How I Started a Creative Business
Selling Artwork Inspired by The Lake District
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Victoria Irving, and I’m the founder of Feather & Wild, a creative business based on the edge of the Lake District selling original artwork, and gifts inspired by nature and escapism.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Being an artist was always a distant dream for me. I studied art at school but went on to study Interior Design in college and that was as far as I got. Not being in a position to, or wanting to move away to a big city to pursue a career in an art-based firm, I stayed in Cumbria and worked in retail and hospitality until I became a mother in 2010. It was around 2013 when the opportunity to have a website came my way.
However, I had no idea how to market myself, or even that I had to. It was very much a learning process from the beginning I made a start and created some terrible art in the process, but I don’t regret any of it because without that I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Living on the edge of the beautiful Lake District National Park has always brought me the inspiration I need to create. I love nothing more than a road trip through the mountains, although many a scene I’ve seen before, they never fail to stop me in my tracks.
Over the last couple of years I’ve started venturing higher, and on foot, reaching the summits of these mountains. That, for me, is fuel for my creativity. Never without my camera and if the Cumbrian weather allows, a few moments to sketch the views too, although I tend to pick the rainiest and windiest of days to venture out which never provides much of a view to record the scenes!
It was in 2016, after the birth of my second child, that I realised I had to re-jig my creative process and set about rebranding. From then, Feather & Wild was born. I began creating the type of business that I wanted to buy from. The type of art I wanted to hang on my walls and the type of photography I wanted to take. I’m pleased I followed my instinct because it lead me down a path I’m happy to be on.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I’m learning on the job. Not only is my art improving but my ability to grow a small creative business, organically and wholeheartedly. I’ve put a lot of my own money in at the beginning and made many mistakes by jumping in too early with certain ideas. Sourcing stock that perhaps didn’t sell as well as others and putting on so many different hats for different aspects of the business. Being creative, my mind isn’t designed for accounting so there have been and still are, many bad heads from trying to figure all that out. I hope to delegate that one day soon to an accountant!
Who is your target market?
Creating my ideal customer was something I did very early on in my art journey. I was led to it by Sarah, a coach I was working with and it’s something that I’ve adapted as my career has grown.
When I rebranded as Feather & Wild, I knew exactly what I needed to do and set about creating that one person, that ideal customer that would help me reach my target customers. It’s a great visual for setting my brand. Feather & Wild is aimed towards bespoke homes, towards folk who love the outdoors. Road Trips through the highlands. Hikes in the Lake District and independent galleries, cafes and gift shops.
My customers’ age range is around the mid-thirties to late forties but that is quite limiting as a lot of my original artwork goes out to the generations above that so I’ve recently set about focusing on my business in two parts to help market them separately.
It’s important to reassess your ideal customer as your business grows. This way you can grow in the right direction towards the folk who will want your product.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We live in an age where we no longer need to pay for advertising like we used to. I have found Instagram to be a great way of showcasing my art. Twitter can be wonderful too, and for free, you’d be daft to not get on board with at least one social media platform.
Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Treat your customers as you’d like to be treated and you’re on to a great form of free advertising, whether that’s a share of a social media post or your product in a photo they share. Let them shout it from the rooftops so you don’t have to.
For me, part of why I do this is to provide others with that moment of peace or escapism, or that provocation of a special memory. So despite the share of my art in their feed, I love to know that my work provides something beautiful for them. That, to me, is my job done. It has to feel genuine to me. I can’t force my work on folk. It has to be a slow organic process.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
As I mentioned previously, it’s so important to treat every customer like you would like to be treated.
I hate feeling forced to buy. I need time to think my purchase through so I won’t send out multiple emails or posts about sales. Building up a customer base for me is like building up a close network of friends and the last thing I want to do is annoy them with my sale patter.
I put a lot of myself into my brand. It is an extension of me so as I’ve got to know my customers, they’ve got to know me. That is how it should be. Without them, my business wouldn’t exist. For that, I’m very grateful.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
My plan with Feather & Wild is to grow it into a community. A place to bring others together, a place to hold a supportive environment, promote others and encourage creativity within.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I’m very old school, and always use paper diaries. I find it much easier to navigate!
All my invoices are designed using basic technology on my Mac but as Feather & Wild grows I’ve found Intuit Quickbooks a great way to invoice. My website is created using Squarespace and I use Mailchimp for newsletters.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I’ve made so many mistakes. But with each one, I’ve grown. If I were to start again I wouldn’t have jumped in as fast with paying big money for certain things but I feel as a self-taught artist/business owner all these have and continue to teach me what I can achieve on my own and what I’m best to outsource help with, like accounting and website building!
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being my own boss and creating a lifestyle that works around me and my family.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Stepping out of my comfort zone more often than I’d like!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Without a doubt, my favourite book has been Playing Big by Tara Mohr. Her guided meditation for discovering your inner mentor changed my life. I recommend this book to anyone I think may need it.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I’m so excited for the coming few years. I see my business continuing to grow steadily and my studio space growing too. It would be wonderful to have a larger studio to create and hold workshops and events.