As a Cornish girl at heart I love homeware that is reminiscent of this coastal county, and this is just what Helen Baker captures. She designs fabric and homeware with a laid back coastal theme that’s just perfect for any family home. When Helen got in touch with me to share her story and business I knew she’d be a perfect fit for a Start Up Story feature. As a fellow parent and business owner Helen knows the juggle first hand and
Hi, I’m Helen, a self-taught fabric designer, living in Wiltshire with my husband and two sons. I was a primary school teacher for nearly ten years but left after having my second son. Being the only female in our household I wanted to furnish our new home in stylish gender neutral designs after we had moved from Cornwall to Wiltshire with my husband’s job. Unable to find what I was looking for, I researched how fabrics were designed. After a busy year teaching myself pattern design I used our home to test some initial designs. I then went on to create a contemporary coastal inspired collection titled ‘You can take they girl out of Cornwall’ based life in modern day Cornwall.
Tell us a little bit about your business
I launched my debut fabric and homeware collection in May of this year and I sell my designs as fabric by the metre, cushions and lampshades through my website www.helenbaker.com
Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a reality?
It was probably about 18 months from my initial ideas to launching the business. Living in a digital age, I feel so fortunate to have so many resources and information at my finger tips. I taught myself surface pattern design from Skillshare, an online learning platform run by creatives, for creatives and listening to lots of podcasts for the business side of things. This style of flexible learning means I can fit it around busy family life which is a priority for me and an advantage of working for yourself.
What’s been the hardest part of your life as a start up business so far and how do you overcome those kinds of hurdles?
For me, the hardest part is doing everything myself so if I don’t know how to do something I have to find out and learn new things. Talking to people really helps. My husband has been really helpful as he ran his own business for ten years and knows what’s involved. I also was on a business support programme where I got 12 hours of EU funded support which was invaluable.
I run on black coffee and chocolate biscuits when I’m working, what couldn’t you live without?
Depending on the time of day, tea or coffee, with biscuits (of course!).
I know from running this blog and my own online store that when you’re a primarily online based business you need a strong social media presence, which is your favourite platform and do you have any tips for running it?
As my business is very visual my favourite platform is Instagram. It’s great to find like minded people, engage with them and to keep up to date with what’s going on in your field. My tip would be to not get hung up on follower numbers. I try to remember that everyone has started from zero and through consistent posting of content that’s relevant to you, your following will grow.
What is the best part of running your own business? Has there been a ‘pinch yourself to check it’s real’ kind of moment for you?
For me, the best part is the flexibility to do what I want when I want. My pinch myself moment was at the supermarket last month where I first saw the feature of myself in Country Homes and Interiors as their favourite designer maker of the month. It was such an honour to have been in such a prestigious interiors magazine.
Has being a parent influenced the way your business works?
Yes it has. As I work from home I am able to do the school runs each day which I feel really lucky to do. This means I have to be very focused with my working time so I have to prioritise what I can get done between 9am and 3pm. I will then work evenings and weekends when I need to.
What makes you tick? The things that gets you up in the morning to make your business a success?
I am passionate about creating family friendly homes and I really love the friendly world of interiors that I am now part of so working on this feels so right. ‘Design the life you want’ is an ethos I love to help decision making and to drive me forward.
What’s your current favourite item or range in your store at the moment?
I love the Cornish Clouds fabric design which is an updated version of the classic seaside stripe with a graphic inspired cloud motif. It’s simple yet striking and based on the Cornish coast which always makes me smile.
Got any new products or projects in the pipeline?
I’m putting the finishing touches to a British Gardens collection, which will again incorporate my style, nature-inspired silhouette shapes, that people can relate to but with a contemporary feel.
Whether practical or inspirational, what is your top piece advice for anyone out there wanting to take that leap and start their own business?
Podcasts. I have learned so much from other people who have been in similar positions starting up their own business who offer advice and tips.
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Morgana is a social media coach for small businesses and entrepreneurs, specialising in Instagram and Pinterest. Based in the North West of the UK, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She particularly enjoys a Netflix binge watch and cannot function without black coffee and dark chocolate digestives.