My ‘lampshade journey’ has seen me go from an enthusiastic amateur crafter to a solo businesswoman.
Although selling is not (and never will be!) my forte, the chance to ‘be creative’ for a living and achieve work/life balance has definitely been worth it.
My business started out as a partnership with my friend Sally. Together we decided to leave our stressful jobs in social work in 2011 and started up Two Material Girls, with Sally making drum-shaped lampshades and me specialising in vintage shades.
A year later, when Sally moved from Leeds to Ilkley, we both decided to branch out on our own. Thus Lisa Lampshades was born! (Sally continues as Twenty Watt Sally)
I love how vintage style lampshades make a real statement in a room. The fabrics I use are eclectic – contemporary, classic, bold and subtle colours, vintage flea market finds… anything goes! I particularly love commissions, when myself and a customer can collaborate and make something that suits their own colour scheme and personality. (One customer has – at the last count – 13 of my bespoke lampshades dotted around her house!)
Learning how to take good product photographs, getting tech-savvy, swotting up on SEO, and designing and building my own website were all tasks way outside my skill set, and some of them I still haven’t mastered! My website – www.lisalampshades.com – remains a work in progress, so please don’t be too critical just yet! It looks better on big screens and needs adapting for mobiles and tablets. I’m working on it!
I also have an eBay shop, a Folksy shop and my own section on Make The Most Of. eBay I have found to be a mixed blessing. Their constant shifting of the goalposts (most recently the addition of compulsory EAN and MPN numbers, which caused my sales to drop off a cliff overnight) and litany of little charges that chip away at profits (monthly fees, transaction fees, PayPal fees) are irritating, but their sheer size and dominance does leads to plenty of hits and leads.
Facebook has been my most productive social media format. I have nearly 750 likers and many leads have come from there. Twitter is a bit more nebulous. Latching on to trends like #craftflash, #womaninbiz or local promotions like #leedshour can lead to retweets, but it’s difficult to judge how much that converts into actual sales. I’ve started out on Pinterest and really must get cracking with Instagram. I’d be interested to know others’ thoughts on what’s proved most successful.
Like all creative people, I love nothing more than coming up with new designs, ideas and products, especially as I have my own ‘hub’ of a workshop at the end of our garden. Equally, like many ‘arty’ folk, it’s the shameless self-promotion and hard selling I struggle with – unfortunately they’re pretty important these days!
I much prefer meeting people face-to-face and have been really pleased recently to hire out a small space in a large vintage store called Decoporium near Wetherby. Max McMurdo, Kirsty Allsopp’s some-time TV sidekick, was a recent visitor and it was a thrill to meet him and hear his compliments about my shades.
I also have a presence in several other shops, including Bird’s Yard in Sheffield and Lincoln.
I’ve had some really heart-lifting successes along the way. My shades have gone to big pub and restaurant renovation projects and stately homes, but possibly my favourite was when a humble red spotty creation ended up on the stage of the Royal Opera House in London. It featured in ZooNation Dance Company’s production of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which aired on the BBC!
Overall, I absolutely love my job. Coming up with creations that bring distinctive style, character, light and warmth to people’s homes is a joy and a privilege.