Laura Pickering of Madam Midnights Lamporium is our first runner-up for the competition #lampshadebusinessinabox!
While I was there I made some quite surreal artworks, I learnt how to weld and made a 7ft hybrid Human creature which I sculpted and painted, he he, it was good fun!
My gorilla was sold at auction for charity and the final price was £10,000! That has to be the highlight of my career as an Artist and I’m so proud to have been a part of that project! “
After the Christmas rush on my new stall I noticed that I was getting a lot of lovely compliments about my lampshades, people seemed to show a real interest, so I started to make more. My partner Morgan and my family really loved the shades that I’d made and I think it was their encouragement to believe in myself: that I had something special going on, that really pushed me into throwing my self at lampshades full-time
My next step was to scrape together enough money for the deposit to rent a 6ftx6ft stall at Molly’s Den in Hampshire Dorset near where my parents lived. Although it was a financial risk at first, getting another stall, and things were very quiet for the first few months, eventually it paid off when I was contacted by a scout for one of the co-founders of Lush Cosmetics. They had seen my stall at Molly’s Den. This was such an unexpected opportunity and it led to me being commissioned to design two large standard lampshades to suit the interior design of their house.
I had a blast making them and really went all out on the fabrics and trimmings. There’s nothing I love more than extravagance and colour! The client absolutely loved them and ended up purchasing more shades from me which was a great bonus!
Laura had to make the decision to leave the market stalls and work from home as the revenue wasn’t enough to keep them going. This way her overheads are lower and there’s less risk involved. Though of course she has found that working from home has its pros and cons!
What has helped you along the way?
My partner, family and friends have been extremely supportive, encouraging me to keep going when things have been financially challenging or not panned out as hoped. They helped me to believe I can achieve my goals if I keep going! This is so important when running your own business Having the tenacity to keep going!
The social aspect of running stalls at craft fairs and events has been a bonus too.
it’s been lovely meeting other makers in the city and sharing stories and advice, this has been invaluable to me as suddenly you don’t feel like you’re the only one going through it and I’ve met lots of inspirational people!
What do you feel you need help with?
I’m absolutely awful at the “business” side of things… I hate computers and so I don’t update my social media as often as I probably should but it’s something I’m getting better at! Also I’m rubbish at Maths… give me fabric, colourful trim and beads over number crunching and receipts any day!
Has running a business been different to how you imagined?
Very!! Not only has it been far more difficult than I thought making sure I stay up to date with my books and annual returns/tax etc. I also didn’t realise how difficult it would be to create enough interest in what I was creating to make a living. I’ve tried many different avenues to sell my lampshades including indoor market places, craft fairs and shops. Some have worked better than others and I still feel like I’m on this journey of learning, I’m not sure it will ever end actually!
Space, my house is in a constant state of flux as we’ve not long moved in, however I have claimed the dining room for the time being while ‘project craft room’ commences!
What is your favourite thing to make and why?
I love making really large, over the top elaborate scalloped lampshades. I feel like you can really express a customer’s personality using multiple fabrics and trims. I also love making for friends, seeing their reaction is always the best part!
What is your experience of Needcraft products?
I love Need Craft and I always buy the lining fabric as it’s the best quality and price. Also the fire proofing spray, I’d be lost without it! I find Needcraft products are professional, high quality, excellent prices and I like how you can purchase manufacturing packages. The website is simple to use and I never have any problems in finding the things I need for my projects.
Three tips for new craft entrepreneurs?
1. Do a short business course covering things like, cash flow, tax, being a sole trader or a limited company and also how to write a business plan! I attended a free course with my local business advice group and it was great to have all the legal stuff explained to me and to have some one to answer questions too.
2. Attend local craft events and network as much as you can, word of mouth is a great thing and there’s nothing nicer than meeting like-minded people!
3. Put yourself out there, seize opportunities and take a risk or two! If you have a chance to talk to someone about what you do or even show them, do it! Even if your shy, believe me it gets easier and you never know who you’ll bump into or what it could lead to! Also don’t give up at the first hurdle, or the second one…or the third for that matter! There will be many, but keep on believing in your self and your talent will come through!
- Be careful of cold callers… when I registered with companies house my contact details went onto a public database and I was inundated with cold calls trying to sell me things especially for new businesses! Unfortunately, I was naive enough to take somebody up on an offer of a magazine advert (ironically named ‘Stay Safe’ Magazine!) for my business to be released just before christmas last year… cutting a very long story short! There was no magazine and I lost £200!
- Make sure you keep track of your out goings and incomings carefully, keep hold of your receipts and order them month by month otherwise you will have a nightmare when it comes to doing your tax return etc. And also try to know the dates that legal things must be done as there are some hefty fines otherwise.
- Make sure everything you are doing is by the book, eg, if you are making lampshades, make sure they are fire-proof and depending on what you are doing, check to see if you need things like public liability insurance, it’s always best to be in the know about things like this.
What do you love about your business?
I love how it gives me a reason to be creative every day, I find it relaxing. I love playing around with matching different fabrics and figuring out which trim and braiding looks the best! Lets be honest: who doesn’t love being surrounded by colourful fabrics and loads of bobble trim! I also love to see peoples reactions to their custom hand-made shade, it’s a great feeling to have people get so excited over what you have made!
What materials do you use?
Do you do or use anything unusual?
I like to see how far I can push lampshade making and I always try to put as much detail, care and effort into designing them. I love bright colours, patterns and clashing fabrics and I never make the same lampshade twice… That’s one of the things that keeps me interested in it as I’m always doing something completely different and totally unique! I hope I’ve created a style of lampshades that is recognisable as my own, at least: that’s one of my goals!