How I Started a Woven
Homewares and Accessories Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Lara Bland. I am a woven textile designer and the founder of Studio Wolle. I am a sole trader, so a complete one woman band with the silent support of my cat Marley! Studio Wolle offers contemporary woven design products for the home and every day life. My products help people to add a unique and simple statement to any space.
I love to encourage the investment and mindful curation of people’s home spaces, so that they are both comfortable and a reflection of their personalities. My brand is committed to authentic craftsmanship, sustainability, natural materials and simple design, and wish to promote relaxation and well-being by surrounding others with beautiful, well-made items. Distinct, graphic and beautiful – simplicity with soul.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I studied at the University of Brighton and completed an MDes and MA degree in Woven Textiles. It was there that I fell in love with the process of weaving and using wool as a material. The freedom of creating a fabric from start to finish and then turning it into a woven design product which helps people to turn their personal spaces into a reflection of themselves has always inspired me.
Working for myself has always been what I have wanted to pursue. At the start however, I really struggled with my self-confidence. I grew up with depression from a young age and struggled with worrying about failure and not being good enough. I now use these negative experiences to create woven design products intended to encourage us to relax, and be mentally present within our homes. To invest in comfortable and well-made items that furnish our personal haven, away from the busy world.
Sustainability is always on my mind. I want to move away from consuming for consumption’s sake, and move towards a more conscious approach, encouraging people to invest in durable and enduring pieces to decorate their homes, made from natural materials that don’t follow seasonal trends.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Finance is always an issue when starting up a new business, I split my time between my business and my part-time job in order to be able to cover my living expenses. This brings about its own challenges in terms of managing my time and it’s an on-going juggling act. Currently a lot of my income gets funnelled back into my business to cover costs, so money is always a stress for me.
My biggest challenge is being patient. I have plenty of ideas for products and directions I want to go in, but I am not currently at the place where I can invest in those ideas yet. This is often frustrating and I have to remind myself that it takes time to progress. What I have found from starting my business is that my social network has suffered, my time is spread so thinly that I find it hard to be as social as I used to be. There are days when I feel dejected – where I wish I could go out with my friends for an evening and not worry about the things I could be doing in that time.
Who is your target market?
My target market is separated into two key groups: young professionals and home loving ‘mids’. I am predominately targeted at women but I do understand that men may be drawn to my business as well! The young professionals usually range between 25-35 year olds, who are focusing on establishing their first proper home. They work full-time and want to create a space to entertain and relax in. Social media is important as they will take pride in showing their home and their lifestyle to their peers. A desire to find portable and versatile products which can make even a rented space feel more like their own.
The home loving ‘mids’, usually age range between 35-50. More often than not, they already have an established home. Often, they will be working part time or focusing on raising a family. Their priority will be on creating a living space for themselves and the family to spend quality time in. They will take pride in having an active role in decorating the home. People who wish to show their creative, tasteful personality throughout. They will have a desire to invest in quality woven design products, built to last and to withstand daily life.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Marketing has always been unknown territory for me. I am a relatively introverted person so shouting about my work has been rather out of my comfort zone. I have recently started working with a PR and marketing coach who is helping me develop my strategy and ideas. Currently my marketing consists of some paid advertising in local craft productions, taking part in local craft fairs and then a lot of social media use. Pinterest and Instagram have been particularly successful due to their visual nature. I am also developing a blog which I hope will become an extra source of exposure/information.
This year I have been chosen to participate in two big trade events, and I am currently working with their PR teams to develop further marketing materials. I believe this will be the biggest success for my business marketing to date.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
As an artisan running your own business, you have a lot of customer interaction. It is a real pleasure communicating with my customers directly and receiving photos of how they have used my woven design products in their homes. I try to honour their value by being as present and approachable as I can be.
I am always happy to discuss customer requirements – if they want a different colour scheme I am happy to speak with them about it and whether I can fulfil their request. Due to the nature of my process, changing colours (if I have them in stock) doesn’t affect my price and it makes the customer happy. I believe this flexibility and willingness to offer the best service encourages customers to return.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since my business is just me working on my own, so its mostly about managing myself! I have tried to make my business working hours as normal as possible around my other job. I aim to be in the studio by 9am every day. When you work for yourself it’s easy to get sidetracked by other aspects of your life, I have had to set time out during my weeks to do things which help me with my mental health, such as my weekly therapy session.
Eventually, I would like to employ some other people within my business, and I would want to establish a respectful atmosphere. I think when people collaborate and are respectful to each other, great things are possible!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Since starting my business, I have invested in quite a variety of software and services to help me manage. My online web store is hosted through Squarespace and I have an accountancy package with FreeAgent to track and manage my finances. I use a crazy amount of spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel to document a variety of things! And I recently invested in scheduling services Later and Tailwind to help me manage my social media workload.
Making lots of notes is essential for me, so I use GoodNotes as it is accessible across multiple devices on the go, as well as my Apple Cloud storage system so wherever I am, I can access what I need and continue business work. In terms of design, I use a mixture of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator along side my web-based computer program which allows me to plan my designs and run my weaving loom.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Starting a business has been a complete learning experience for me. From having to learn to build a website, manage my finances in a business like manner and actively market/promote my work. It has all been a huge challenge but equally hugely rewarding.
I definitely made mistakes along the way, and am almost certainly still making them! However, those mistakes are important – they have helped me to develop and grow. My biggest mistake was not believing in myself and my work. Learning about how my mental health has a relationship with my business has been equally challenging and rewarding.
I have learnt a lot about myself as a person throughout the process but also about what my business can offer people. Because of that, I don’t think I would do anything differently as such. I have always believed that you never know what will happen unless you try, and if you fail, just try again.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to direct your own journey. I honestly love my craft of weaving and the peace it brings to my life. Being able to share that with other people is truly the most wonderful thing. Of course, it’s always an ego boost when people like what you do, but I value it the most when my work brings happiness and comfort to peoples lives.
What is your least favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being alone, it’s often easy to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of small tasks you have to do. Juggling life, business and anything else can be very tiring sometimes. When you are starting out it does feel a bit lonely, especially when you feel unsure about what you are doing. A lot of the time, I felt like I was just walking around in the dark, winging it as I went along!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
In 2019, I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try crowdfunding if I hadn’t read other peoples stories and experiences which gave me the motivation to go for it. Interior design blogs such as The Design Chaser, These Four Walls and Design Hunter have always inspired me to want to produce interior products. They inspire me to want to surround myself with wonderful items and in return offer other people beautifully made products that they might want in their homes.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
2-3 years from now I would like to have extended my woven design product range to include throws, rugs and upholstery. I would like Studio Wolle to have become a hub for creating well-made items for people’s homes.
By this point, I hope my revenue will be enough so that I can focus on my business full-time and really take it to the next level. This would also open up the opportunity to employ other people to come and join the Studio Wolle journey!