Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your brand!
My name’s Alison Ellerbrook, I’m 38, and I’ve built Hunkydory Home as a fun interiors brand and my creative outlet. At Hunkydory Home we sell a collection of lampshades and cushions handmade in North East England; the products are made-to-order, unique and affordable.
The Hunkydory Home brand is playful and nostalgic, reflecting my love of retro design and colour. I want to sell products that make your home happy and raise a smile. I spent my childhood moving around (we moved house at least 10 times by the time I was 16 and I also spent my teenage years at boarding school) and as an adult this has meant that home, and the concept of home, is very important to me. Hunkydory Home was started in the Noughties when everyone viewed their property as an investment, I wanted to sell products to people who viewed their property as their home and wanted to have fun with it.
Where did the idea of Hunkydory Home come from?
Hunkydory Home was born out of a desire to earn a bit of extra money just after I got married. I bought a cheap sewing machine and made some bright, retro cushions which I sold on ebay. This was in the days when the ‘House Doctor’ and Sarah Beeny were preaching to everyone to keep their homes neutral so they could sell them more easily, and there was a real gap in the market for bright, funky, colourful home accessories. It soon became apparent that there was great demand for my cushions and I could barely keep up with orders. When one day I was asked if I could make lampshades too I decided to give it a go and from there the business took off. I got some support from the Prince’s Trust, started my own website and since then I’ve never looked back.
What’s been your biggest challenge building the business so far?
About 18 months ago I reached a crossroads with the business, it had grown significantly and I was selling a whole range of home accessories. I’d found my focus shifted from being creative, developing my own products to being thrown back into an office job – managing stock levels, reorders and accounts. I thought that growing the business was what I wanted to do and embarked on business plans and strategies, talk was all about ‘growing’ a home store and meetings were more with people in suits than spent with beautiful fabric and other creative folk. I realised that this was not why I set up Hunkydory, I never intended to run a shop; I always wanted to have fun creating lovely products for the home. I missed the excitement of finding and creating new fabric designs and turning them into lovely products. I had to regain control of the business and ensure that I took the brand in the direction I wanted it to go in, not where lots of other people thought it should.
What has been your biggest highlight?
I always get excited when I see one of my handmade products in the national press, nothing better than flicking through the Sunday papers and then seeing something you’ve made.
Do you have any advice for others who are about to start their own business?
Follow your heart, especially if you’re running a creative business, and remember nobody cares about your business as much as you do but you’ve got to show them why they should!
What does your “typical” work day look like? What do you enjoy the most?
Quick check of email and social media in bed before getting my daughter ready for school, I live in a small village and so we walk to school with our puppy and chat about the day ahead. I then take my pup for a long walk across the fields which really helps get my head together and is often when I get ideas. When I get home, I don’t do anything before I’ve made a cup of tea. During the day I try not to be distracted by domestic chores and focus on dividing my time between online activity (email, social media, writing the blog etc), making lampshades and cushions, planning new products and photography. I really enjoy planning new products and finding new fabrics, I’m not so keen on making them and am glad to have help with this. I pick up my daughter at 3pm and make sure we spend time together before I tie up loose ends in the evening. I love the flexibility of working from home and running a business that fits in with my family’s lifestyle.
What are your tips to get your brand out there? Are you doing your social media and PR yourself?
I do my own PR and social media, this is one of the aspects of running the business that I really enjoy. I’ve built lots of contacts with journalists and bloggers over the years and this has really helped getting the brand noticed. Press Loft has been invaluable in getting products featured in the press and it’s a really useful resource for small and micro businesses as it’s an affordable way to access the press without having to use a PR agency. I love social media; Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all invaluable for showcasing your products and building trust in your brand.
Hunkydory Home has been running for 10 years, what are your plans for the future?
Over the past year, I’ve brought the business back to its roots and have decided to focus on making and selling the lampshades and cushions that I started out with and so I intend to continue to develop these designs.
Right now I’m very excited as I’m creating my own fabric which is due to be printed and turned into cushions and lampshades in the next few weeks. As well as selling these to the general public I hope to start wholesaling this collection. They represent everything about the Hunkydory Home brand – colourful, bright and nostalgic designs which I can’t wait to launch, watch out for them on Press Loft!
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