old who took no time for self-care and had no social life.

Then she discovered Zumba®.

In Alison’s words: ‘Zumba® isn’t just a business for me, it’s a lifeline. A way of life. A celebration of life.’ 

Want to know how you, too, can follow your bliss? Read on & be inspired. 

Corporate look

Ally, how did it all start?

It all started when I began experiencing headaches as a pre-teen. The doctor recommended I take up a hobby, because I ‘worried’ a lot about things that did not concern me as a child. Very quickly, dance became one of my favourite after-school activities, and I got my kicks from clubbing. But although it made me feel good, I didn’t realise the full benefits until I was much older.

What was your lightbulb moment?

The moment I stepped into a Zumba® class, I felt alive. Invigorated! My mind switched off from the constant planning and chatting, which was a refreshing change in my then constantly busy life as a working mum. By the third class I knew I had to be an instructor. I had found my second passion in life, which I hadn’t thought was possible.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

Very affordable, as one only needs to do the initial Zumba® instructor course and have a good portable music system. Hunting for suitable halls to accommodate my class was slightly challenging as I was new in the area, but I had lots of help from the locals and secured two great halls very quickly.

Was your age a hurdle in any way?

All that is in the mind. I’ve seen instructors as young as eighteen and as old as seventy-five. That is the beauty of Zumba®: it is for everyone.

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Ally grins
Ally grins

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Fit and fab

Who has been your greatest support?

My husband has been my rock. He is now a homemaker, which allows me the freedom to explore different options for my business and enjoy my various passions. He never questioned when I decided to take a break from work and try new things through the Zumba® business. He helps me achieve my goals and is always on hand when I go on various courses. He supports me with regard to the friendships I form too. And now that I have an online offering, he posts my class on the Zumba.dance platform and distributes it to my regular customers every day.

I also had lots of support from my mum and my sister, especially at the start. They came to every single class despite the fact I had no customers, or sometimes only one or two. And Zumba® has been a great support too. They provide their instructors with enormous resources to start our own business. 

How did COVID-19 affect your Zumba® business?

I was very lucky to have my fulltime job as CFO when the pandemic hit, and I could offer online Zoom and pre-recorded classes. Zumba® was incredibly responsive to our plight as instructors during lockdown. They supported us fully by offering various courses, which enabled us to successfully start up online.

My usual evening class had had a regular attendance of around twenty students. This dropped to five or six per Zoom session. However, I was also able to earn money with pre-recorded classes from students all over the world, which opened up a different demographic. 

Learning how to do online and pre-recorded sessions was exciting. It forced me to focus on mastering new skills, which kept my mind off the negative aspects of the pandemic. I used this time to improve as an instructor by taking all the courses Zumba® offered, as well as connecting with Zumba® instructors all over the world. This would not have happened in the past, and I’m grateful that so many positives came out of the pandemic.

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

Zumbalicious
Zumbalicious

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

I’d lost what makes me ME — and I didn’t even know it.

Ally and students

How has this addition to your work/life affected you?

It has given me a new lease on life. Before Zumba®, I went to work, came back, helped sort the kids with hubby, sorted the house, watched mindless TV, did the shopping, and so on. As a working mum, I didn’t really have a social life with girlfriends or any strong interests outside of work. I’d lost what makes me me — and I didn’t even know it.

Dancing has always been something that’s given me life — but I didn’t connect the dots that I could teach and get such a kick out of getting fit.
Mentally it helps me switch off, like meditation. When I learn a new song, I’m smiling, even laughing, at the antics of presenters who teach us new choreography. And physically, I am fitter now than I was in my twenties. The energy I used to expend in long working hours is now spent making a difference, helping others have fun and get fit. Learning new music is such fun!

I now make time every day for me and my passions (other than work). You know, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that God places hidden talents within us to find. And it doesn’t matter what age you are; people should expect to find different passions at any age. For example, once I started teaching, out of the blue I discovered another passion: writing poetry. A new pathway in my mind has emerged and I am so grateful. 

My plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My mum. She had her own businesses over many years while raising seven children mostly on her own. She always encouraged me to do the same. (I wanted the security of working for an employer. Now that I have this, I can explore my own business too. I have the best of both worlds.)

What is the best bit of advice you’ve been given so far?

Your energy in delivering your service is key to making your business successful. And a saying that always applies: Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right.

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. You have a power within you that is greater than the power out in the world. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

What would you have done differently?

Nothing. Each experience brought me to where I find myself today, which is in a much happier place than when Zumba® was not in my life.

What was your steepest learning curve?

Knowing who my target market was. This was quite a learning curve and at first I felt a bit sad that I could not service the ‘morning class’ market — but seeing the numbers increase much faster in my evening classes has made the change worthwhile.

Do you have any advice to pass on to aspiring Zumba® instructors?

As an instructor I’ve learnt to prepare myself in advance for classes, even when I didn’t have any. I practised and practised almost every day for two, sometimes three, hours. I visited live classes and taught a few songs with fellow instructors. I attended many events and, as I practised, I imagined myself in front of a crowd, teaching the class.
I would say the key is to prepare yourself well — as though you are presenting. When opportunity comes, you will be ready. Stay active in your trade and perfect it while you wait for your opportunity.

What are your future plans?

I am very happy with the size of my business; I plan to gradually increase it over time. However, I am currently finalising my poetry book based on A Course in Miracles. This is helping me grow emotionally and spiritually as a person, which I think is very important when offering this type of service.

I plan to publish this poetry book later this year. I also have another Fitness Instructor course scheduled for the end of this month (Strong Nation — HIIT exercise offered by Zumba®). This fitness course is mainly for my personal development and to ensure my body is toned as I age gracefully. I may offer Strong Nation to my students later this year as well, but I haven’t firmed up that decision yet.

Right now, my plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday. My main focus is balance within my family life while offering one or two more classes during the week.

Anything else you want to add?

I am so grateful for the journey that brought me to Zumba®. It’s not just a business for me: it’s a way of life. A philosophy of being in the business of fun.  Sometimes one forgets how far one has come: from someone who was not interested in any fitness other than walking to now being a dance fitness instructor on my way to level up — and at my age! That’s the bit that makes me so happy.

Ally, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. What a Zumbalicious Lioness you are!

 

Alison has been a licensed ZUMBA® dance instructor since April 2018. She currently offers several online pre-recorded one-hour or twenty-minute classes (on demand), available 24/7 on www.zumba.dance. (In the search bar, type: Alison.) She also offers live classes in Monte Vista and Goodwood (Cape Town, South Africa).

To get in touch with Alison, pop onto her Facebook group: ZUMBA® with Ally or contact her on tel: +27 65 918 7258 (South Africa).

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

YOUR ENERGY IN DELIVERING YOUR SERVICE IS KEY TO MAKING YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL.

DANCE FOR YOUR HEALTH!

WORK YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR BLISS.

CREATE A LIFE FROM WHICH YOU WON’T WANT A HOLIDAY.

MAKE TIME DAILY FOR YOURSELF.

WANT A HEALTHY LIFE? FOLLOW YOUR BLISS!

WE ALL HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF TALENTS. OUR JOB IS TO FIND THEM.

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A Power Couple who just won’t quit! From cancer victim to victor — a walking miracle. Impossible is not in this couple’s dictionary.

Inspiration, motivation, hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX

STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX

At age 19, Ru Fitzhenry opened her first dance studio.

At age 45 she lost EVERYTHING.

But a lioness doesn’t go down without a fight.

Inspiration. Motivation. Hope. You’ll find it all here…

SteppingOUT pupils

SteppingOUT Academy of Dance in Wellington, South Africa, is a dance studio specialising in modern, tap, jazz and hip hop, as well as Pilates. Its principal, Ruanda Fitzhenry, is an international choreographer, teacher and dancer extraordinaire.

I met this South African fireball twenty-odd years ago, and I can say with 95% certainty that she is a vampire. That’s the only explanation for the incredible volume of accomplishments in her life (she obviously doesn’t sleep), as well as her ridiculously ageless face. (Jealous? Me? Never!)

Seriously, though, I love this woman. A loyal friend, a beautiful soul, and a fabulous Joy volcano! By the time you’ve finished reading Ru’s story, I bet you will be inspired. I know I am.

 

Ruanda Fitzhenry

Ru, have you always felt passionate about dance?

It’s complicated… I started with ballet classes at age three because I was so severely pigeon-toed, I struggled walking. (Most people are unaware of all the benefits of dance. Besides the obvious pros, e.g. confidence building, it can also fix a number of body problems. Hence anatomy and corrective work being two of the major subjects when studying dance.) So, ja…..it was just something I always did.

It took me closing my studio and stopping dance completely when my son was almost two years old for me to realise it’s actually who I am. It’s my blood, my air… It’s what keeps my soul alive. Needless to say, this ‘break from dance’ didn’t last long.

When did you become an entrepreneur?

When I was nineteen, I moved from Port Elizabeth to the Western Cape to open my own dance studio, and to study dance. I’d heard there was only one dance studio in Stellenbosch, so I decided that would be a good place to open up. Even though I only knew one person in the whole town and nobody knew who I was. Yoh! Nineteen and fearless!

How scary was the plunge into self-employment?

Nineteen and fearless, doll. There was no thought of failure, consequences or even success. I just jumped in and knew I would love it as I got to dance my own choreography. And remember: no drama queen is complete without her stage.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

I’ve been fortunate in that student fees, shows and end-of-year functions have always covered all costs.

Was your age a hurdle?

Only at the beginning, when I first opened. It’s pretty natural for that line of respect to be a little vague when your child’s dance teacher is only nineteen.

What was your lightbulb moment?

No lightbulb… I’m blond (giggle). For all the really big things in my life I just had a brain fart for a few seconds and then immediately set about following it through. Nineteen and fearless.

How long did it take you to fully qualify as a dance teacher?

I am internationally qualified, so I first had to finish all my dance exams, which took ten years, and then I studied for three years.

Boys who Dance

I Am Woman! I Am Queen!

Boys who Dance

I Am Woman! I Am Queen!

How scary was the plunge into self-employment?

Nineteen and fearless, doll. There was no thought of failure, consequences or even success. I just jumped in and knew I would love it as I got to dance my own choreography. And remember: no drama queen is complete without her stage.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

I’ve been fortunate in that student fees, shows and end-of-year functions have always covered all costs.

Was your age a hurdle?

Only at the beginning, when I first opened. It’s pretty natural for that line of respect to be a little vague when your child’s dance teacher is only nineteen.

What was your lightbulb moment?

No lightbulb… I’m blond (giggle). For all the really big things in my life I just had a brain fart for a few seconds and then immediately set about following it through. Nineteen and fearless.

How long did it take you to fully qualify as a dance teacher?

I am internationally qualified, so I first had to finish all my dance exams, which took ten years, and then I studied for three years.

Ruanda

How Do I Find Time? That’s God’s Job.

Having become an entrepreneur at such a young age, were you motivated to start up any other businesses?

Ooooh, doll! I am woman! I am queen! I conquer every brain fart I have with a vengeance. I should probably also mention I’m a hyperactive Gemini. So yes, whilst owning my dance studio I constantly took on new challenges. My ex-husband was a builder and they had this three-ton truck just lying around. So I took that truck and started a rubble removal company. I had four trucks within two months.

I also started my own kiddies clothing range: KangaRU Clothing. And I had a pottery business as well. And then there was the time I met someone who was importing stock from Bali — and the next thing I knew, I had opened a shop. Oh! I’ve just remembered: I had another little business called The Perfect Hostess, where I would stage parties and personally do all the catering.

I did all of this whilst teaching fulltime and studying. Did I mention that I’m a little crazy?

Do you run SteppingOUT alone or do you have help?

My life partner (aka love of my life) runs the business side of things. This is incredibly important as it’s so hard to play bad cop when you’re the one building a relationship with parents and students.

Where & how do you promote your business?

Our website does most of the work (and we’re on Facebook), but word of mouth in our small dorpie (town) spreads like wildfire.

Do you currently run another business alongside your dance academy? And what about your other roles in life? How do you find time to do everything?  

Oh yes. I’ve been staging events and booking gigs for my muso friends since I was twenty. And I’m a mommy and homemaker, life partner, friend, child of God, cook, fur mommy, daughter, sister… and all of my dancers are my ‘kids’ (I’m their other mommy). Also, I’ve always been passionate about my charity work and would stand making pancakes in the middle of town to either raise money for all the street kids or feed them.

How do I find time? That’s God’s job. He never gives me anything I can’t handle. Though I’m pretty sure He spends a lot of His time rolling His eyes at me as I keep Him very busy. Well, the way I see it, He made me like this so now He gets to deal with it, LOL.

Ruanda Dancer
Ruanda Dancer

Do you run SteppingOUT alone or do you have help?

My life partner (aka love of my life) runs the business side of things. This is incredibly important as it’s so hard to play bad cop when you’re the one building a relationship with parents and students.

Where & how do you promote your business?

Our website does most of the work (and we’re on Facebook), but word of mouth in our small dorpie (town) spreads like wildfire.

Do you currently run another business alongside your dance academy? And what about your other roles in life? How do you find time to do everything?  

Oh yes. I’ve been staging events and booking gigs for my muso friends since I was twenty. And I’m a mommy and homemaker, life partner, friend, child of God, cook, fur mommy, daughter, sister… and all of my dancers are my ‘kids’ (I’m their other mommy). Also, I’ve always been passionate about my charity work and would stand making pancakes in the middle of town to either raise money for all the street kids or feed them.

How do I find time? That’s God’s job. He never gives me anything I can’t handle. Though I’m pretty sure He spends a lot of His time rolling His eyes at me as I keep Him very busy. Well, the way I see it, He made me like this so now He gets to deal with it, LOL.

red dress dancer

Tell us about your setbacks — your lowest moments.

I had just moved to Wellington with no intention of opening up my studio again…

Let me go back a few steps. I got divorced, and became a single mommy with a business. Looking back now I can finally see that it was challenging and heartbreaking. At the time I was in overdrive and just did what I had to do, with no thought or acknowledgement of what I was going through.

Around the same time, I snapped both Achilles tendons. Just like that, life changed. I went from an incredible high — from successful business owner, international choreographer, and lecturer at an arts college, qualifying pupils in dance — to the lowest of lows. My business took a huge knock and all my contracts got cancelled. No more international choreography gigs, no more college, and my pupils started dwindling.

I then found myself in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic alcoholic. I could write a whole book about this as you will fall over if you knew how many women go through this. Yes: even strong, independent women like me.

At forty-five, I ended up losing my home, my car, my job… EVERYTHING.

Then I met my deksel (my ‘lid’), my love, and moved to Wellington. And here’s the truth, as strange as it might sound. Opening a new dance studio in Wellington was nowhere in my plans. It all seems like a blur. God did what He does best and He did it all!

You know, doll, throughout my life God has given me a lot of slaps on the wrist — but I would just carry on under my own steam. The way I see it: He needed to allow something radical to happen to me, so He could bring me back to Him and make me start listening! And I will always be grateful for that.

What would you have done differently, if anything?

I would have got help for anxiety and depression instead of dismissing it and packing it away deep inside a cupboard. Because it affects every aspect of your life, including your business.

Who or what gave you the strength to climb out of that valley and overcome the challenges you faced?

The support of an incredible family, child, and friends, as well as Bible study and counselling. And then I started pet sitting and taking doggos for walks. They helped heal my heart and that’s how I met my fur child, Lacey. She literally saved my life.

Who has been your greatest support?

Hands down, my dad and my family, as well as friends who have been in my life for donkey’s years, and my son.

Ru onstage
Ru onstage

What would you have done differently, if anything?

I would have got help for anxiety and depression instead of dismissing it and packing it away deep inside a cupboard. Because it affects every aspect of your life, including your business.

Who or what gave you the strength to climb out of that valley and overcome the challenges you faced?

The support of an incredible family, child, and friends, as well as Bible study and counselling. And then I started pet sitting and taking doggos for walks. They helped heal my heart and that’s how I met my fur child, Lacey. She literally saved my life.

Who has been your greatest support?

Hands down, my dad and my family, as well as friends who have been in my life for donkey’s years, and my son.

Not Quite Burlesque

How did COVID-19 affect your business, and what did you do to adapt?

COVID forced us to think outside the box. Get closer to the people and things that matter. Be creative. And it gave us a klap (smack) against the head to wake up to all the blessings we were taking for granted.

My new dance studio in Wellington was only open for one month when lockdown happened. And ja, God took care of us right through! I started teaching classes online, and some pupils still paid their fees during lockdown, enabling us to keep up with our rent payments.

And where are we now? Growing constantly, and already practically at full capacity and needing bigger premises. We are now also in the process of opening our drama, singing and music division.

Tell us about your career highlights.

Yoh doll, I’m getting on now; I have a lifetime of highlights. But if I had to pick just one, I think co-choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana was definitely a memorable moment. Working with a cast of 4,700 was certainly a new experience.

Besides that, I would have to include absolutely every time I got the opportunity to perform on stage with my dancers: from the Artscape Theatre to The Baxter (both well-known, high-profile theatres in Cape Town), and every venue in between. I loved every single moment! And I got to share the stage with my son. Huge highlight!

Who is your greatest inspiration?

Ooooh, doll! If you’re going to get me going on Bob Fosse and my two dance teachers, Ellen Bunting and Brigitte Reeve Taylor, then you must know it’s going to be a long night! Let’s just say they made me the dancer, teacher and choreographer I am.

Not Burlesque

You Cannot Keep Everybody Happy.

Not Burlesque

You Cannot Keep Everybody Happy.

Tell us about your career highlights.

Yoh doll, I’m getting on now; I have a lifetime of highlights. But if I had to pick just one, I think co-choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana was definitely a memorable moment. Working with a cast of 4,700 was certainly a new experience.

Besides that, I would have to include absolutely every time I got the opportunity to perform on stage with my dancers: from the Artscape Theatre to The Baxter (both well-known, high-profile theatres in Cape Town), and every venue in between. I loved every single moment! And I got to share the stage with my son. Huge highlight!

Who is your greatest inspiration?

Ooooh, doll! If you’re going to get me going on Bob Fosse and my two dance teachers, Ellen Bunting and Brigitte Reeve Taylor, then you must know it’s going to be a long night! Let’s just say they made me the dancer, teacher and choreographer I am.

Dancer pose

Best nugget of advice you’ve been given?

Let go and let God!

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do what YOU want to do! Know it’s going to take hard work, passion and a sense of humour. It’s up to you how much work you put in, and that will impact directly on your success. (Wine helps too, LOL.)

Oh, and enjoy your bad days. Cry and own that moment. How are you going to know how good the good days are if you don’t go through the bad ones?

Steepest learning curve?

Jeepers, you really ask the difficult questions, neh? Realising I cannot keep everyone happy; it’s impossible. I have to keep reminding myself that even though my dance pupils are incredibly important to me, they will come and go. I have to stay true to myself and my child and family. They are the most important.

What advice would you give to those who are striving to keep people happy?

Best have another glass of wine, haha! Seriously, though, keep reminding yourself: You cannot keep everybody happy! You’re only human. No one person is the same. Embrace others and just stay true to yourself.

What are your future plans?

World domination, of course. Pfft. (Wink wink.)

Friends Forever
Friends Forever

What advice would you give to those who are striving to keep people happy?

Best have another glass of wine, haha! Seriously, though, keep reminding yourself: You cannot keep everybody happy! You’re only human. No one person is the same. Embrace others and just stay true to yourself.

What are your future plans?

World domination, of course. Pfft. (Wink wink.)

Ruanda, I believe we’ve only skirted around the edge of your life story, and I would love to hear more. Sadly, our time has run out. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to add?

You know, I was this little five-year-old, blond, curly-haired tomboy with bruises all the way up to her knees, singing Hopelessly Devoted To You on the roundabout and introducing myself to everyone as Sandy… I was obsessed (still am) with Grease, and convinced I was going to marry Superman. My life plan did not include divorce, miscarriages, cancer threats, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, two snapped Achilles and losing everything I’d worked so hard for, and, at 45, having to start again from scratch. But how blessed am I? God gave me the opportunity to restart my life with a clean slate. And then, on top of that, He finally gave me my superman and my dream life.

 

Well, I don’t know about my readers, Ru, but I will be the first to buy your book, if you ever decide to write one. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. What an inspiration you are!

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

THERE’S NO SHAME IN GETTING HELP WITH MENTAL HEALTH.

TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT LIFE COULD THROW AT YOU.

YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.

LET GO & LET GOD.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAM & WORK YOUR PASSION.

YOUR DREAM IS GOING TO TAKE HARD WORK & PASSION TO BECOME REALITY. (A SENSE OF HUMOUR HELPS.) 

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog . . .

Inspiration. Motivation. Joy. Another uplifting post to help you through the daily grind.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

LAST CHRISTMAS I GAVE YOU MY ART, LIFE & SOUL  ;-)

LAST CHRISTMAS I GAVE YOU MY ART, LIFE & SOUL ;-)

G Golding

Motherhood motivated Georgina Golding to quit her job as a designer with one of the largest soft toy companies in the UK and plunge into self-employment.

Even though she admits she struggles with imposter syndrome, Georgina excels at creating absolutely fantastic works of art — because everything she does comes from the heart.

Motherhood motivated Georgina Golding to quit her job as a designer with one of the largest soft toy companies in the UK and plunge into self-employment.

Even though she admits she struggles with imposter syndrome, Georgina excels at creating absolutely fantastic works of art — because everything she does comes from the heart.

G Golding

Art, Life & Soul Design and Illustration covers many types of graphic design, from logos and branding — particularly for start-ups — to advertising for local event companies and menus for pubs and restaurants.

Georgina also creates the most incredible pet portraits on commission. (She calls them PAWtraits. Isn’t that adorable?)

There being no end to this artist’s talents, Georgina has recently become an author as well, having written and illustrated her first children’s book.

Be inspired, and discover: Georgina’s gorgeous Christmas range.

PLUS: a BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED STORY for three- to eight-year-olds.

animal paintings
Cat Christmas card

Georgina, how did Art, Life & Soul come about?

I have always loved art, from the moment I could pick up a pencil, and I’ve never wanted to be anything other than a creative. I started Art, Life & Soul two years ago, when I left my last job as a soft toy designer at Keel Toys to look after my children. (I had to give up my job due to my husband working fulltime too and my having to drop off and pick up the kids from school.) As I had to continue working, I decided to start my own design business.

 

What was your lightbulb moment?

As a creative, lightbulb moments are a constant by learning from what does or doesn’t work.

Georgina, how did Art, Life & Soul come about?

I have always loved art, from the moment I could pick up a pencil, and I’ve never wanted to be anything other than a creative. I started Art, Life & Soul two years ago, when I left my last job as a soft toy designer at Keel Toys to look after my children. (I had to give up my job due to my husband working fulltime too and my having to drop off and pick up the kids from school.) As I had to continue working, I decided to start my own design business.

 

What was your lightbulb moment?

As a creative, lightbulb moments are a constant by learning from what does or doesn’t work.

Cat Christmas card

Were your start-up costs affordable?

Monthly running costs for my business can be expensive due to the cost of the subscriptions for the software programs. Starting up the business was expensive too. But I knew it was a matter of time before I had to leave my last job, so I started saving as soon as I could for the computer and software I needed.

 

As you’ve always known what you wanted to be, I’m guessing your studies and vocational choices reflected your passion?

Absolutely. I have a GNVQ, A level, BTEC National Diploma and a Degree in Illustration. I also worked for many years as a designer.

 

It’s Good To Be Able To Work My Own Hours.

Doggy mug

How did the pandemic affect your business? What did you do to stay afloat and how did you adapt?

COVID affected my business greatly as the pubs no longer needed work done and the event companies no longer needed advertising. I ended up having to change what I do, so I joined illustration groups on Facebook — which is where I found an author looking for an illustrator. This kept me afloat partially through the lockdown.

 

Do you miss the 9-5 job?

I miss working for my last company. I miss working with people in an office and sparring ideas between each other. But it’s good to be able to work my own hours.

 

What’s the toughest part about being your own boss?

I think one of the hardest things about being self-employed is that it’s no longer a nine-to-five job. I now get messages all times of the day and night.

How did the pandemic affect your business? What did you do to stay afloat and how did you adapt?

COVID affected my business greatly as the pubs no longer needed work done and the event companies no longer needed advertising. I ended up having to change what I do, so I joined illustration groups on Facebook — which is where I found an author looking for an illustrator. This kept me afloat partially through the lockdown.

 

Do you miss the 9-5 job?

I miss working for my last company. I miss working with people in an office and sparring ideas between each other. But it’s good to be able to work my own hours.

 

What’s the toughest part about being your own boss?

I think one of the hardest things about being self-employed is that it’s no longer a nine-to-five job. I now get messages all times of the day and night.

How do you promote your business?

Through word of mouth. And on Facebook and Instagram. I am lucky that when I started up I had a good circle of friends who helped pass the word around. This is still how I operate; my customers now pass their recommendations on.

 

Who has been your greatest support?

My husband is my greatest support; he has seen me through my highs and lows. And also, my customers. I have a great rapport with them, as well as many laughs. I think it’s good to build friendships with customers, along with trust.

 

Do any highlights stand out in your mind?

I’ve had so many amazing moments. But my favourite thing is seeing or hearing my customers’ responses to the finished products. I have a client who absolutely loves a poster I did for a Christmas sandwich. They use it every year! I love this.

Mug and coaster

I Am My Own Worst Critic.

Being a creative myself, I’m guessing you not only deeply experience the highs but also the lows. Can you tell me a little about your lowest moments and how you’ve managed to overcome them?

I get imposter syndrome. As a result, I am my own worst critic. A real pick-me-up was watching Adele the other day during her live show on TV, where she admitted she has imposter syndrome. It made me feel better about myself, because sometimes not feeling good enough can stop my progression.

I have moments where my anxiety can get bad if I have a lot on all at once. But the best thing I have found is to be honest with customers with regard to a realistic completion date. And being realistic with time management, juggling family time and work, is essential. I’ve also learnt to recognise the signs that tell me when I need a break and when I need to take time out.

 

Where do you find inspiration?

I follow many artists on Instagram and Facebook who inspire me.

 

Best advice you’ve been given?

To take care of mental health when needed and take a break.

Being a creative myself, I’m guessing you not only deeply experience the highs but also the lows. Can you tell me a little about your lowest moments and how you’ve managed to overcome them?

I get imposter syndrome. As a result, I am my own worst critic. A real pick-me-up was watching Adele the other day during her live show on TV, where she admitted she has imposter syndrome. It made me feel better about myself, because sometimes not feeling good enough can stop my progression.

I have moments where my anxiety can get bad if I have a lot on all at once. But the best thing I have found is to be honest with customers with regard to a realistic completion date. And being realistic with time management, juggling family time and work, is essential.

I’ve also learnt to recognise the signs that tell me when I need a break and when I need to take time out.

Where do you find inspiration?

I follow many artists on Instagram and Facebook who inspire me.

 

Best advice you’ve been given?

To take care of mental health when needed and take a break.

What would you have done differently?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently. All of my journey has been part of an important learning process.

 

What was your steepest learning curve? The most difficult aspect to get your head around?

Self assessments! All of the financial stuff baffles me. Luckily my husband is an accountant, so he helps me with this. We make a good team.

 

Any wise words for people struggling with that same aspect?

Marry an accountant! Haha.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Lots! At the top of my list: time management, get word out there, and be confident in yourself. And push past things that hold you back.

Wolf collection
Woodland wander

An Easy Read with Strong Morals

Your picture book, Wander in the Wild Wood, has had FABULOUS reviews. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Wander in the Wild Wood is a 32-page book for early readers who love rhyming and brightly coloured illustrations. It is an easy read with strong morals about kindness, mindfulness and the importance of listening.

The story follows Wolf pup, who gets lost in the snowy, dark wood. On his journey he discovers that not all is as it first seems.

A great story with a winter theme — perfect for three- to eight-year-olds and fans of Julia Donaldson’s The GruffaloWander in the Wild Wood is only £6.99 (excl. p&p). You can order it via a private message on my Facebook business page, or on Instagram.

 

What would be a perfect gift to accompany the book?

The WOLF PUP soft toy is a big hit, as well as the cute bookmark.

Your picture book, Wander in the Wild Wood, has had FABULOUS reviews. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Wander in the Wild Wood is a 32-page book for early readers who love rhyming and brightly coloured illustrations. It is an easy read with strong morals about kindness, mindfulness and the importance of listening.

The story follows Wolf pup, who gets lost in the snowy, dark wood. On his journey he discovers that not all is as it first seems.

A great story with a winter theme — perfect for three- to eight-year-olds and fans of Julia Donaldson’s The GruffaloWander in the Wild Wood is only £6.99 (excl. p&p). You can order it via a private message on my Facebook business page, or on Instagram.

 

What would be a perfect gift to accompany the book?

The WOLF PUP soft toy is a big hit, as well as the cute bookmark.

Woodland wander

An Easy Read with Strong Morals

What are your future plans?

I would obviously like to grow my business. My true dream is to get my books professionally published or continue to self publish but hit a wider audience.

 

One last thing. 25 December is one week away. Tell us about your Christmas collection.

I have a varied Christmas range, which includes Elf Packs, Christmas cards, cute animal mugs and coasters, and ‘pawtraits’.

 

Sounds like some last-minute shopping is in order! For my UK readers: you still have time to make a Christmas purchase from Art, Life & Soul. Why not pop onto Georgina’s Instagram / Facebook page today?

Georgina, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thank you for your time!

childrens book

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

YOU’RE NOT ALONE. EVEN ADELE HAS IMPOSTER SYNDROME.

SEE YOUR JOURNEY AS A LEARNING PROCESS

WORK YOUR PASSION

SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS

PUSH PAST THINGS THAT HOLD YOU BACK

TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. Having bought something from each company, I just can’t help but LOVE these brands and want the world to know about them.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

COMING UP on The Hopeaholic blog . . .

I’m taking a break for the Christmas holidays, but I look forward to seeing you back here in 2022. January will be all about: New Year, New You! I’ll be bringing you inspirational INTERNATIONAL interviews with three fabulous women and one highly motivational couple. As well as entrepreneurship, we’ll cover health & fitness, mind & body and self-improvement.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

O LITTLE HOUSE OF KALART, HOW BRIGHTLY YOU DO BLING!

O LITTLE HOUSE OF KALART, HOW BRIGHTLY YOU DO BLING!

Arathi Rajagopalan

HOUSE OF KALART — BE BOLDLY YOU

 

House of Kalart (HoK) is a premium fashion jewellery label that exhibits global aesthetics and traditional craftsmanship.

Arathi Rajagopalan, the designer behind House of Kalart jewellery, has been inspired by arts, crafts and fashion since childhood.

She says, ‘At HoK we are inspired by various art forms, and we marry them with metalsmithing to create bold and beautiful jewellery. Each piece is a product of a beautifully woven story.

 

 

I have to say, I LOVE Arathi’s little masterpieces. That’s how I think of them. Every time I wear a necklace or bracelet or pair of earrings from HoK, I feel glamorous. (Can you tell I’m a huge fan?)

 

HOUSE OF KALART — BE BOLDLY YOU

 

House of Kalart (HoK) is a premium fashion jewellery label that exhibits global aesthetics and traditional craftsmanship.

Arathi Rajagopalan, the designer behind House of Kalart jewellery, has been inspired by arts, crafts and fashion since childhood.

She says, ‘At HoK we are inspired by various art forms, and we marry them with metalsmithing to create bold and beautiful jewellery. Each piece is a product of a beautifully woven story.

 

 

I have to say, I LOVE Arathi’s little masterpieces. That’s how I think of them. Every time I wear a necklace or bracelet or pair of earrings from HoK, I feel glamorous. (Can you tell I’m a huge fan?)

 

Arathi Rajagopalan

 

Arathi, let’s dive right in. What makes HoK special? 

Every person has a unique story to tell. At House of Kalart, we bring out the spirit of each story and showcase it through our products and services. Avant-garde jewellery inspired by arts & crafts around the world for the quintessentially free-spirited woman with a zest for life.

We aim to provide a holistic fashion experience for the bold and dramatic women all around the world.

 

Were your start-up costs affordable? 

HoK is a bootstrapped business. I took a bit from my savings, and my mother (my business partner) invested a bit. I may not be able to scale up fast, because of limited funds, however we have been growing gradually and I am happy with it.

 

Was your age, gender, or lack of a university degree a hurdle in any way? 

No, none of these have ever been a hurdle. I have mostly been able to do what I have wanted to do.

 

fairy on moon
multicolour earrings

Did your business grow out of an inherent desire to create? 

Absolutely. As a child, I’d always been fascinated by arts and crafts. My inspiration was my aunt, who taught me different forms of crafts, such as glass painting, origami, and hot wax painting, during my summer vacations.

I would constantly draw designs in my school books, and I developed an interest in jewellery during my study of fashion design. This led me to combine two of my passions — art and jewellery — which became a stepping stone to my career.

Colours and textures not only inspire me, they also instigate a play of design in my head. To physically touch, hold, and add character to, something that was just an idea brings me immense joy. I take pride in personally hand painting or embellishing each piece.

Did your business grow out of an inherent desire to create? 

Absolutely. As a child, I’d always been fascinated by arts and crafts. My inspiration was my aunt, who taught me different forms of crafts, such as glass painting, origami, and hot wax painting, during my summer vacations.

I would constantly draw designs in my school books, and I developed an interest in jewellery during my study of fashion design. This led me to combine two of my passions — art and jewellery — which became a stepping stone to my career.

Colours and textures not only inspire me, they also instigate a play of design in my head. To physically touch, hold, and add character to, something that was just an idea brings me immense joy. I take pride in personally hand painting or embellishing each piece.

multicolour earrings

When did you officially start your business? 

HoK was established in Chennai, India, in September 2017, and we started selling from February 2018.

 

Is your mother a ‘silent partner’? 

My mother is actually the numbers woman, and I handle the rest.

The brand name, Kalart, is a combination of both our names: Kala and Arathi (aka Art). Our names also mean ‘art’, which is what our products are all about.

 

Is House of Kalart your fulltime occupation? 

Yes. However, I do freelance as a costume designer for movies — but only for a friend who is a director. We recently worked on our first commercial feature film, which is scheduled for a 2022 release.

 

handpainted
cubic zirconia earrings

What was your lightbulb moment? The moment you thought of potentially starting up a business. 

The lightbulb moment happened during a conversation with my former boss. He mentioned that he wanted to start his own business; but due to family responsibilities he was unable to, and so he was encouraging his wife to do something.

This got me thinking. I did not want to get to my thirties and say the same thing. I wanted to try at least once. I spoke to my parents the next day and quit my job.

When I quit, I only knew I wanted to do something with arts and crafts, and probably jewellery, because I was more interested in jewellery than apparels.

The Plunge Into Self-Employment Was Exciting

What was your lightbulb moment? The moment you thought of potentially starting up a business. 

The lightbulb moment happened during a conversation with my former boss. He mentioned that he wanted to start his own business; but due to family responsibilities he was unable to, and so he was encouraging his wife to do something.

This got me thinking. I did not want to get to my thirties and say the same thing. I wanted to try at least once. I spoke to my parents the next day and quit my job.

When I quit, I only knew I wanted to do something with arts and crafts, and probably jewellery, because I was more interested in jewellery than apparels.

The Plunge Into Self-Employment Was Exciting

cubic zirconia earrings

How scary was the plunge into working for yourself? 

It was actually pretty exciting. Like most creative people, I hate to follow a routine; the best part of working in my entrepreneurial venture is that every day is different. One day it’s all about designing, sourcing, and so on, while other days are all about handling accounts and other administrative work. Some days are all about planning marketing, social media, my calendar, events and networking. I absolutely don’t miss the monotony of corporate life.

 

Who has been your greatest support? 

My family has been pretty supportive and my networking group has also been a boon.

glitzy ring
mermaid pendant

Tell me about your journey from that lightbulb moment to the creation of HoK. 

After I quit my job it took eight years before I could start ‘House of Kalart’. I worked with a few local artisans to create quirky lifestyle products. Simultaneously I also taught myself to finish beaded necklaces and earrings by watching YouTube videos. I started selling to family and friends, and to the public at exhibitions, under the brand name ‘Papillon’.

However, the designer in me was not satisfied. My mind kept coming back to the same question: ‘How can I bring arts, crafts and metal together to make premium art jewellery?’ So I went and enrolled myself in a goldsmithing course. This helped me understand the manufacturing process. It also better enabled me to design, and to explain the designs and techniques to artisans.

Through Papillon, I was able to feel the pulse of the jewellery market. It was a new experience after working in a corporate job. Papillon was driven by what the market wanted, whereas when I started House of Kalart, I was so passionate about it that it was driven from a design perspective — and I did not get customer validation done. Later, I realised my mistake and went back to the successful methods I’d followed with Papillon.

Tell me about your journey from that lightbulb moment to the creation of HoK. 

After I quit my job it took eight years before I could start ‘House of Kalart’. I worked with a few local artisans to create quirky lifestyle products. Simultaneously I also taught myself to finish beaded necklaces and earrings by watching YouTube videos. I started selling to family and friends, and to the public at exhibitions, under the brand name ‘Papillon’.

However, the designer in me was not satisfied. My mind kept coming back to the same question: ‘How can I bring arts, crafts and metal together to make premium art jewellery?’ So I went and enrolled myself in a goldsmithing course. This helped me understand the manufacturing process. It also better enabled me to design, and to explain the designs and techniques to artisans.

Through Papillon, I was able to feel the pulse of the jewellery market. It was a new experience after working in a corporate job. Papillon was driven by what the market wanted, whereas when I started House of Kalart, I was so passionate about it that it was driven from a design perspective — and I did not get customer validation done. Later, I realised my mistake and went back to the successful methods I’d followed with Papillon.

mermaid pendant

Would you have done anything differently, in hindsight? 

Every step of my journey has been a learning curve, and I continue to learn every day. That makes me a better business owner and a better person. I would not want to change anything. One thing I would definitely like to improve on, however, is my tendency to procrastinate.

delicate earrings
pink green yellow

 

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Everything was a steep curve for me when I started House of Kalart. I was a hard-core designer who thought a good design was enough to run a business and drive sales. I learnt the long, hard way that running a business is much, much more. I had to start thinking like a business owner. I had to set up a system for accounting, inventory, goals, finances, networking… and the list goes on.

 

Do you have any advice to pass on to self-employed creatives who are struggling with the ‘business’/left-brain aspect? 

I would advise new entrepreneurs to maintain their books right from day one. Also: get your ideas or products validated. It might seem irrelevant, but it is extremely important. And do join networking groups that suit you; the help and motivation you get is amazing.

My Sales Went Down To Zero

 

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Everything was a steep curve for me when I started House of Kalart. I was a hard-core designer who thought a good design was enough to run a business and drive sales. I learnt the long, hard way that running a business is much, much more. I had to start thinking like a business owner. I had to set up a system for accounting, inventory, goals, finances, networking… and the list goes on.

 

Do you have any advice to pass on to self-employed creatives who are struggling with the ‘business’/left-brain aspect? 

I would advise new entrepreneurs to maintain their books right from day one. Also: get your ideas or products validated. It might seem irrelevant, but it is extremely important. And do join networking groups that suit you; the help and motivation you get is amazing.

My Sales Went Down To Zero

pink green yellow

How did the pandemic affect your business? What did you do to stay afloat and how did you adapt? 

At first, my sales were drastically affected — in fact, they went down to zero — as HoK wasn’t online when COVID hit. But I was able to manage with my styling projects. During that time, I also took the opportunity to upskill myself and make time to network and build relationships.

The pandemic motivated me to finally take the brand online. I’d always wanted to reach out to global audiences, and at last I was able to do so.

 

Where do you promote your business? 

The brand is now predominantly an e-commerce business. We mainly sell through the HoK website and are available on a few online marketplaces, like Afday, Lbb, and Amazon. We used to actively participate at art fairs before the pandemic, but these have come to a halt for now.

red and gold earrings
white earrings

Do any special moments or memories come to mind?  

One really cute moment was when I was clearing out a trunk and I found my report card from kindergarten. My teacher had written that I loved and appreciated colours, was quite fascinated during arts & craft classes and, most important of all, I was very keen to work with beading a thread.

I was overwhelmed to read this — to know I was destined to become a jewellery designer right from kindergarten. This always makes me feel motivated when the going gets tough and I feel low.

 

I Am Making a Difference

Do any special moments or memories come to mind?  

One really cute moment was when I was clearing out a trunk and I found my report card from kindergarten. My teacher had written that I loved and appreciated colours, was quite fascinated during arts & craft classes and, most important of all, I was very keen to work with beading a thread.

I was overwhelmed to read this — to know I was destined to become a jewellery designer right from kindergarten. This always makes me feel motivated when the going gets tough and I feel low.

 

I Am Making a Difference

white earrings

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running? 

There are so many! A recent one comes to mind: I was struggling to categorise the products to fit my varied client profiles. Then I met a lady, in a networking group, who offered a free thirty-minute customer persona identification call. That literally switched a light on in my head. I had so much clarity and was able to add new ranges and categorise the brand to fit all my clients’ needs.

And then there was a client of mine who told me she loved art so much, she wished she could wear paintings. I told her I could help her with that; I could paint something for her on jewellery. She said she liked sunsets, so I painted an abstract sunset on a pair of statement earrings. And when I gave the earrings to her, the joy she expressed was beyond words. That day I knew: I was doing something right; I am making a difference to some of my clients.

seagreen necklace
green blue butterfly

Who is your greatest inspiration? 

I am blessed to have people who have inspired me to follow my passion and become a better being. First, it was an aunty who taught me different arts and crafts during my summer vacations, which became an inspiration and is an important element of my products. Second, my parents, who understood my interest in fashion and found out about the best colleges that offered the courses; and that was back in those days when fashion was not a popular career choice.

 

What are your future plans? 

The aim is for the brand to run on autopilot. I would love to see someone wearing a HoK wherever I turn. I am not looking at building an empire; however, I do aim to make the online store extremely popular and successful across the world.

Who is your greatest inspiration? 

I am blessed to have people who have inspired me to follow my passion and become a better being. First, it was an aunty who taught me different arts and crafts during my summer vacations, which became an inspiration and is an important element of my products. Second, my parents, who understood my interest in fashion and found out about the best colleges that offered the courses; and that was back in those days when fashion was not a popular career choice.

 

What are your future plans? 

The aim is for the brand to run on autopilot. I would love to see someone wearing a HoK wherever I turn. I am not looking at building an empire; however, I do aim to make the online store extremely popular and successful across the world.

green blue butterfly

With your vision and determination, Arathi, I am confident you will make it happen!

Tell me, what is the best advice you’ve been given? 

The best advice I’ve ever received is: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The worst response will be a no, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And it works! The help that comes your way when you ask is unbelievable.

 

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

First of all, see your business as an extension of your identity. Second: everything can be learned gradually and you don’t have to do it all at once, or alone. Ask for help. Third: Never compare your beginning with the grown businesses of your peers. And most important of all: Always believe in yourself.

dangling xs
BBF pairing

 

One last thing. It’s 14 days to Christmas, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Would you like to suggest gift ideas from your site? 

We are introducing an affordable gift box for Christmas, containing matching pairs of jewellery that can be worn by mother and daughter, BFFs, siblings and duos.

And for readers of The Hopeaholic blog, I would like to offer a special discount code for 15% off. Just enter VSL15 at checkout.

Thank you so much, Arathi. That’s very kind of you, seeing as your jewellery is already so affordable!

 

One last thing. It’s 14 days to Christmas, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Would you like to suggest gift ideas from your site? 

We are introducing an affordable gift box for Christmas, containing matching pairs of jewellery that can be worn by mother and daughter, BFFs, siblings and duos.

And for readers of The Hopeaholic blog, I would like to offer a special discount code for 15% off. Just enter VSL15 at checkout.

Thank you so much, Arathi. That’s very kind of you, seeing as your jewellery is already so affordable!

BBF pairing

GOOD TO KNOW: HoK ships worldwide. If you find their express shipping option a bit pricey, why not order your Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day gifts — or future birthday gifts for your BFF or special person in your life — now? Then you can afford to wait a bit longer for your package to arrive — and save some cash at the same time.

FYI: There’s a handy currency converter on the HoK site.

If you have any questions, you can contact Arathi at contact@houseofkalart.com

 

You can also follow HoK on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

House of Kalart logo

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

WORK YOUR PASSION

BE BOLDLY YOU

UPSKILL YOURSELF

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

GET YOUR IDEAS AND PRODUCTS VALIDATED

ASK FOR HELP. WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?

SEE YOUR BUSINESS AS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR IDENTITY

NEVER COMPARE YOUR BEGINNING WITH THE GROWN BUSINESS OF YOUR PEERS

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. Having bought something from each company, I just can’t help but LOVE these brands and want the world to know about them.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

COMING UP . . .

Next week: Motherhood motivated this talented artist to quit her comfortable job and go it alone. Was it a good idea? Just one look at her Christmas collection will give you the answer.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS . . . AUTHENTOLOGY

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS . . . AUTHENTOLOGY

Meet Melanie Hatjigiannakis, CEO of Authentology AB.

Taking on the Herculean responsibility of creating a start-up and driving it toward success was not an easy decision. But Melanie, a highly experienced business mentor, has never shied away from a challenge.

To find out just how demanding her journey has been, keep reading.

And Discover…

12 PERFECT GIFTS* for every budget.

Plus a 15% discount!

*WARNING: You’ll want them all for yourself.  I know I do. #ChristmasWishlist

 

Meet Melanie Hatjigiannakis, CEO of Authentology AB.

Taking on the Herculean responsibility of creating a start-up and driving it toward success was not an easy decision. But Melanie, a highly experienced business mentor, has never shied away from a challenge.

To find out just how demanding her journey has been, keep reading.

And Discover…

12 PERFECT GIFTS* for every budget.

Plus a 15% discount!

*WARNING: You’ll want them all for yourself.  I know I do. #ChristmasWishlist

 

 

 

In Melanie’s words, this is the story of Authentology:

 

‘In an age of mass-production and commercialisation, Authentology is a destination for the creative worldly women who long for fashion accessories, stationery, and homeware that aren’t found on the shelves of stores everywhere.

Every collection is the creation of a new world for the woman of today who is chic, self reliant and unapologetically herself.

We like to call it defiant elegance with the right amount of effortless cool…

 

 

The Authentology Story continued…

‘Born 2020 in Sweden, our brand encourages self-discovery, the honoring of who you are and who you aspire to be.

Our mission has always been to source pieces that allow you to express yourself in your own authentic way through your wardrobe and home at an affordable price.

Every item is sourced with care, an eye for detail, and a passion for old-world craftmanship, ensuring that any treasure you find at Authentology is unique, just like you.

We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity that we use to source our products, to help inspire conscious consumerism through sustainable fashion.

We want our customers to feel at peace about their impact on the planet and the people who crafted the items you purchase from us.’

 

The Authentology Story continued…

‘Born 2020 in Sweden, our brand encourages self-discovery, the honoring of who you are and who you aspire to be.

Our mission has always been to source pieces that allow you to express yourself in your own authentic way through your wardrobe and home at an affordable price.

Every item is sourced with care, an eye for detail, and a passion for old-world craftmanship, ensuring that any treasure you find at Authentology is unique, just like you.

We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity that we use to source our products, to help inspire conscious consumerism through sustainable fashion.

We want our customers to feel at peace about their impact on the planet and the people who crafted the items you purchase from us.’

With an introduction like that, I feel like saying anything more would be superfluous. However, let’s delve a little deeper, into the heart of Authentology.

Mel, when did Authentology actually ‘go live’?

Born 2020 in Sweden, we went live in July 2021.

 

Do you run the company alone or do you have help?

As the CEO I manage the daily running of the business together with a small number of outside consultants.

 

What made you decide to take on the daunting role of CEO of a start-up?

Does desperation count? Because that’s the honest truth. (Thank you, COVID.)

 

(We’ll come back to that…) How scary was the plunge?

Heart-stopping but exhilarating.

What Doesn’t Kill You…

Did you need qualifications of any kind?

25+ years of senior management experience running companies and advising other companies has been a blessing.

 

Was your age, gender, or any other aspect a hurdle in any way?

Being a woman in male-dominated sectors has always been an issue. It is incredibly challenging for a woman to climb the corporate ladder. But if you want it badly enough you learn to find a way. Never give up. Never surrender!

(Something tells me Ms Hatjigiannakis would’ve given Churchill a run for his money.) 

What are the best nuggets of advice you’ve been given?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And: find a mentor — it will change your life. But the best advice I’ve ever received, which I use in my private life as well, is this: ‘If you are in a relationship, be it work or private, and you are not getting 51% out of it, then walk away.’ It may sound harsh, but it has stood me in good stead up to now.

Did you need qualifications of any kind?

25+ years of senior management experience running companies and advising other companies has been a blessing.

 

Was your age, gender, or any other aspect a hurdle in any way?

Being a woman in male-dominated sectors has always been an issue. It is incredibly challenging for a woman to climb the corporate ladder. But if you want it badly enough you learn to find a way. Never give up. Never surrender!

(Something tells me Ms Hatjigiannakis would’ve given Churchill a run for his money.) 

What are the best nuggets of advice you’ve been given?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And: find a mentor — it will change your life. But the best advice I’ve ever received, which I use in my private life as well, is this: ‘If you are in a relationship, be it work or private, and you are not getting 51% out of it, then walk away.’ It may sound harsh, but it has stood me in good stead up to now.

Can you tell us a little about your career history?

I went from being a CEO of a South African trade/regulatory association responsible for a R3.5 billion per annum sector (vacation ownership — property) to starting a management consultancy business in the UK. Once COVID hit, I ran out of work and so I decided to take up the offer of running an ecommerce start-up in Sweden, namely Authentology.

I have always been eager to try new things, and this is evident in my career history. I’ve always worked, since graduating from High School at the age of 17, and my first job was in finance. I also tend to be drawn to very male-dominated sectors, for some inexplicable reason. I went from Finance (Banking) to Insurance, followed by forays into Alcohol, Hospitality/Tourism and Management Consulting… and now here I am in ecommerce.

I love working and, yes, it does define me, seeing as I have spent such a large proportion of my life working and traveling. Most of the knowledge I have acquired has been through work. I can honestly say I have had the privilege of collaborating with some extremely talented individuals from around the world.

My work has also made me more culturally tolerant and emotionally intelligent, as I have been fortunate enough to live and work in some fantastic countries, such as South Africa, the UK, The Netherlands, Sweden, the USA, Malaysia, and Australia, to mention a few.

How did COVID-19 affect Authentology?

The business started during COVID. As the pandemic pushed people to shop online, starting an ecommerce business was a good fit.

Where do you promote the business? How important is word of mouth?

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Word of mouth is worth gold, but a social media influencer’s referral is worth diamonds. Regrettably, getting an influencer on board costs a fortune for small business.

Any highlights that stand out in your mind?

This company took a lot of research: almost two years. Only once I knew as much as possible did I start drafting a business plan. The highlight, after all that hard work, was obtaining first-round funding.

How did COVID-19 affect Authentology?

The business started during COVID. As the pandemic pushed people to shop online, starting an ecommerce business was a good fit.

Where do you promote the business? How important is word of mouth?

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Word of mouth is worth gold, but a social media influencer’s referral is worth diamonds. Regrettably, getting an influencer on board costs a fortune for small business.

Any highlights that stand out in your mind?

This company took a lot of research: almost two years. Only once I knew as much as possible did I start drafting a business plan. The highlight, after all that hard work, was obtaining first-round funding.

What have been your worst moments so far? The times you’ve been at your lowest.

One of my greatest disappointments, which I still feel today, is that after moving from South Africa to the UK and looking for work, I discovered to my horror that all the senior executive work experience I had — covering more than 20 years — appeared to be meaningless.

I struggled to get any interviews. I spent a fortune having my CV written by professionals, polishing my LinkedIn profile, and so on. But because my experience was not ‘specialised’ it seemed that recruiters just simply did not know where to put me. Pigeonholing is a huge issue: if you don’t fit in a ‘box’, you’re difficult to position in the market.

I find this very strange, especially in an age where companies are moving away from very rigid corporate structures (Silos) and, instead, are pursuing more innovative approaches to corporate structure. This means that employees with experience in multiple business disciplines are being sought after.

This issue is not localised to the UK; it is also something I have recently experienced in Sweden. I don’t like to generalise, as I do know of companies who embrace non-sector-specific work-experience individuals. Regrettably, though, the problem does still cover the vast majority of the employment market.

I am also a firm believer in the fact that sector knowledge can be learnt. After all, when you study at university you are taught business skills in a particular topic, e.g. marketing, which is not industry specific at all. And I don’t seem to be alone in this thinking. One only has to look at the individuals who are disrupting sectors with innovative ideas: most of them come from outside that sector.

Word of Mouth is Worth Gold

What would you have done differently?

Taken a job with an established company instead of risking everything for a start-up… Jokes aside, I would have researched the employment market in the UK before leaving South Africa, and better prepared myself for entering that market.

I also would have built up a better work network for the UK, as it’s not always what you know but who you know.

 

What was your steepest learning curve — the most difficult aspect to get your head around?

Getting traffic to the website, as you’re competing with ecommerce stores from all over the world.

 

What would you have done differently?

Taken a job with an established company instead of risking everything for a start-up… Jokes aside, I would have researched the employment market in the UK before leaving South Africa, and better prepared myself for entering that market.

I also would have built up a better work network for the UK, as it’s not always what you know but who you know.

 

What was your steepest learning curve — the most difficult aspect to get your head around?

Getting traffic to the website, as you’re competing with ecommerce stores from all over the world.

 

Who has been your greatest support?

My greatest support throughout my career has come from my business mentors (they know who they are). I cannot stress enough the importance of connecting with that senior leader who is willing to offer guidance and advice, especially for women moving into senior roles. It is not easy: it may take a few tries to find that person who just clicks with you and understands the support and level of encouragement you need.

I am currently registered as a business and student mentor for LinkedIn and have offered advice and counselling to start-ups, SMEs, CEOs and new graduates from around the world.

My life partner and family have been my second greatest support. They are your essential and I thank them so much.

Without Failure We Do Not Learn

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs — and/or for women in male-dominated sectors?

Find a mentor. Start looking for one now, no matter what stage you are at. It’s very important to connect with the right mentor. It took me more than 10 years to find mine. Personal coaches are also very good if you need someone to help you focus on future career paths, or just as a sounding board. Because when you move up to senior executive positions it gets very lonely from a work perspective, as you can’t really confide in co-workers and definitely not in junior employees.

Another bit of advice: do the research. And then do more research before even thinking of starting a business. Be prepared to give up all your free time, family time, and holiday time, because running a business takes a lot of work.

And accept that you will make mistakes. But don’t see them as failures; rather see them as opportunities to learn. Thomas Edison, when developing the filament for the light bulb, once said, ‘I didn’t fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.’ Without failure we do not learn. And if we do not learn, we do not innovate — for innovation and failure go hand-in-hand.

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs — and/or for women in male-dominated sectors?

Find a mentor. Start looking for one now, no matter what stage you are at. It’s very important to connect with the right mentor. It took me more than 10 years to find mine. Personal coaches are also very good if you need someone to help you focus on future career paths, or just as a sounding board. Because when you move up to senior executive positions it gets very lonely from a work perspective, as you can’t really confide in co-workers and definitely not in junior employees.

Another bit of advice: do the research. And then do more research before even thinking of starting a business. Be prepared to give up all your free time, family time, and holiday time, because running a business takes a lot of work.

And accept that you will make mistakes. But don’t see them as failures; rather see them as opportunities to learn. Thomas Edison, when developing the filament for the light bulb, once said, ‘I didn’t fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.’ Without failure we do not learn. And if we do not learn, we do not innovate — for innovation and failure go hand-in-hand.

What are your future plans?

Now that I have completed my project as CEO of Authentology, Sweden, I am looking for a new long-term opportunity back in the UK so that I can be closer to family and my ageing father.

We wish you all the best with that, Mel. You certainly must be an exciting prospect for any switched-on employer!

One last question. Did you say you had a SPECIAL OFFER for readers of this blog?

Yes! A 15% discount. Just pop onto the Authentology website and use **Discount Code SAVE15 at checkout. (Offer expires 15 February 2022. Just in time to get that Valentine’s Day something special for her.)

That’s a generous offer, thank you! I assume **the discount code will only work after the current ‘15% off’ SALE ends on 26 December?

That’s right. The code, in effect, extends the sale for you until 15 February.

WOW. Well, I’m certainly not going to wait: I don’t want the stock to run out before I get there. #timetoshop

GOOD TO KNOW: Authentology ships worldwide. AND they generously offer FREE SHIPPING on all purchases over £50.

Oh, by the way: there’s a handy currency converter on the top left-hand side of the site’s main menu.

What are you still doing here? 

HURRY! Place your orders at Authentology ASAP to get your goodies in time for Christmas & snag that fabulous discount!

You can also follow Authentology on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER SURRENDER!

WORK YOUR PASSION

FIND A MENTOR

EXPRESS YOURSELF

WORD OF MOUTH IS WORTH GOLD

SECTOR KNOWLEDGE CAN BE LEARNT

WITHOUT FAILURE WE DO NOT LEARN

INNOVATION & FAILURE GO HAND IN HAND

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER

CATCH ON TO CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM

SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS HOT! (Just ask Benedict Cumberbatch.)

And here’s one for discussion:

SHOULD PIGEONHOLING BE POOH-POOHED?

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. Having bought something from each company, I just can’t help but LOVE these brands and want the world to know about them.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

COMING UP . . .

Next week: An incredible artist who designs & creates ‘art you can wear’. And you’ll want to wear these pieces, I PROMISE.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

HAVE YOURSELF A CANNY LI’L CHRISTMAS

HAVE YOURSELF A CANNY LI’L CHRISTMAS

Ami Hansen is an intrepid, bubbly Geordie living in Blyth, U.K.  Just over three years ago, with no training and a demanding fulltime NHS job, she started up The Canny Wreath Co. — creating beautiful handmade bespoke wreaths.

But she didn’t stop there. Quickly she branched out into garlands, centerpieces and door hangings… not just for Christmas but for every occasion! 

Bursting with ideas, it wasn’t long before Ami launched a sister company: The Canny Custom Co. — her outlet for bespoke printing. The range includes her ever-popular custom-made thermos-controlled tumblers with fabulous toppers, as well as t-shirts, baubles, dog treat tins, bags, keyrings and pillowcases.

Whether you’re thinking of starting up a business, or you’re just in need of motivation to take the plunge into the unknown, you will be inspired by Ami’s story. Read about her journey: how she quit her fulltime job and battled through depression and grief to follow her creative passions.

Below are excerpts from my in-depth interview with Ami, as well as fabulous Christmas decor options & Christmas stocking fillers for everyone!

Ami, what was your lightbulb moment?

It was me husband Andy’s lightbulb moment, actually. It all started with a Pinterest photo of a wooden tray with pine cones and candles. As soon as I saw it, I decided I would make something similar as a Christmas decoration. That’s how I ended up at Hobbycraft with me mam and Andy. As it turned out, the tray never got made as I couldn’t find the perfect size. But it had sparked something inside me, because while we were in the shop, me mam said, ‘Can you make us a wreath for Christmas?’ and I immediately said I’d try. I’ve always been creative, so I thought: why not?

We got some bits while we were there, and I took everything home and made me mam a wreath — and she loved it. And then, me cousin saw it and asked me to make her one. Then somebody else asked for one after that… Throughout all of this, I was just doing it as a hobby.

Then, one day, Andy said, ‘You should try and take this somewhere.’

I immediately said no. I didn’t think I was good enough. I had no faith at all in meself. But Andy kept encouraging me. He believed in me from the get go. And I kept giving excuses: ‘I wouldn’t know what to call it. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere…’

But Andy saw something I didn’t. So he kept trying to persuade me to do something with it, and he kept on encouraging me. I mean, he just harped on and on. I guess, maybe because of that, I did have sort of a lightbulb moment, because it just popped into me head one day: The Canny Wreath Co. That minute, on the 15th of November 2018, my company was born!

When did you know you were onto something good?

When people were willing to pay for something I’d made! I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden we were doing loads of orders. Nearer Christmas — in my first month — I received orders for, and made and delivered, 52 wreaths! I was gobsmacked. Then, after Christmas, the ideas just kept coming. And that’s when I thought: Right. I’m going to do this for every occasion.

I didn’t think I was good enough.

How scary was the plunge into working for yourself?

Terrifying. It’s the fear that’s stopping me from quitting me part-time NHS job. I’ve said to meself a million times: I’m going to quit. But it’s scary. If I don’t make any business, then I don’t have any money. This arrangement gives us the comfort of knowing we’ll always have a wage coming in. Especially during a slow month. January and February I’m lucky if I get any orders. I don’t think I’m ready to do it. Quitting me fulltime job was enough for now.

How has your day-to-day life changed?

I went from working Monday to Friday, set hours, and your weekends are your own. But now me work’s at home, so a lot of the time I’m still working at 1.30am. My life has massively changed in that respect. I’m always on me phone because I’m always replying to order queries, or sending over artwork, or giving people ideas for gifts. I’m just constantly working.

Is there an unforgettable moment that stands out in your mind?

The biggest highlight has been making a brilliant connection with an Influencer on Instagram. Two years ago, we sent a Christmas wreath to @cleaning_with_mario and it got us a massive Scottish following. And a lot of them are still loyal customers. Mario is a genuinely canny guy and he’s made the most incredible difference to us. I gained a load of business, but the most important thing is: I gained a friend.

What effect did the pandemic have on your job and your business?

I was a fulltime NHS employee, so I worked through the entire lockdown, in awful Covid conditions. A lot of people, during that time, went mad for ‘Support Small Business’ and my business boomed, because people had to stay indoors, so they were bored, so everyone was buying. We released a new wreath during this time: the Rainbow Rose. And we gave a £5 donation to the NHS with every one sold. People went mad for them. Then it was coming into spring and summer, and people were placing orders for the seasonal wreaths. And then they started ordering Christmas wreaths early. And then they saw the Halloween options, and they started ordering those too. It was brilliant.

How do you juggle the time for two businesses and a job?

I quit my fulltime job a year ago and now work part-time as a healthcare assistant for the NHS. It fits in fine as it doesn’t start until 6pm, so I have the day to do my business. I must admit, though, I work long hours on my own business. During the lead-up to Christmas and other busy seasons, I usually end up working from early morning until early morning.

What can I do to stand out?

How important is word of mouth?

Incredibly important! I get a lot of new customers from recommendations. I have wonderful, loyal customers. Many are locals. Some smaller businesses too. My regular customers are usually the ones who are telling everyone they know about us, and I’m so grateful for them.

Any memorable lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

A big lightbulb moment happened after that first Christmas. I’d only been set up a couple of months, and I was constantly wondering: What can I do to stand out? That was when I started moving onto the mesh. Not happy to be mediocre, I was up in the loft all on me own, in the freezing cold, with all the cobwebs, and I stayed there for hours, just trying different ways to use the mesh… I wanted my wreaths to be more than just green rings with a couple of flowers on them. I wanted to be different. With Halloween in mind, I painted some zombie hands and put them on a wreath, together with a ‘BOO’ sign. And people went crazy. And I thought: Right, this is the way to go. This is standing out.

Was there ever a time you did not think you would be able to go on?

Two deeply personal family issues knocked me for six: the death of me closest relative, and Andy being diagnosed with cancer. They happened right on top of one another and I struggled to keep going with me business. But I had a lot of support and people around me who believed in me, and so I managed to carry on. Nothing really compares to these two instances, but two ‘minor’ (in the big scheme of things) situations also got me down, due to extreme exhaustion…

A couple of years ago. I was trying to tie a bow with me hands, and I couldn’t do it. I mean, I can tie shoes and I can tie a bow — but actually creating a beautiful bow by hand is incredibly difficult. So there I was, sat on the living room floor, and I was getting frustrated, and I was getting worse and worse. And I just said to Andy, ‘I can’t do this. It’s just too much. I can’t do it.’ It was the stress of knowing that I had to get these done and I had Christmas coming up… That was me first meltdown. Thankfully, Andy encouraged me and persuaded me — and now I absolutely pride meself on how well I can tie a bow.

Another low point happened when we released the Poppy Wreaths. I didn’t expect to sell many and so I wasn’t prepared for the amount of orders that flooded in. I was so proud. But I was exhausted, too. We had it all set up in the kitchen — there were just poppies everywhere — and it was 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, and me and Andy had been working all day, and it got to the point where I just thought: I can’t do another petal. I can’t do it. I cried me eyes out. ‘It’s too much,’ I said. ‘It’s too much to do this on me own, in the house, I can’t do it anymore.’ Of course, as a result of fatigue, I was over-emotional. And of course, Andy came to the rescue. He always pulls me out of it, every time. He sent us to bed that night, and I woke up the next morning and I was fine.

What sparked the idea for The Canny Custom Co.?

I was getting some printed metal signs made by another company, for me wreaths, and I said to me dad, ‘We need to work out how to do this, because I’m paying £9 for one sign.’ So I was either losing a load of money or I was massively putting me prices up, and I pride meself on not having huge prices, because I’m not in the game to rip people off. So, after months of research, we eventually figured out the whole process, and I bought everything I needed to make the signs. And then I practised and it was terrible! I was so bad at it. But I just kept practising — and now they’re flawless! And that’s how The Canny Custom Co. came to be. All because I didn’t want to pay nine quid for one sign, because I knew that if I tried hard enough I could make one meself.

Were your start-up costs affordable? Did you have to get a loan?

I’ve never got a loan. I’ve always paid for everything out of me own pocket, from me wages. I slowly built everything up. Me stock — the stuff we have now — for both businesses is massive. But it’s taken — this is me fourth Christmas — until last Christmas to really get somewhere with it. Me start-up costs weren’t ‘affordable’ in the sense that I spent a lot of money practising to get things right. It cost me a fortune to launch The Canny Custom Co. because I had to buy expensive, quality materials and equipment. For me just to buy the tumbler — without the printing on it, as I do all that meself — is expensive. I don’t make much money on them at all. But I just love to do them.

Who has been your greatest support?

Andy has been the best support ever. And me dad. Me mam, me sister. Me grandma and grandda. Andy has supported me through the absolute worst and the absolute best. When I’m working, he’ll just pop his head in and give me a quick kiss and say, ‘You know, I’m really proud of you.’ And that just makes me heart full.

KNOW YOUR WORTH

What are the best nuggets of advice you’ve been given?

First: Know your worth. Second: I used to take an order and make it, and it would sit around the house until somebody paid, and I would get frustrated. Until somebody told me: ‘You’ve got a business. Run it like a business. You wouldn’t go into Boots and not pay for your stuff. People order and pay for your stuff, and then you make it. Simple as that.’ Third, and this is the most important bit of advice: Cash is king.

What are your future plans?

I would love a nice big unit where I could put both of the businesses in. That would be it… I don’t want to take over the world. I just want to keep selling me stuff.

Do you have any advice for other wanna-be entrepreneurs?

Never give up! Also: don’t expect something to happen within the first week or the first month, or even the first twelve months. Don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight. Don’t expect a quick buck — cos you’ll not get one. Expect to be tired and ratty. But don’t give up. Keep pushing. And believe in your product, whatever it is. If you’re a hairdresser, and you want to start up on your own: believe that you can cut somebody’s hair the best. If you’re a dog walker, believe that you’ll give somebody’s dog the best exercise… As long as you believe in yourself, you’ll not give up. Oh, and don’t just do it for money; do it to get your creativity out there.

What has been your steepest learning curve?

Hand-tying beautiful bows! You’ve got no idea of the absolute carnage that went on in this house while I was trying to hand-tie bows. That’s definitely been the most difficult thing.

Did you need training of any kind? Or are you just naturally talented?

I’m completely self taught. Qualifications don’t necessarily make people better. Natural talent counts for a lot. I put all of me into every creation. That’s worth a lot, I think. And I’ve practised and practised and practised until I got it right. And then I kept practising until I made something worth selling. I think that counts for a lot too.

And finally, Ami, what are your most popular products?

From The Canny Wreath Co: Wreaths and garlands for doors, mantelpieces, windowsills… I can fulfil any measurements and colours as they’re custom made. There’s a huge variety.

From The Canny Custom Co: Our custom-made tumblers make perfect stocking fillers and Secret Santa gifts. A printed, thermo-controlled tumbler with a leak-proof lid and a reusable straw is £18, and there are hundreds of choices. A lot of people get Toppers added onto the tumblers, which will be a bit extra, however, the end result is gorgeous!

 

(And so is Ami — absolutely gorgeous and just plain canny. It was a delight to interview her.)

By the way, ‘canny’, in Geordie slang, means: lovely or nice. e.g. If you met a nice person, you’d say she’s canny. Or you could say, ‘Look at this canny little cupcake.’ Or: ‘Wow. What a canny wreath!’

 

Did you enjoy the Excerpt? 

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

WHETHER YOU THINK YOU CAN OR THINK YOU CANNY — YOU’RE RIGHT.

PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT EXCELLENCE.

BELIEVE YOU CAN — WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. DARE TO BE YOU.

KNOW YOUR WORTH.

RUN YOUR BUSINESS LIKE A BUSINESS.

CASH IS KING.

NEVER GIVE UP.

BELIEVE IN YOUR PRODUCT.

WORK YOUR PASSION.

KEEP GOING. KEEP PUSHING. YOU CAN DO IT!

A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER, FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER IS INVALUABLE.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

HURRY! Place your orders at The Canny Wreath Co. & The Canny Custom Co. to get your goodies in time for Christmas! (All prices are on their website.) They ship worldwide.

You can also follow the Canny companies on Facebook & Instagram.

COMING UP . . .

Next week:  A fearless CEO who deals in beautiful authentic handmade gifts you’ll want for yourself.

If you subscribe to my weekly newsletter (it’s brief, I promise!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂