Welcome to the fifth post in my small business blog series 'Show & Tell', I have been so pleased with the response to far!
This post lets us into the very wonderfully bright and colourful world of designer, illustrator and author Jane Foster. I have known Jane since the early days of Winter's Moon and have her artwork on my walls at home. It has been really inspiring to watch her brand and business grow over the past few years, and I’m so chuffed she is happy to share some of what she has learnt with us here.
I hope that you find this series useful for your business and I would love to hear how you would answer some of the questions, please do leave a comment at the end of the post.
How long have you been running your business? Around ten years..
Who runs your business? I do, with some help from my partner Jim. He helps with scanning my illustrations.
Describe your products? Bold, quirky, simple, naive happy designs. I use my illustrations to produce screen printed prints, products and textiles. I also have them printed onto mini planters.
How are your products sold? They’re sold mainly through my Squarespace webshop and from my Etsy shop. I occasionally sell wholesale to a few Independent stores. My books are sold world-wide but I don’t take care of managing this side of things.
Did you create a business plan before you started out?
No! I was a total beginner! My background was in music teaching and I come from a whole family of teachers and not entrepreneurs! I’m completely self taught here and have tried and failed as I’ve gone along!
How did you fund your business at the beginning?
I had very little funds to be honest although I’d started to save a bit of money prior to giving up my teaching career. Every penny I earned went on bills and back into the business. It was incredible hard at first and very scary. The uncertainty of not knowing if I would sell anything would be very hard and I woke up most mornings wondering what I could create that may or may not sell. I kept trying to come up with lots of ideas and just tested the market. I also made sure I had my fingers in lots of pies.
What small thing that you do has made the biggest difference?
Having the courage to be willing to fail. What I mean by this is, I’ve tried to stay true to producing work that I like without trying to guess at what others might want or falling into trends. This often means putting work out there that not everyone likes and sometimes some of it doesn’t sell, but luckily, usually some of it does! It’s sometimes hard to show new work as it involves being vulnerable - this is part of the game!
4. What have you learnt the hard way about your business?
I think the hardest part is dealing with the uncertainty of not always knowing from year to year what work I might be doing. I worry if I might not take on any licensing deals or if I’m not asked to work on any more books etc.. There’s always an element of not knowing what’s around the corner which is exciting but at the same time can make me very anxious!
5. What piece of advice or guidance were you given has been the most useful?
I’ve been given very little advice but I’ve found that subscribing to the AOI has been very helpful when it comes to me getting my pricing right when collaborating with companies. Contracts can be tricky and in the past, I used to license my designs too cheap!
6. What sources do you use for business advice / learning / support?
I love listening to podcasts - especially ones that feature interviews with creatives. I love Design Matters with Debbie Millman, Brand Lab Radio and Me & Orla (Hashtag ~Authentic with Sara Tasker). I love listening to podcasts where I can learn how to improve my social media / algorithms / Instagram advice etc.. these are important as they’re often my shop window.
7. If someone gave you a small lump sum to invest in your business right now what would you spend it on?
I’d be tempted to say more hours in the day!! I’m a control freak and like to do everything myself but in reality, if I could delegate my social media / photography / packing orders / admin etc.. to a virtual assistant then it would give me far more time to be creative and illustrate and screen print , which are fundamentally the bits I love doing the most.