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Today on the podcast I am talking to Chloe Hannay, founder of Willow & Bert Interiors. Chloe is an interior designer and soft furnishings consultant who also creates bespoke beautiful handcrafted curtains, blinds, cushions, and other soft furnishings, which are always finished with a Willow and Bert signature flourish.

I absolutely love talking to Chloe. She’s the first guest I’ve had on who offers products and a service all in one. IT was a really interesting conversation learning about the world of Interior Design, and how Chloe evolved her business from making items herself, to running a team of makers who support her business. 

I really hope that you also find it enjoyable and you learn from it and are inspired too.

Listen in to hear Chloe share:

  • An introduction to herself and her business (01:32)
  • How she came to set up her business 8 years ago (02:26)
  • How she started out making everything herself (03:33)
  • Why she started to look for other people to make items for her, and building her team (04:08)
  • How she learnt how to reupholster items (06:33)
  • Adjusting to not making the items herself (08:18)
  • Combining a product and a service (10:28)
  • Pulling together a scheme with Willow & Bert bespoke pieces & high street purchases (17:37)
  • Managing fabric supplies post Covid (21:03)
  • Working as an interior designer through the pandemic (22:54)
  • How she built her team of makers (25:25)
  • Learning to delegate when you run a small business (27:18)
  • Her number one piece of advice for other product creators (29:58)

USEFUL RESOURCES:

Willow & Bert Interiors Website

Willow & Bert Instagram

Willow & Bert Interiors Facebook

Willow & Bert Interiors Houzz

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Transcript
Vicki Weinberg:

Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas To Life Podcast, practical

Vicki Weinberg:

advice, and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products.

Vicki Weinberg:

Here's your host Vicki Weinberg.

Vicki Weinberg:

Chloe Hannay is the founder of Willow and Bert Interiors.

Vicki Weinberg:

Chloe is an interior designer and soft furnishings consultant who also creates

Vicki Weinberg:

bespoke beautiful handcrafted curtains, blinds, cushions, and other soft

Vicki Weinberg:

furnishings, which are always finished with a Willow and Bert signature flourish.

Vicki Weinberg:

I absolutely love talking to Chloe.

Vicki Weinberg:

She's the first guest I've had on who, what she offers is I would describe it

Vicki Weinberg:

as a products and a service all in one.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, I was fascinated by that.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, I don't know much about the world of design and interior design, particularly.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, it was a really interesting conversation and I really hope that

Vicki Weinberg:

you also find it enjoyable and you learn from it and you're inspired too.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I'd love now to introduce you to Chloe.

Vicki Weinberg:

So hi Chloe, thank you so much for being here.

Chloe Hannay:

No, not at all.

Chloe Hannay:

It's really nice to talk to you Vicki.

Vicki Weinberg:

So can we please start with you giving an introduction to

Vicki Weinberg:

yourself and your business, please?

Chloe Hannay:

Yes, of course.

Chloe Hannay:

Hi there.

Chloe Hannay:

I'm Chloe and I live in Edenbridge in Kent with my husband and five children.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, we are part of a big, crazy blended family and it's fair to say life is quite

Chloe Hannay:

chaotic with five teenagers in the house.

Chloe Hannay:

So, um, Willow and Bert started about eight years ago, and it really grew,

Chloe Hannay:

um, from a passion that I've always had for interior design or interiors.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, as a child, I watched my parents doing up various houses,

Chloe Hannay:

um, and enjoy kind of looking and seeing what they were doing on it.

Chloe Hannay:

It was really quite fun when the builders were in and things were moving around.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I also remember going to antique fairs with my family as

Chloe Hannay:

well, and looking for things.

Chloe Hannay:

My parents always used to have lots of kind of coffee table books, which

Chloe Hannay:

I remember sort of weekend mornings flicking through and just kind of

Chloe Hannay:

wondering how it all came together.

Chloe Hannay:

And, and, and how houses became the homes that they are.

Chloe Hannay:

So I've always had that long held interest.

Chloe Hannay:

I think my big passion as well as a child was the Laura Ashley catalogue.

Chloe Hannay:

And I would spend hours planning how I wanted every room in my,

Chloe Hannay:

you know, my future house to be.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, there isn't any Laura Ashley stuff in my house, I have to say.

Chloe Hannay:

I think it definitely planted a seed inside me at a very young age in terms

Chloe Hannay:

of interior design and looking at how things hang together in the home.

Vicki Weinberg:

Amazing.

Vicki Weinberg:

So can you please, um, tell us, well, first of all, maybe when you

Vicki Weinberg:

started Willow and Bert and then just give us a really brief summary

Vicki Weinberg:

of what it is that you do please.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, sure.

Chloe Hannay:

So the business um, as I said started about eight years ago and

Chloe Hannay:

it's evolved very, very quickly.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and I would say that when I initially started the business, I,

Chloe Hannay:

um, had a partner at that point.

Chloe Hannay:

At the moment it's, it's just me, but we would sync solely making curtains

Chloe Hannay:

and blinds and soft furnishings.

Chloe Hannay:

And that was great.

Chloe Hannay:

It was really rewarding and it was great to work alongside someone

Chloe Hannay:

at that, at that point in time.

Chloe Hannay:

And the business, as I say, evolved quite quickly.

Chloe Hannay:

And it became clear to me when I was talking to people, and visiting

Chloe Hannay:

their houses, actually they didn't just want one blind, some

Chloe Hannay:

cushions, a curtain, a headboard.

Chloe Hannay:

They actualy wanted a bit more, is actually how, how to, how

Chloe Hannay:

the rooms could hang together.

Chloe Hannay:

And so the interior design side of the business has grown, um, probably

Chloe Hannay:

more so over the five, six years.

Chloe Hannay:

And that's been hugely enjoyable just to kind of branch out in a slightly different

Chloe Hannay:

direction from how I originally envisaged the business growing, I would say.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, that's amazing.

Vicki Weinberg:

So originaly you were making everything yourself, is that right?

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, that's right.

Chloe Hannay:

So that was, that was brilliant.

Chloe Hannay:

I always wanted to do something creative.

Chloe Hannay:

I had a former former career in the city, um, and then subsequently married and had

Chloe Hannay:

kids and it just wasn't gonna be feasible.

Chloe Hannay:

to continue that.

Chloe Hannay:

But I was always really keen to do something creative.

Chloe Hannay:

And at the time we were also doing up our own house as well.

Chloe Hannay:

So it was, it was really enjoyable to kind of think about how to do that.

Chloe Hannay:

And I, yes, originally um, I started out making all the items myself, which

Chloe Hannay:

was, which was great, really rewarding and a really, um, good creative outlet.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, it then became evident to me that there was more work coming in

Chloe Hannay:

than I could really keep up with.

Chloe Hannay:

And the key things happened.

Chloe Hannay:

I moved house.

Chloe Hannay:

I didn't have room for a workshop in my house anymore.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, which meant it was kind of a challenge to fulfill the work.

Chloe Hannay:

And unfortunately at the same time I developed, um, tennis elbow on my

Chloe Hannay:

right hand and actually right arm and actually became quite difficult to

Chloe Hannay:

even thread a needle at that time.

Chloe Hannay:

So I had to start to look elsewhere.

Chloe Hannay:

So the business, the quantity of work coming in was growing

Chloe Hannay:

and I couldn't really keep up.

Chloe Hannay:

So I started to look elsewhere to find support from other makers.

Chloe Hannay:

And that's how I suppose I've been able to grow the business, um, quite quickly

Chloe Hannay:

by having other people to support me.

Chloe Hannay:

And, and again, that's been really nice as well.

Chloe Hannay:

Because I've then been able to have a team alongside me and it feels

Chloe Hannay:

a bit more, more of a collegiate approach, which I have to say.

Chloe Hannay:

I really enjoy.

Chloe Hannay:

And I miss that from my old life working in the city.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh so that's amazing.

Vicki Weinberg:

So that's something I wasn't actually aware of.

Vicki Weinberg:

So you now have peep makers supporting you to kind of make the things that

Vicki Weinberg:

you're designing for your clients.

Vicki Weinberg:

Is that the right way of saying it?

Chloe Hannay:

So, yes, it's really enjoyable having, having a team of

Chloe Hannay:

people behind you and knowing that they're working hard to fulfill your

Chloe Hannay:

brief and your vision for clients.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, it's, it's, it's worked really well and I've enjoyed working

Chloe Hannay:

alongside lots of different, different specialists in their field.

Chloe Hannay:

So upholsters, um, people who are very good at making headboards or specific

Chloe Hannay:

types of curtains and there's a lot of expertise out there and it's been really

Chloe Hannay:

enjoyable to work with other people.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I guess it also has meant that you can expand on what you're able to offer your

Vicki Weinberg:

clients, because presumably you couldn't make all of these things yourself.

Chloe Hannay:

So yes, it's been good to work alongside other people and

Chloe Hannay:

not to have all the mess contained in my own house because, um, upholstery

Chloe Hannay:

is a, quite a dirty, messy business.

Chloe Hannay:

And certainly with curtain and blind making as well there's a lot

Chloe Hannay:

of, um, lot of materials required, a lot of fluff that floats around.

Chloe Hannay:

And when that's not just all kind of coming to rest in your own home, it's

Chloe Hannay:

nice that it's outside and an external place, and you can shut the door and

Chloe Hannay:

work at the end of the day and just enjoy being in your own, in your own home.

Vicki Weinberg:

That makes it, you know, I never thought about it

Vicki Weinberg:

being dirty and messy before, but I guess, yeah, there's lots of bits.

Vicki Weinberg:

I guess there's lots of thread and as you say stuffing and things floating around.

Chloe Hannay:

All sorts of gubbins and I couldn't tell you that the

Chloe Hannay:

nasty surprises you sometimes find on the back of the sofa.

Chloe Hannay:

So, um, yeah, it's good to have that away from the home.

Chloe Hannay:

I have to say.

Chloe Hannay:

It makes a difference.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes, oh, I didn't even think about that.

Vicki Weinberg:

So of course we see you were reupholstering furniture as well.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah.

Chloe Hannay:

I started um, I suppose when the, this whole, I hate to say the word

Chloe Hannay:ourney started for me back in:Chloe Hannay:

Um, just after my daughter was born and I was really keen to, while I was on

Chloe Hannay:

maternity leave, I was really keen to do something creative that would get me out

Chloe Hannay:

of the house once a week for a couple of hours and just fulfill that need to

Chloe Hannay:

do something for myself a little bit, whilst in the throws of early motherhood.

Chloe Hannay:

So I started doing adult education, upholstery course in Tunbridge Wells

Chloe Hannay:

once a week, which I absolutely loved.

Chloe Hannay:

It was just brilliant being immersed in this sort of slightly kooky underground

Chloe Hannay:

worlds of older ladies should we say.

Chloe Hannay:

Who were just having a lovely time together and, and, you know, having fun.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so from there the passion grew, and then I realized that I wanted

Chloe Hannay:

to do more than just upholstery.

Chloe Hannay:

And so that's continued my studies with, um, with the city and guilds

Chloe Hannay:

diploma, and then also looked into the curtain of blind making.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and so kind of expanded my, my knowledge that way.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yep.

Vicki Weinberg:

So it's all fairly recent then isn't it that you've been doing?

Vicki Weinberg:

I mean, I know from what you said earlier, you've obviously had an

Vicki Weinberg:

interest interiors for a long time, but I guess you're actually sort of

Vicki Weinberg:

learning how to make it yourself.

Vicki Weinberg:

It's still fairly recent.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, I suppose, um, it feels recent to me, but I have to

Chloe Hannay:

say, I started just after my daughter was born and she's approaching 15.

Chloe Hannay:

So actually when I look back on it, on that, in that sense, it does, it feels

Chloe Hannay:

like I've been going for a long time.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, but yeah, no, it's, it's something that I, I really enjoy and I feel

Chloe Hannay:

really lucky that I'm able to do it.

Chloe Hannay:

I've been able to always work in this field since the children were

Chloe Hannay:

really small and it's really rewarding and it fits in, um, around them.

Chloe Hannay:

That's the key part of it or.

Vicki Weinberg:

So now that you've sort of changed your business slightly and

Vicki Weinberg:

you have other people working with you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Are you missing the sort of hands-on side or not so much?

Chloe Hannay:

Massively, massively.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, that that's exactly where I wanted to start.

Chloe Hannay:

That's exactly why I started.

Chloe Hannay:

And, um, I still do small bits of sewing and, uh, and I, I love that.

Chloe Hannay:

I love the chance to kind of get everything, you know, get all the

Chloe Hannay:

tools out again and make a bit of a mess, um, and try and keep it contained

Chloe Hannay:

into one, one room at home now.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, but yeah, it's, that's the part I miss.

Chloe Hannay:

So I suppose the making things was one part of the creative process and the

Chloe Hannay:

other part now, which is fulfilled through the interior design is putting together

Chloe Hannay:

schemes and plans for the clients.

Chloe Hannay:

And so I suppose I get my fix in that sense, but I do miss actually

Chloe Hannay:

kind of threading, threading a needle and pinning fabric and looking at

Chloe Hannay:

how, what now, how it all needs to lie in and smoothing things out.

Chloe Hannay:

And that I think I do miss that.

Chloe Hannay:

I kind of feel like I've been able to expand the business into a

Chloe Hannay:

direction wich is fulfilling, even if I can't make any longer, because

Chloe Hannay:

unfortunately I still have tennis elbow so it's a bit boring in that sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think that makes perfect sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

As you said, I think it's a really good business decision because sometimes,

Vicki Weinberg:

I think that lots of makers come up against is you only have so many hours

Vicki Weinberg:

in the day or the week or whatever it is.

Vicki Weinberg:

And so there comes a limit to what you can actually produce yourself.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I think business wise, it does make total sense, but I can also see how you

Vicki Weinberg:

would really miss being so hands on.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, the creative fix.

Chloe Hannay:

Yes.

Chloe Hannay:

It definitely, it definitely means that I've been able to scale the

Chloe Hannay:

business up in terms of volume.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, as I said, my, my, my family life is quite crazy with the seven of us.

Chloe Hannay:

And, um, and it does, it does take up a lot of time running it, running a

Chloe Hannay:

house and a family of seven at times.

Chloe Hannay:

So actually the way that it works now, it fits in with the family.

Chloe Hannay:

I'm quite adept at the early morning start or the late finish,

Chloe Hannay:

or try not to work too much at the weekends, but certainly evenings.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I do often need to put the hours in, so it, it fits in well with family life.

Chloe Hannay:

I'm here when I need to be obviously completely focussed, but also

Chloe Hannay:

my I'm able to quickly duck into work mode if I need to aswell.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

So one of the reasons I'm obviously so interested in talking to you

Vicki Weinberg:

Chloe, is that what you offer is, I guess, both a product and a service,

Vicki Weinberg:

I guess, more of a service, it's a service and the product, isn't it?

Vicki Weinberg:

Um,because I was really fascinated by that.

Vicki Weinberg:

So would you mind talking a little bit about what it is that you offer?

Vicki Weinberg:

So if I came to you and said, oh I'd like my room designing.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, as you can probably tell, I've never worked with an interior designer.

Vicki Weinberg:

Let's say I came to you and said, I'd like this room designing, what,

Vicki Weinberg:

what is the process you go through.

Vicki Weinberg:

Just give people an idea of how it all ties together.

Vicki Weinberg:

That'd be great.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think the key thing is always, um, it's always, I'm always keen to know

Chloe Hannay:

how, how someone finds me if it's word of mouth, if it's any of the advertising

Chloe Hannay:

that we do, if it's social media.

Chloe Hannay:

That's often a part of it.

Chloe Hannay:

And, um, the main thing I'm always really keen to do is to try and

Chloe Hannay:

meet a client face to face, um, ideally as soon as possible.

Chloe Hannay:

And that makes a huge difference.

Chloe Hannay:

Sometimes when clients approach me just by email and they want a quote for this and

Chloe Hannay:

here are the measurements, it's very, very difficult to convey what we do and the

Chloe Hannay:

processes and talk through the nuances.

Chloe Hannay:

Obviously, if their space, especially if they're just

Chloe Hannay:

sending through a few photographs.

Chloe Hannay:

So I do find that the key thing is to try and get a meeting in the

Chloe Hannay:

diary as quickly as possible with the clients and go out and visit

Chloe Hannay:

them and have a look at the space.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I'll then take a set of measurements and photographs, as long as they're

Chloe Hannay:

happy with me to take photographs, which generally everyone is.

Chloe Hannay:

And then the key thing is then just to put together an estimate of what, um,

Chloe Hannay:

what it is that they are asking for and what it is that I can, you know,

Chloe Hannay:

how I'm going to fulfill that brief.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, it's always nice as well, during that first meeting to sit and chat

Chloe Hannay:

through what a client's tastes are, what the colors are that they like,

Chloe Hannay:

the patterns they like, dislikes.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, look at the rest of the room, are there other furniture,

Chloe Hannay:

paintings, the flooring.

Chloe Hannay:

Key thing as well as to look at where the light is coming in from

Chloe Hannay:

the room and where that, where that sort of falls, um, in the space that

Chloe Hannay:

you're looking to to help furnish.

Chloe Hannay:

So there's lots of things which I suppose I'm thinking about when

Chloe Hannay:

I'm in a room talking to a client that they won't necessarily know.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, but I'm kind of gathering as much information as possible

Chloe Hannay:

. Um, and if the meeting is going well

Chloe Hannay:

a positive outcome, I'll often ask the client then to fill in a briefing

Chloe Hannay:

document, which gives me a really good steer on their likes and dislikes.

Chloe Hannay:

Because it's very hard when you go into someone's house in the first instance

Chloe Hannay:

to necessarily know why they chose certain colors or why they haven't chosen

Chloe Hannay:

certain colors and pattern as well.

Chloe Hannay:

So it really helps to build up a clear picture of what that

Chloe Hannay:

client likes and dislikes.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think that's really important.

Chloe Hannay:

So the other thing, I guess that's really, really key is to know if you're

Chloe Hannay:

going to, when you do meet them, is if you know you're going to get on.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I worked with a great person, fitterr, who always says to me, Chloe,

Chloe Hannay:

just listen to your inner voice.

Chloe Hannay:

And if the feeling is that we're not going to get on, um, as a, as a

Chloe Hannay:

designer and client, then I do try really hard to make sure that, you

Chloe Hannay:

know, that's not the case, but sometimes you just don't gel with everybody.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think I've come to learn over the last eight years or so

Chloe Hannay:

that actually, sometimes I'm not the right fit for someone or they

Chloe Hannay:

might not be the right fit for me.

Chloe Hannay:

Or maybe I just can't meet their deadlines sometimes.

Chloe Hannay:

Clients do have tight deadlines.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think that first meeting is key and it's about being honest with

Chloe Hannay:

yourself and with the client, but usually it's a really easy process.

Chloe Hannay:

And once I've sent through an estimate and the client will get

Chloe Hannay:

back in touch and sort of say yes or no, and then we'll go from there.

Chloe Hannay:

We'll start looking at fabrics and scoping out the project.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and it becomes, obviously it's a two way street, I don't

Chloe Hannay:

try and impose any particular style or, or kind of preferences

Chloe Hannay:

that I have, um, on, on a client.

Chloe Hannay:

Obviously it's not my space.

Chloe Hannay:

I don't live in it, but I do try and guide clients, um, with sort of sensible

Chloe Hannay:

decisions and explain the nuances of some of the things I'm sort of suggesting.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and hopefully then we can start to create a space that is going to

Chloe Hannay:

add value to their home and that they're going to want to spend time in.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that's brilliant.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you for explaining that.

Vicki Weinberg:

And so are you looking at, say, if you're looking at a room, are you

Vicki Weinberg:

looking for maybe things like the colours on the wall or the paper on the

Vicki Weinberg:

wall to the flooring, to the furniture?

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, I guess it depends on the scopes.

Vicki Weinberg:

I suppose some people might already have lovely flooring that they want to keep.

Vicki Weinberg:

But in theory you're looking at a room overall and suggesting all

Vicki Weinberg:

of the elements that go into that.

Chloe Hannay:

It depends.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, definitely that's part of what I'm absorbing when I walk

Chloe Hannay:

into a space for the first time.

Chloe Hannay:

I'm even, if they're not asking me for ideas about carpet or, or lights

Chloe Hannay:

or lamps or anything like that, or, sorry, lampshades, um, I'm,

Chloe Hannay:

I'm still absorbing kind of what it is that they've got in their room.

Chloe Hannay:

And then as the conversation goes on, I'll ask them if that's what they

Chloe Hannay:

want to keep or they want to take out.

Chloe Hannay:

Sometimes we're guided by a particular painting or a piece of furniture.

Chloe Hannay:

So it is key to kind of look at the place and what they've got.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, in terms of, in terms of the actual kind of clients and how they work.

Chloe Hannay:

A lot of them, I've sort of, I suppose I've segregated my clients

Chloe Hannay:

into three different types and, um, It's interesting, kind of to, to,

Chloe Hannay:

to do that because it helps sort of focus the mind and understand, and

Chloe Hannay:

really listen to what they want.

Chloe Hannay:

And I kind of, at first, the first type of client, I would say I've got, is when

Chloe Hannay:

I go and visit someone and they know, they know exactly what they want and they know

Chloe Hannay:

how they want to do it, or that they know how they want me to do it, I should say.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's just, it's a very simple, straightforward process.

Chloe Hannay:

They just want help with the execution and also encouragement.

Chloe Hannay:

You know, they've built a Pinterest board or they've got some ideas and they just

Chloe Hannay:

want someone else to say yes, that's going to work because of these reasons.

Chloe Hannay:

So that's sort of one, one key client type.

Chloe Hannay:

The second type., I'd say are clients who have ideas, but they're not quite

Chloe Hannay:

sure how to do it, or will it work or is it a bad idea because of X, Y, Z.

Chloe Hannay:

And so, um, you know, we'll then start building, building a picture

Chloe Hannay:

and sort of putting all those ideas together and a mood board or looking at

Chloe Hannay:

samples and just working out exactly, am I going to be able to deliver the

Chloe Hannay:

vision that's in there, in their head.

Chloe Hannay:

And then I'd say that the kind of the third type of clients I've

Chloe Hannay:

got, um, kind of know nothing.

Chloe Hannay:

And they're not really interested in interior design, but they know that they,

Chloe Hannay:

you know, they have a home and they want that home to be comfortable and they

Chloe Hannay:

want that home to be practical and to work for all members of the household.

Chloe Hannay:

So, but they just don't know how do it.

Chloe Hannay:

So they're keen to kind of hand over the project and they're generally, as I'd say,

Chloe Hannay:

most of my clients are very open to ideas.

Chloe Hannay:

And so it's, it's nice to have sort of three different types of

Chloe Hannay:

clients and, and go from that.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, in terms of which direction anyone wants to pursue.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, thank you for explaining it.

Vicki Weinberg:

Because I know there must be so many nuances.

Vicki Weinberg:

There's never going to be just a black and white answer as there probably

Vicki Weinberg:

isn't going to be to my next question.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I'm really curious about, so obviously you mentioned that you work

Vicki Weinberg:

with lots of different makers, so I'm really curious as to whether the

Vicki Weinberg:

things you suggest, the clients use.

Vicki Weinberg:

So is it all, um, uh, bespoke pieces that you work with makers to create?

Vicki Weinberg:

So cushions and curtains, or are you also looking at things that

Vicki Weinberg:

you can source from other places?

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm just genuinely curious about how that all works, because it's, I guess

Vicki Weinberg:

it's such uh, project, isn't it?

Vicki Weinberg:

How everything in the room comes together.

Chloe Hannay:

Absolutely.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's a minefield and of course the other thing you've got to be careful about

Chloe Hannay:

and be guided by is the client's budget, um, you know, sometimes clients can be

Chloe Hannay:

quite kind of, um, shocked I guess, by the cost of bespoke curtains and blinds.

Chloe Hannay:

But then when you explain the difference and you show them the

Chloe Hannay:

difference in terms of quality of the work that we're delivering or hoping

Chloe Hannay:

to deliver, they understand exactly what it is they're going to get for.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's not a sort of one size fits all from any number of high street retailers.

Chloe Hannay:

Not that I'm slacking off high street retailers, but in terms of

Chloe Hannay:

sourcing items, um, we do a mixture.

Chloe Hannay:

So I work with, uh, the lighting companies and, and we'll buy lighting from them.

Chloe Hannay:

But we might then personalize that, that lamp base with a, with a lampshade

Chloe Hannay:

and a fabric that works better for the client's room and matches the curtains,

Chloe Hannay:

for instance, in some way or compliments the curtains I should say in some way.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think it's really important just to always understand what the budget

Chloe Hannay:

is to look at where they want to spend money and to, um, look at what could

Chloe Hannay:

be reused as well from within the room.

Chloe Hannay:

Sometimes, you know, it's a case of just repainting something or changing,

Chloe Hannay:

changing, handles out, repositioning actually furniture within a room

Chloe Hannay:

makes a big difference and also potentially changing the lighting.

Chloe Hannay:

If you light a painting really well, then that can kind of completely

Chloe Hannay:

change it's the perception in the room.

Chloe Hannay:

So I would say that, um, there's a variety in terms of what we do.

Chloe Hannay:

It's not, um, it's not always bespoke, happy to kind of source client cushions

Chloe Hannay:

from a number of places, but equally there is, you know, if you, if you have a set

Chloe Hannay:

of cushions made, which are fabric that you've chosen with a trim that you've

Chloe Hannay:

chosen, they're completely unique to you.

Chloe Hannay:

And a lot of the clients that I have, they want that, they

Chloe Hannay:

want something that's completely unique to them and to their room.

Chloe Hannay:

And that's what will make their home perfect.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you for explaining that.

Vicki Weinberg:

And it's so interesting.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think, because I guess.

Vicki Weinberg:

When you talk about the products side of your business, I guess

Vicki Weinberg:

there are these two elements to it.

Vicki Weinberg:

So there's what I guess your designing to actually create.

Vicki Weinberg:

I want to say from scratch, maybe not from scratch, but maybe you're looking at a

Vicki Weinberg:

chair and thinking' oh we could, we could upholster it like this', for example.

Vicki Weinberg:

And then there's, you know, thinking about the things that you can

Vicki Weinberg:

potentially, things that already exist, that you can source or

Vicki Weinberg:

maybe, or maybe modify as you said.

Vicki Weinberg:

There's a, a lot involved.

Chloe Hannay:

There is a lot involved and also it can be

Chloe Hannay:

quite a lengthy process as well.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think sometimes one of the first questions I always ask clients

Chloe Hannay:

is, you know, what are you, what are your timescales for this?

Chloe Hannay:

You know, have you got a deadline?

Chloe Hannay:

Um, are we, are we trying to deliver this within some crazy crazy timescale.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's always a delight when someone says, no, I'm quite relaxed.

Chloe Hannay:

You know, this is something I want to start in the autumn or you

Chloe Hannay:

know, that there isn't quite such a time sensitive issue and I've

Chloe Hannay:

got a project on at the moment.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and it's on a very tight time scale and it's been a bit kind

Chloe Hannay:

of, you know, um, harem scarem.

Chloe Hannay:

And, but it's also been really enjoyable because we've made quick

Chloe Hannay:

decisions, the clients very decisive and it's been really enjoyable.

Chloe Hannay:

So there's a good balance, I think in terms of how things, how things work.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, oh, I was going to say something else then but I can't think of what it wa.

Vicki Weinberg:

Don't worry.

Vicki Weinberg:

It sounds like you needs a lot of project management skills.

Chloe Hannay:

Yes, exactly.

Chloe Hannay:

And lots of project management skills are required.

Chloe Hannay:

And also an endless supply of post-it notes and my to do list never really

Chloe Hannay:

sort of seems to get any less.

Chloe Hannay:

But that's kind of, that's the way I work best, I think, with a,

Chloe Hannay:

with a never-ending to do this.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think the other thing that's obviously had an impact and it'd

Chloe Hannay:

been strange not to mention it, but it's obviously, it's COVID as well.

Chloe Hannay:

So the last two years have had a real impact, you know, work, um, was busy

Chloe Hannay:

before we went into lockdown and it has absolutely continued, which is fantastic.

Chloe Hannay:

But interestingly, now we're seeing more issues with supply.

Chloe Hannay:

Fabric supply of, of items that we've ordered for clients' houses.

Chloe Hannay:

And actually it started to get more frustrating kind of 18 months, two years

Chloe Hannay:

down the line in terms of deliverables than it was when we first started.

Chloe Hannay:

So it's, um, it's a constant state of kind of negotiation and

Chloe Hannay:

communication with suppliers and clients to get um, everything on track.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think also talking back to your point about timescales, um, this is also

Chloe Hannay:

an industry where people want to have things in place by certain, certain times.

Chloe Hannay:

So for instance, Christmas is always, or the run-up to Christmas.

Chloe Hannay:

You know, we all know how, how busy that is for anyone, um, trying to juggle

Chloe Hannay:

work and a family and all of that.

Chloe Hannay:

I would say in the interior design world is usually pretty manic

Chloe Hannay:

from about September onwards.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so yes, any clients that want anything please start thinking about it now.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, because we do put this pressure on ourselves to have these perfect

Chloe Hannay:

houses for the, you know, the Christmas period, but my word, it can be

Chloe Hannay:

difficult to, to, to make that happen without plenty of planning beforehand.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I can imagine.

Vicki Weinberg:

And thank you for bringing up COVID as well.

Vicki Weinberg:

Because that's something that in a way we sort of almost feel like we've started

Vicki Weinberg:

to move on from it, but actually as you say, that, that the impact is still there.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I know that there's a global shortage of just so many things at the moment, um,

Vicki Weinberg:

which I think has impacted lots of people.

Vicki Weinberg:

Out of interest though were you able to still continue during

Vicki Weinberg:

COVID or did you have to adapt.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I think I was really lucky.

Chloe Hannay:

I had quite a few projects underway and, um, had some, some clients

Chloe Hannay:

who were happy to continue.

Chloe Hannay:

Obviously we, we were on zoom quite a lot and phone calls a lot more, I

Chloe Hannay:

suppose, as opposed to site visits.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and really work I would say that my work wasn't affected.

Chloe Hannay:

The quantity of work went up, and that was great.

Chloe Hannay:

But I think because, because materials were still available, we

Chloe Hannay:

were able to keep getting items made.

Chloe Hannay:

And we're obviously, we're very careful with any site visits that

Chloe Hannay:

we did once we were allowed to start doing site visits, you know,

Chloe Hannay:

after the initial first few months.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so I'd say it hasn't, it didn't really had an impact.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, but I think what has happen now is that COVID gets the blame for

Chloe Hannay:

a lot of things, even though, you know, we're out of it, we don't have

Chloe Hannay:

any lock downs, you know, anymore.

Chloe Hannay:

I think the delays that the delays that we've incurred, they're now an

Chloe Hannay:

excuse for kind of things taking longer than they should do, and obviously

Chloe Hannay:

energy prices are pushing the cost of materials up and production.

Chloe Hannay:

So we're unfortunately, a lot of my costings have had to go up slightly

Chloe Hannay:

because we've got to pass all of those, these, um, those surcharges on.

Chloe Hannay:

So it's been a little bit frustrating in that sense.

Chloe Hannay:

And obviously the other thing that I think, um, has become a struggle sometimes

Chloe Hannay:

is also courier companies as well.

Chloe Hannay:

You know, we all know how hard push they are to deliver.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think that's something that we've been at the mercy at for the

Chloe Hannay:

last few years because of COVID.

Chloe Hannay:

So I guess it's being, understanding where you can, but also wanting to keep

Chloe Hannay:

everything on track as much as possible.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I think as well, this is possibly an advantage of working with sort

Vicki Weinberg:

of smaller makers rather than perhaps large, because I'm under the

Vicki Weinberg:

impression, and tell me if I'm wrong Chloe, you're working with individual

Vicki Weinberg:

makers in most instances, rather than big factories, because I guess those

Vicki Weinberg:

people were able to still keep going.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, that's the case.

Chloe Hannay:

So we've worked with a few, a few suppliers in big factories, and

Chloe Hannay:

obviously they largely shut down and they shut down for longer.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, but I think they, they did pivot quite quickly.

Chloe Hannay:

Some of the fabric companies, when they realized obviously people

Chloe Hannay:

still wanted to place orders and were able to that still happen.

Chloe Hannay:

But I'd say a large percentage of the people that I work with are yes, people

Chloe Hannay:

who have, you're working at home.

Chloe Hannay:

So, you know, they were, they were fortunate in that sense as was I,

Chloe Hannay:

that they were able to still continue with work and just about able to

Chloe Hannay:

juggle that into, um, family life with, with, with homeschooling.

Chloe Hannay:

So yeah, not, not a lot of fun.

Chloe Hannay:

I would say for the most people but we got through it.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah and good that everyone could keep going as well

Vicki Weinberg:

to some extent, Out of interest, if you don't mind me asking, while,

Vicki Weinberg:

while are we talking about this.

Vicki Weinberg:

How did you, um, pull together your network of people, of makers to work with?

Chloe Hannay:

It's um, it's well, I suppose it's, it's kind of never ending

Chloe Hannay:

because, um, businesses change and people might decide that they don't

Chloe Hannay:

want to, um, they don't want to work with others, not for any dramatic

Chloe Hannay:

reasons, but just because their own, their own timings change or whatever.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so I guess it's, it's a, it's a case of kind of constantly

Chloe Hannay:

networking and trying to find people who can help and who are willing

Chloe Hannay:

to help and who you get along with.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, that, that I'd say is a key thing.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, I, I've been a part of, um, various networking groups in the past, and that's

Chloe Hannay:

been a really good way of finding support and help, um, through kind of virtual,

Chloe Hannay:

you know, virtual assistants or, you know, a new upholsterer, that kind of thing.

Chloe Hannay:

Um.

Chloe Hannay:

Oh, photographers for projects or anyone to help with social media.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think it's just been, I've been lucky in a sense that social media

Chloe Hannay:

has provided the answer to a lot of, lots of the problems I've faced in

Chloe Hannay:

terms of finding support, which I think when you're a small business and

Chloe Hannay:

you've got to be Jack of all trades.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, you've, you've really got to work hard to find the people who

Chloe Hannay:

will support you and who you get along with and who understands you.

Chloe Hannay:

So I would say that it's, it is a constant process of making sure

Chloe Hannay:

you've got the right team around you and you're supporting them and

Chloe Hannay:

giving them the information they need to then help you in return.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, thank you for that.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I hope you don't mind me asking.

Vicki Weinberg:

I, I just, it just occurred to me that you're possibly the first

Vicki Weinberg:

person I've spoken to on the podcast who started out purely, started

Vicki Weinberg:

out doing the making yourself, but now have a team to support you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, I don't think I've spoken to anyone else in that position, which

Vicki Weinberg:

is why I wanted to ask the question.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, for anyone listening, who thinks, well, maybe I could have

Vicki Weinberg:

someone, you know, helping me.

Vicki Weinberg:

Whatever it, whatever it is.

Vicki Weinberg:

Because I think sometimes when you run a small business and I have definitely

Vicki Weinberg:

been guilty of this, you get into the mindset of, you know, you're,

Vicki Weinberg:

you're the person who does it all.

Vicki Weinberg:

Um, and I think a lot of us can, can spend a long time in that space

Vicki Weinberg:

of just thinking you have to do the making and the admin, right.

Chloe Hannay:

Yeah, definitely.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's really hard, I think as well to delegate because when you're self

Chloe Hannay:

employed, it is, it's everything.

Chloe Hannay:

And I remember as a child, I, I had this, both my parents were self

Chloe Hannay:

employed and I really, really, really didn't want to be self-employed

Chloe Hannay:

because I could see how stressful it was, how hard they had to work.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, and how stressful it was at times.

Chloe Hannay:

And I was adamant, absolutely adamant that it wasn't something I was going

Chloe Hannay:

to do and to now be doing it um, I sort of look at myself and think, oh,

Chloe Hannay:

crumbs, why am I in this situation?

Chloe Hannay:

But it works really well in terms of family life.

Chloe Hannay:

And the logistical challenges of my life.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think it is one of the things you do end up having to realize that if you're

Chloe Hannay:

going to have a product and also you've got a service then, or any kind of small

Chloe Hannay:

business, where you've got to realize that that help is out there and just for

Chloe Hannay:

the business to succeed for people to buy your product or want to use your service,

Chloe Hannay:

you can't still be solely responsible.

Chloe Hannay:

For all your Instagram, all your social media, all your invoicing,

Chloe Hannay:

all the ordering, all the admin that goes on behind the scenes.

Chloe Hannay:

It's, you've got to start to ask for help.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think that was a really big realization for me that I, I cannot do

Chloe Hannay:

it all, especially, um, as I've alluded to with my family life, as well it's,

Chloe Hannay:

it needs, something has to give and asking for help is, is really important.

Chloe Hannay:

And also, I think then working alongside other people who are

Chloe Hannay:

helping you, it gives you input.

Chloe Hannay:

They have ideas and they are passionate about what you do as well.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so I think that's been a really enjoyable part of the last few years

Chloe Hannay:

as the business has grown is actually has, has actually been delegating to

Chloe Hannay:

other people and understanding, you know, what goes on in the outside world.

Chloe Hannay:

It's not just my own little silo that I sit in day in, day out.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes total sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

And I think because as well as you've alluded to, I guess if you have a

Vicki Weinberg:

business where that is, you know, as yours is, which is a service and

Vicki Weinberg:

a product, you know, you have, you offer both, um, I guess there comes

Vicki Weinberg:

a point where you physically cannot be the person doing both if you want

Vicki Weinberg:

to expand beyond a certain point,.

Chloe Hannay:

Definitely a hundred percent.

Chloe Hannay:

It just out, there just aren't enough hours in the day and, you

Chloe Hannay:

know, weekends are there to have a break in the working week.

Chloe Hannay:

So it's yeah, it's, it's, it's so important to stop I would say.

Vicki Weinberg:

Absolutely.

Vicki Weinberg:

So I have one final question Chloe if that's okay.

Vicki Weinberg:

And it's a question I ask all of my guests, which is what is

Vicki Weinberg:

your number one piece of advice for other product creators?

Chloe Hannay:

Okay.

Chloe Hannay:

Well, I had a hunch this question might be coming up.

Chloe Hannay:

So I did have, I did have a think about it.

Chloe Hannay:

I am not very good at just sticking to a rule.

Chloe Hannay:

And so I've actually probably got about sort of three or four bits of advice.

Chloe Hannay:

And so I'm hoping I'm allowed to share those because I think it's, I've

Chloe Hannay:

had some really valuable learnings on this kind of, oh I hate the word

Chloe Hannay:

journey, but that's what I'm on.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think the key thing I would say is to know your customer and when you go

Chloe Hannay:

and visit them, take the time to listen to them and what they're asking of

Chloe Hannay:

you, why, why have they approached you?

Chloe Hannay:

And there must be something that you've done that they like, or that they say

Chloe Hannay:

there must be something that they've they've heard or they've seen or viewed.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think it's always good to kind of ask the question and reassure them

Chloe Hannay:

that you can still provide that same level of service and expertise for them.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, the, I suppose the second thing we talked about a little bit is, um, as

Chloe Hannay:

a small business, you are relying upon suppliers and this, this is really hard.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think it's really good to ensure that you've got the people,,

Chloe Hannay:

the right people around you and that you are working with them

Chloe Hannay:

and with their timescales as well.

Chloe Hannay:

It's quite difficult, you know, you're not going to make any

Chloe Hannay:

friends if you're demanding about people fullfiling your timescales.

Chloe Hannay:

You've got to, it's got to be some flex in the world.

Chloe Hannay:

I think that's really been really important for me.

Chloe Hannay:

So, um, knowing, knowing who's helping you and looking after them is

Chloe Hannay:

a really good is a really good, um, sort of thing to have in the back of

Chloe Hannay:

your mind, we're all human and we've all got kind of demands on our time.

Chloe Hannay:

I think it's also good to always ensure that you try and tell your

Chloe Hannay:

clients when things aren't going to be delivered on time and to communicate

Chloe Hannay:

that as quickly as possible to them.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think the last two years have shown how key that communication is.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think also the other thing I would say is take on clients you like and think

Chloe Hannay:

will work well with you and vice versa.

Chloe Hannay:

And we can't be expected to get along with everyone in the world.

Chloe Hannay:

And I think I've, I'm definitely guilty of saying yes, to all

Chloe Hannay:

business that comes my way.

Chloe Hannay:

I have a fear of the work drying up and sometimes I've taken on projects

Chloe Hannay:

and I've thought, oh gosh, I hope we're not going to run into you.

Chloe Hannay:

Hope this is all going to go smoothly.

Chloe Hannay:

And 9 times out of 10, it does.

Chloe Hannay:

And it's brilliant, but I do sometimes worry that, you know,

Chloe Hannay:

that that might not be the case.

Chloe Hannay:

And I'd say the last thing, um, for any, any business owner really, um, create

Chloe Hannay:

your own products, um, provider is be re be really realistic about your logistics.

Chloe Hannay:

You know, um, my home life is quite demanding and so I have to be careful

Chloe Hannay:

about how much time I actually spend traveling, um, travel time to me, it kind

Chloe Hannay:

of kills creativity and that to do list in the back of your mind only grows as you

Chloe Hannay:

drive further and further away from home.

Chloe Hannay:

So I think sometimes just be really mindful of what you can actually

Chloe Hannay:

give in the hours that you need to spend sitting at your desk.

Chloe Hannay:

The schemes for clients and putting together that designs because

Chloe Hannay:

actually that's what matters.

Chloe Hannay:

It doesn't matter that you're chasing a client, who's an

Chloe Hannay:

extra 20 miles down the road.

Chloe Hannay:

If it's not really a project that's going to give you, um, kind of a

Chloe Hannay:

spark of enthusiasm and excitement.

Chloe Hannay:

Um, so I think it's really key to start to think about your logistics and, and,

Chloe Hannay:

and organize your time effectively.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you and absolutely no problems giving more

Vicki Weinberg:

than one piece of valuable advice.

Vicki Weinberg:

So thank you so much for that.

Vicki Weinberg:

And thank you for being so prepared.

Chloe Hannay:

Well, I tried.

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm getting a real sense of what it must be

Vicki Weinberg:

like to work with you Chloe.

Vicki Weinberg:

You're very, I can tell you're very organized.

Vicki Weinberg:

Well, thank you so much for absolutely everything that you've shared.

Vicki Weinberg:

I've found it fascinating talking to you and yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you.

Chloe Hannay:

My pleasure.

Chloe Hannay:

It's been lovely talking to you, Vicki.

Chloe Hannay:

Thank you so much for listening right to the end of this episode.

Chloe Hannay:

Do remember that you can get the full back catalogues and lots of free resources

Chloe Hannay:

on my website, vickiweinberg.com.

Chloe Hannay:

Please do remember to rate and review this episode if you've enjoyed it

Chloe Hannay:

and also share it with a friend who you think might find it useful.