Posted: Tue 19th Oct 2021
Festival of Female Entrepreneurs is just around the corner! Ahead of the much-anticipated event on Friday 22 October, we sat down with Tiff & Lara from Brush and Bubbles to find out more about their journey into entrepreneurship.
What inspired you to start Brush and Bubbles?
“We met at an acting audition about six years ago when we were both down to the final five actors for the same role. We hit it off straight away and became instant friends.
“We made a number of short film projects together but were both desperate for something we could call our own and throw our all into from more of a business side. The acting world can be so unpredictable and you’re constantly waiting for the approval and opinions of those higher up.
“We wanted to set up a company in the arts with the idea of bringing people together over something fun and creative. Art can often be seen as scary, so our aim from the beginning was to eliminate the scary aspect of painting and guide everyone though with step-by-step instructions.
“The business idea was thought up as we shared a bottle of prosecco one evening, so naturally it seemed like a great idea to incorporate bubbly into the business somehow. It’s at that moment that Brush and Bubbles was born…after the name Sip and Splodge was vetoed.”
What did the early days of running the business look like?
“Once we came up with the initial idea and name of the business, it didn't take us long before we’d registered the company, secured the social media handles and ordered all of our art kit materials.
“Neither of us come from business backgrounds or have university degrees and we had no investor funding, so we decided to invest a small amount of money each into the business so we could purchase all our art equipment. We ran our first class for friends and family to get some honest feedback and once we’d seen that they loved it, there was no stopping us.
“The early days of the business consisted of us desperately trying to spread the word, finding venues, interviewing artists, googling a lot and trying to learn everything we needed to know about running a business.
“It was hard work but we were determined and we’ve always been able to laugh along the way.”
What’s your big vision for the business? What's your purpose?
“We have endless ideas and dreams for the business (we even have a spreadsheet called ‘dreams’ which we list all of our goals and ambitions on…it’s a pretty long list).
“We adore the little community Brush and Bubbles has formed over the years and only hope that we can grow and continue to spread the joys and benefits of painting. We would love to have our very own space one day, somewhere welcoming, fun and relaxing, a hub where guests can come and enjoy a painting class or just pop in for a chat and a cuppa.
“We would love to work with more charities in the future and have always wanted to pop up at retirement homes and hospitals to paint with the residents and patients.
"Our very own Brush and Bubbles art supplies would be incredible, and we would love to explore the idea of helping other entrepreneurs and founders out there who might also want to start their own business but don’t know where to begin. We strive to one day be able to spread the Brush and Bubbles word and hold events in every city across the country and even the world!”
Was there a turning point when you felt like the business was taking off?
“It got to the point about two years into the business when things really began to pick up. We were both answering emails well past midnight and couldn't actually keep up with the demand for classes.
“We had also started popping up in other cities around the UK and managing it all with just the two of us became almost impossible. This was an incredible, but extremely overwhelming, feeling. We always strived on delivering a five-star service and it got to the point where we started to drop balls - there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
“At this point in time both of us were still running all the classes which meant we spent the days frantically typing behind a laptop screen and spent the evenings and weekends running events. You could often see us sprinting through the streets of London wearing paint covered dungarees and welding an easel. It was at this point that we realised we needed help and put an ad out to hire our very first employee.”
How did you navigate running the business during the pandemic?
“Having to cancel all our classes when the pandemic hit was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do in the business. Not only was it an incredibly uncertain time in general but for an events company who relies on people coming together to enjoy an event, it was truly devastating.
“We had to cancel hen dos, baby showers, parties, office team bonding events and all our public workshops. After working so hard over three years, getting Brush and Bubbles to a point where guests were choosing to celebrate their special occasion with us, it was truly awful having to call them all up and cancel.
“It then becomes a sink or swim situation; we either call it a day, fold the business and drown our sorrows in prosecco or we figure out a way to carry on and bring paint to the people. It didn’t take us long to decide that we would re-create the Brush and Bubbles experience from the comfort of everyone's homes.
“We worked with our local supplier (who, along with his wife, is now an integral part of the Bubble Family) to build our very own ‘At Home Art Kits’. We designed the boxes ourselves, chose the art materials and were able to send them out safely to everyone's front doorsteps.
“It was then down to the tutorial side. This is where our acting and filmmaking background came in handy. We had studio lights already from years of self-tape auditioning from home and the
knowledge of film editing. It also helped the Lara paints and so we soon had a full-fledged operation in place. Tiff was handling the orders, logistics and numbers and Lara was filming, editing and uploading the painting tutorials to our new YouTube channel.
“And so, what started out as our biggest catastrophe turned into something special. We sold 2,000 art kits during the first lockdown, and the messages of encouragement, support and thanks got us through an extremely difficult time.”
What advice would you give aspiring female entrepreneurs looking to launch something?
“It’s been so amazing seeing and hearing from other female entrepreneurs who reach out to us daily on our social media with their new business ideas. We often say that starting is the hardest part but if you have a good idea and back what you’re doing the rest falls into place.”
“It’s nice to take things slowly, it’s important to have big dreams but if you start a business with the sole aim to make millions then you’ll soon be disappointed. You have to love what you do - this seems obvious but there's a misconception that when you have your own business you can work at your own pace at your own times, and although this is true in theory the reality is often different.”
“For us it was full-on, day and night, and if you don’t love what you’re doing the novelty can quickly wear off. The other advice we would give is that there are a lot of business terminologies out there that can put you off. However, you don’t need to have a business background or degree to start your own business. We didn’t even have a business plan, and we still don’t to this day.”
“We’ve made loads of mistakes along the way and are still learning each and every day but as long as you have a willingness to learn, the determination to make it work and a sparkle in your eye when you think about your idea, then you’re on the right track.”
What would you go back and do differently?
“Honestly, we’ve tried many ideas and avenues which didn't quite work but we wouldn't do anything differently because if we hadn’t tried them we wouldn't know.
“Every decision and mistake made has taught us so much and there's value in making your own mistakes. People can tell you not to do something until the cows come home but sometimes you’ve got to do it yourself to know what works and doesn't work for you - there’s no ‘one glove fits all’.
“We wouldn't change a single thing we’ve done. If we could go back and do one thing differently, it would be that we started Brush and Bubbles earlier because we truly love what we do.”
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
“The best thing about running our own business is that we adore the people we get to meet along the way. This little business has brought us so much joy and every message we receive and conversation we have with one of our Bubblers (the name we’ve given to our guests) only spurs us on to do more. We love that painting can bring so much joy and mindfulness into the lives of the people who try it and we hope that this will continue.
“We also love and appreciate that we get to decide what we do, when we do it and where we want the business to go. We don’t have to ask permission or wait for approval - if we want something, we just go out and try and get it. We like things done yesterday, so when we have an idea it doesn't take us long until we try it and we love having the freedom to do so.”
What’s the hardest?
“The hardest part is having so many ideas we would love to explore but not having the endless funds to help support those ideas.
“This is definitely where investment can make a difference, however we’ve loved doing everything on our own so far and are determined that this won't hold us back going forward. There are days when everything feels like it's against you but there are also days that bring nothing but joy and opportunity.
We’re so lucky to have each other and that we truly support each other when we have to navigate our way through the harder days. We try to keep everything super positive and laugh through the downs because at the end of the day it’s just paint and a little bit of bubbly.”
Secure your tickets to Festival of Female Entrepreneurs today and hear from a wide range of brilliant speakers, including Tiff & Lara from Brush and Bubbles.