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The highs and lows of running a small business

Spoiler alert: it’s a real roller coaster.

I love my job. I have always wanted to work for myself but I can tell you for free that running a small business is not easy. I’ve been running Drawn by Rhiannon for three years now and pretty much every day is a struggle. However, for me nothing beats being your own boss. Today is a beautifully sunny summer’s day so I’m writing this blog post with an old fashioned pen and paper outside in the garden. Of course I will have to type this up later but that’s a job for this evening when the sun goes down. And that’s one of the first things I love about running my own business – the flexibility.

It’s great to be flexible.

I have never particularly been a morning person so starting work at 8am every day isn’t an ideal situation for me. I find I’m much more productive later on and in to the evening so I love that I’m able to start work at 10am and work until after tea instead. Sometimes I can be working until two in the morning if that’s when inspiration has struck and that works great for me.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
I’m lucky to have a great studio at the bottom of my garden

On the flip side, the negative aspect of working from home is that you’re never able to switch off. I’m lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my sewing and most my designing. Unfortunately my internet doesn’t stretch to the studio so all the website designing, marketing and general computer work has to be done inside the house. There’s always a never ending to do list so the temptation to just quickly finish off a few things soon turns in to several hours of work when I’m supposed to be taking some time off. The work life balance is something I’m constantly battling with to prevent me from spiralling in to a full blown burnout.

Freedom is liberating

The main thing I love about running a small business is being able to design what I want. You wouldn’t believe the amount of junior designer jobs that mainly consist of making coffee and doing dry cleaning runs. I didn’t go to university for four years to do that! This is part of the reason that I wanted to work for myself because I didn’t want to lose my creativity or all the skills I worked so hard to learn. I love taking inspiration trips and deciding what prints to design next. And I love not having to work to a trend brief or having to stick to a restricted colour palette.

Drawn by Rhiannon watercolour painting
I love being able to be super creative in my job

On the other hand, not having anyone to bounce ideas off can be difficult too. When you’ve spent several hours working on a new print design, staring at the screen and nudging layouts a millimetre here and there, it becomes impossible to know what looks good any more. As the business grows I plan to take on a couple of staff to help with the workload which would be a huge bonus (and would hopefully stop me going stir crazy and asking my pet rabbit which colour background she thinks works the best). Until then I rely on all you lovely lot to keep me sane so I really appreciate you replying to my questions and commenting on my social media posts.

Money talks

Now for some serious talk – money. As much as I love what I do, at the end of the day I can’t keep doing it if it doesn’t make money. I’m fortunate to have a part time job in a craft shop which ensures my house and bills are paid for each month so I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless. However, if you’re working 30-40 hours a week running a small business, you kind of want to see some profit return on that right? This is something I still find very tricky to manage, especially as the gift-orientated things I make are really quite seasonal.

I was on such a high at the end of 2018 as I’d had my best Christmas ever and was actually taking a full time wage. Obviously this was due to a huge amount of work and I spent most of the Christmas break in complete brain dead zombie mode but that’s how it is. I even earned enough to book a holiday in February to Belgium (check out the blog posts about that trip here) which I was absolutely over the moon with.

The Christmas markets were a huge success and it was brilliant seeing people wanting to buy my items for special gifts for loved ones.

However after all the buzz of Christmas, the start of 2019 hit me like a tonne of bricks. I barely made any sales and at Easter time I almost packed the whole thing in. Which brings me to my final point.

Confidence and motivation

Without a doubt the hardest thing about running a business is having the confidence and motivation to keep it going. There are times when I’m consistently working 12-14 hour days and only seeing pocket money in return. When you put your heart and soul in to something and people don’t really seem that interested it can destroy you. Sometimes I just have to keep ploughing on because I know if I stop and really take a look at things I might not be able to carry on (sometimes doing the books at the end of the month can be really devastating).

The words ‘I can’t do this any more’ have gone through my head more in the past three years than in the rest of my life combined, but so have the words ‘I love my job’. The minute I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love their order, or see someone smile at a print I’ve designed on my market stall, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Running a small business is hard. By supporting a small business you are supporting a dream
Every purchase you make really does make a huge difference

I would love to say that Drawn by Rhiannon has been an overnight success and every day is better than the last but that wouldn’t be true. It would mean the world to me if you could all support me to help me achieve my dream by shopping small and interacting with the brand on social media. One day I hope that I can do this full time and employ some wonderful people to work alongside me but I’m not there yet. After all, nothing good in life comes easy does it?

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Meet the maker 2019 week 2

Drawn by Rhiannon photography setup

Welcome to meet the maker week 2! Have you read the first week of the meet the maker posts yet? If not, click here to catch up.
Read on to find out more in the meet the maker week 2.

Day 8: Product range

Flamingo makeup bags and reusable makeup pads
Flamingo makeup bags and reusable makeup pads

I love making matching products, especially if they’ll be used together like the flamingo makeup pads and makeup bag ? would you guys be interested in a special offer if you buy a makeup bag and matching makeup pads together? Let me know!
The flamingo makeup bag is available here, and the flamingo reusable makeup remover pads are available here.

Day 9: Story behind the name

Behind the name - meet the maker
My name is Rhiannon and I love to draw

Mine is super simple – my name is Rhiannon and I draw. I wanted a name that wouldn’t restrict me in the further if I wanted to branch out from fabric homeware items so I decided to go with Drawn by Rhiannon as no matter what products I would be making, it would always start with one of my hand drawings.

Day 10: You

Meet the maker
Meet me in real life at a market in the North East.

In case we haven’t met before – Hello, my name is Rhiannon! I design all the fabrics from my hand drawings and hand make all the items myself . I’m one of those people that doesn’t particularly like having their picture taken so I chose one of me behind my market stall from last week at the make and mend market ? I love meeting all you lovely people in real life at the markets so if you’re ever in the north east when I’m at a market, please do come and say hello.

Day 11: Reducing waste

Squirrel reusable makeup remover pads
Reusable makeup remover pads are a great way to reduce waste

This is something I’m really passionate about so I’m working on a whole new line of products to help you reduce waste. This includes the reusable makeup remover pads and the reusable beeswax food wraps. I’m also thinking about reusable sponges and reusable paper towels. If you would like to see any other eco-friendly products please let me know.

Day 12: Hands at work

A sped up video of what goes in to the editing of photos

After all the sewing, the next step is photographing everything, editing the photos and uploading the new products to the website. I use Photoshop to even out the lighting and tidy up the background. I also use it to make the colours look as true to life as possible ?

Day 13: Photography

Photography setup - meet the maker
My current photography setup – very tricky to get right!

Photography is my biggest struggle with running my own business. It takes me as long to photograph and edit the photos as it does to make the items in the first place! I’ve finally worked out a good set up but it hugely depends on the British weather…

Day 14: How I learnt

Meet the maker

I learnt how to draw properly when I started my fashion degree. You wouldn’t believe the difference having proper drawing lessons makes! That’s where I first learnt about print design. My mum taught me the basics of sewing when I started A Level Textiles and then I was thrown in the deep end with industrial sewing machines and overlockers when I started my fashion degree. After two years of unbelievably complicated garment construction I realised fashion design wasn’t for me. When I switched my major to fashion graphics, I learnt more about digital art and started to refine my print design skills. Every print I design teaches me something new so I’m constantly learning everyday.

Other than that, everything I’ve learnt has been through experience. I’ve made so many mistakes and felt like giving up a lot, but I keep on trying. Running your own business is really hard work so a big shout out to everyone who has made it a success ?

Meet the maker week 2 really focused on background information about me. Would you like to know more about my design process, education or past projects? Let me know by commenting below. Week 3 coming soon!

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Meet the maker 2019 week 1

March Meet the Maker 2019 prompt list

If you’ve not heard of it before, March Meet the Maker is an Instagram challenge set up by Joanne Hawker.

It comprises of a list of prompts for small businesses to post about to show people more about their business. I love taking part in the meet the maker challenge as it lets me connect more with all you lovely lot and you get to find out more about me and what I do! In case you missed it, here’s a run down of this year’s prompts.

The 2019 list of prompts for the March Meet the Maker challenge
The 2019 list of prompts for the March Meet the Maker challenge

If you don’t follow Drawn by Rhiannon on Instagram (if you don’t, click here to find me) then you will have missed loads of behind the scenes action so I thought I’d share the pictures on here too just for you!

Day 1: Favourite to make

Water resistant bee print apron
Bee apron

I found this one a really tricky one to decide but when I was making the new aprons the other day I realised how much more I like sewing them than I used to! They always used to be a real struggle to make on my domestic sewing machine as the water resistant fabric they’re made with is super tough. Since I’ve got my industrial machine though it’s a whole new story! The aprons have lots of little steps from beginning to end and it’s nice to work on something different 🙂

Day 2: How you started

How Drawn by Rhiannon started - meet the maker
My final collection of my fashion design foundation degree – my first fabric collection!

The first fabric collection I designed was for my the final major project of my fashion design foundation degree. I took inspiration from nature and random objects to create two print themes for a range of fashion accessories. Seeing my designs printed on fabric for the first time was incredible! To be honest I still find it amazing now every time a new batch of fabric arrives ? I then went on to study fashion graphics at Southampton Solent University where I totally focused on print design, culminating in my FMP of printed homeware items. Lots of people asked if I would be selling the things I had made and that’s how Drawn by Rhiannon was born!

Day 3: Flatlay

Otter pencil case
Flatlay shots are great for pencil cases

Photography is something I’m constantly working on but I feel like I’m getting better at it. I always like to do a flatlay shot with the pencil cases and coin purses to give you an idea of size and how much you can fit in them. The pencil cases are not only great for storing stationery, but they also make great travel sewing kits!
The otter pencil case is available to buy here.

Day 4: Tools and materials

Industrial sewing machine - meet the maker
Almost everything I make is sewn on my brilliant industrial sewing machine

The main tool I use is my fabulous industrial sewing machine! It’s super powerful so has no problem with all the hours of sewing through tough fabric ?
By the way, this photo was taken just after my studio was completed, my sewing table has never been this tidy since ?

Day 5: Detail or close up

Rubber duck wash bag
I loved designing all the details of the rubber duck print

I’ve decided to share a close up of one of my new prints… the rubber ducks! These are all drawings based on ducks from my collection and I love all the little details on them. Who else is a fan of rubber ducks?
The rubber duck wash bag is available to buy here.

Day 6: Full or part time

Part time craft shop
I also work part time in a craft shop

I usually work 30-40 hours a week on Drawn by Rhiannon (though in the past few months that’s been closer to 50 or 60 hours a week which is probably why I’ve been so tired ?) but I also work a few shifts a week in a craft shop so I literally spend my whole life crafting!

Day 7: Less glam side

Reusable panda beeswax food wraps
The beeswax wraps definitely aren’t glamorous to make!

This one baffled me a bit as I wondered what people thought was glam about running a business… as much as I love my job, I definitely wouldn’t describe it as glamorous! Probably the least glamorous part of my job is spending hours scrubbing the kitchen after making the food wraps as the beeswax gets everywhere ?
Take a look at all the available beeswax wraps here.

Stay tuned for week 2 of the March Meet the Maker prompts coming soon!

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A quick introduction

Drawn by Rhiannon

Seeing as I’ve started this new blog and some of you are new to Drawn by Rhiannon, I thought I would make a post of a quick introduction so you know who’s talking to you.

This is me! I’m not a fan of having my photo taken so you won’t see my face much around here (but if you ever want to talk to me face-to-face, come and visit me at a market! Find a list of events here).
I studied Fashion Graphics at Southampton Solent University and graduated with a First Class Honours. I’m going to do a whole different blog post about how I got into print design and my process, but for now, here’s some random facts about me to get a sneak peek into the designer behind Drawn by Rhiannon.

  1. Just in case you weren’t sure, my name is Rhiannon and I like to draw.
  2. I live in Newcastle Upon Tyne by the sea and I love it here! The beach is my absolute happy place and gives me so much inspiration.
  3. I’m not originally from here so don’t be surprised when I don’t talk with a Geordie accent. I’ve moved all over but grew up in Derbyshire.
  4. I have a ridiculously cute pet rabbit called Cucumber. If you follow Drawn by Rhiannon on social media you’ll see snaps of her now and again on there.
  5. I am most definitely a sweet person rather than savoury. I can’t get through the day without chocolate and biscuits!
  6. I love travelling. I’m always saving up for the next adventure to experience new cultures, food and print inspiration.
  7. I’m big into music, especially rock and jazz. I used to play the flute but now my main instrument is the ukulele. In total I have two ukuleles, two guitars, a flute, a keyboard, bongos and maracas.
  8. If you hadn’t noticed from my print designs, I’m a fan of bright colours. My house is literally a rainbow.
  9. I really enjoy cooking and baking so you might see some foodie posts on here sometimes – would people be in to that?
  10. Finally, I love my job! Every day it amazes me that I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living and I’m so thankful to all you lovely lot for making it possible by supporting me!

So that’s a little insight in to me, why not comment below with some random facts about you?