Happy Monday! and welcome once again to our regular insight from the world of inspirational women. This week I am delighted to have Beki Gowing, founder of Print and Press London with me. Print and press is a custom digital fabric printing company serving designers & makers both in the UK and worldwide. Let's dive straight in!
Hello Beki, it’s lovely to have you here, how are you today?
Hello Jennifer, I’m really good thanks, the sun is almost shining and I have managed to get on top of my admin!
Aaaah. That's a nice feeling to have! Can you tell us a little bit more about your business?
We're based in Woolwich, South East London and have been up and running for about a year now, printing patterns, designs, photos and everything else onto fabric for designers, and fashion and homeware brands.
I'm loving these patterns. How did it all come about? Was there a defining moment?
Yes! At the time I was in the buying department at John Lewis. I was sat opposite my manager in a meeting and realised how much I didn’t want to do her job.
...that's a pretty powerful realisation...
As a designer myself, I’d been playing with the idea for an affordable, easy to use fabric printing company that would cater to the quality needs of designers and brands for a few years. I knew there was a gap in the market, but had ignored it as I focused on my career. That evening I started researching start-up business loans (and looking at lots of beautiful pictures of printed fabric on Pinterest!).
People often talk about 'Push and Pull' motivations. Clearly this was a 'Push' (away from your old job). What would you say your 'Pull' motivations are, if any?
I have always wanted to set my own rules and run my own business. Running Print & Press London means I get to do this, and work with the incredibly talented designers who use our services.
Fantastic, so there's a community?
Yes, I now have a community of talented surface pattern designers who have created a range of original and exclusive patterns for us. When the community first started I wasn’t too sure how it would work, but it is so rewarding to see that all of the designers now follow each other on social media, and support and promote each other. These designers are also my inspiration, firstly because of their creativity and the stunning patterns and artwork they produce, and secondly because of how lovely they are!
On this blog we are BIG on support groups and inspirations. What is your experience of having support? Who are those people to you?
To me, it's a vital part of being self-employed. It was one of the hardest things I found from moving away from a corporate structure. My friends and family were very patient and good at listening, but you really need people who are going through the same issues and concerns as you, to talk to and not feel judged by. I was very lucky and my business loan came with mentoring support, which has been invaluable. I also used Meetup.com to find other designers and small business owners, and Facebook groups too. I'd also like to add that it's useful to talk to people in different areas. Not only do they have a different perspective, but as you probably won’t work with them, it's easier for them to give you emotional support when it all feels tough and you don’t know what you’re doing.
This is great advice. You've told me before that you are a Feminist and I wondered if you've had any insights into what can hold women back in business?
I have quite a few opinions on this, but the one I think women can do something about is confidence. I know I have been guilty in the past of not speaking up, or putting myself forward because I’m worried people might not be interested or I might say something wrong. And then playing something over and over again if I do make a mistake, when everyone else has long since forgotten about it.
The broken record of shame... How to fix it?
I am certainly still learning how to be more confident, but I try to think ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Normally the worst thing is that someone will say no, and that’s really not that bad. So I think women (including myself) should try to speak up more. If I see something I’m interested in, instead of investigating and looking to see why I’m not qualified, I’m making myself join in and starting a conversation.
Yes, get involved. So, on that note, any personal motivation tips for us?
I’m a big believer in planning and being organised (sorry for being so boring!). My buying experience has drilled ‘critical paths’ in to me, and I use these to set myself goals, and then work backwards, breaking the goal down into smaller, more manageable tasks. If I have a big project due in six months that terrifies me and I’ll try to ignore it. However, if I break it down into 6 smaller tasks that need to be completed each month, I find it much more motivating as I can understand how and when I will do them.
Precise. I like it.
I’ve also started using a bullet journal this year, which has really improved my productivity. If you don’t know much about them, have a look on Pinterest or Instagram, there are so many ideas you can use. Mine is definitely nowhere near as beautiful as the ones you see on blogs, but I use it to track my achievements, and to move anything I haven’t finished on my ‘to do’ list to another day, which stops me feeling guilty that I can’t do everything at once.
I'm sure many of our readers can relate to that. Beki thank you so much for sharing your story and all the advice that you're gaining along the way. I'm excited to say that we'll have you back on Thursday for an insightful look into your rather gorgeous handbag. If you're interested in what Beki's up to check out her website in the link below and for a limited time (31 May 2016) Beki is offering our readers a 10% discount on all custom fabric AND all designer prints. Thank you Beki!
Thank you Jennifer, it's been a pleasure!
Have an inspirational week!