Grace & Favour Home: Rachael Rowe
The homeware designer on shunning mass production in favour of homemade products
Company name: Grace & Favour Home Website:www.graceandfavourhome.com Founders: Rachael Rowe Age: 26 Based: Devon Staff Numbers: Just me! Date started: February 2010
Tell us what your business does Grace & Favour Home creates homeware with a country feel. My main product line is a range of decorative mannequins that are tailored in beautiful fabrics by some of the UK’s top designers, as well as vintage fabrics sourced from all over Europe.
Where did the idea for your business come from? I have always been a ‘maker’ and studied fashion design at university, but after graduating in 2006, I knew that the fashion industry wasn’t really for me, and that I was more interested in interior design. I was given some old mannequins with tatty covers that were beyond repair, and decided to recover – I had some excellent feedback from selling a few online and the seeds of an idea were sown for my business.
How did you know there was a market for it? I knew there weren’t many other people doing anything similar and the feedback I received was so positive. I realised there was a gap in the market for something completely original, made by hand in this country and with a limited production run. I think people are turning away from the mass produced, ‘Made in China’ products, and looking to add a point of difference to their homes by buying handmade items.
What were you doing before starting up? After university I worked in a variety of jobs, some creative and some less so, including freelance print design for fabric, and advertisement design for a media group. Whilst I learnt something from each job, I knew I would end up working for myself sooner or later, in order to satisfy my creative appetite.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? I have always imagined myself working in my own company – the appeal for me lay in the level of flexibility I could have. I am a hard worker so it’s rewarding to be able to put a lot of time into a project, and then be able to relax a little once everything is done – it means I don’t lose interest in the project. The greatest motivator is knowing that if I don’t do it, no one else is going to!
What planning did you do before you started up? I didn’t do a lot of planning before taking the plunge. I have started very small, and of course have researched my market to see what my competition is, and who my target customer is. But as my start-up costs were relatively small, I wanted to let my business grow organically, without too many projections and forecasts. In this way, I am able to trial products and ideas on a small scale, getting feedback from customers, and developing my line as I go along.
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How did you raise the money? I financed the business from my own personal funds. I knew I didn’t want to go down the route of borrowing from banks – if I had to walk away tomorrow, I could do so without being in debt to a bank. I am aware that by taking this route, the growth of the business will probably be slower, but I feel this will give me time to cement my brand, and hopefully I will still be selling my products in ten years time.
How did you find suppliers?I manufacture everything at my studio in Devon – I am a big supporter of the handmade products that are made in Britain, and luckily so are my customers. At the moment I am managing to keep on top of orders. My fabrics and other components are almost exclusively supplied by companies in the UK.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? I think cashflow is a problem for any small business in its early stages, particularly one that is self-funded. I try to be selective of events I take part in, and really consider whether or not it will actually be worth it in terms of sales and introducing new people to the brand. Nothing is on my doorstep in rural Devon, so I have to work hard to find the best deals and opportunities for my business.
Where is your business based? Initially I worked from home but by March I was really running out of space and patience. I found a studio a few miles away which has enabled me to have an organised working environment, as well as a studio/shop.
How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again?I have embraced social media as it’s the cheapest, and one of the most effective ways of bringing new customers to my products. I also write a blog (graceandfavourhome.blogspot.com). My business listed on From Britain With Love which is a great site that acts as a directory for products made in the UK.
How much do you charge? My range includes products from £3 up to £250.
What has your growth been like? At the moment I’m on target to be in profit in the next few months. I did not go into this expecting to become wealthy overnight, and am happy with the level of progress the business is making.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? I am definitely a lot busier now, but moving production out of the house and into the studio has made everything far more harmonious. I cannot stress enough the importance of separating home from work. Now I get up and go to the studio everyday, which allows me to switch off at the end of the day.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? The greatest difficulty is in doing everything yourself, from designing, making, packaging, website design, admin and so on.
What was your first big breakthrough? Being accepted to take a stand at the Country Living Spring Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Selection is by a panel of people from the magazine and is not just a case of ‘give us your money’. This was about a week after I made the decision to start up so it was very encouraging. Once I was there, the feedback I received from the general public made me realise I was on the right track.
What would you do differently and what have you learnt? I don’t think there is anything I would do differently – everything has been a learning curve and the mistakes I have made are informing my future decisions.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Go for it, but be realistic, be cautious and try and make your venture as low risk as possible.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan? In five years time I would like to have expanded my wholesale presence so that we are supplying all over the UK. I hope to be employing local people in the production of my designs so that I may focus more on designing; I believe in the importance of keeping manufacturing and design alive in this country. In the next year I plan to develop my own range of fabrics for my products rather than relying solely on what is available from other designers.