Start-up story: How two busy mums are turning their talent into a business

Start-up story: How two busy mums are turning their talent into a business
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation

Posted: Fri 1st Feb 2013

Charlotte Denison and Charlotte Smith both have busy careers and children. But this hasn't stopped them from setting up a small home business selling upcycled vintage furniture. Lima Curtis spoke to the two mums who are turning their talent into a business.

Get inspired and boost your business at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 21 October 2016. Find out more and book and a place here.

With young families and demanding law careers, you would think setting up a small business would be the last thing on the cards for two new mums, writes Lima. But, when Charlotte Dennison and Charlotte Smith attended a furniture painting workshop, they decided to turn their new hobby into a business.

The pair, both 32 and living in North Yorkshire, set up Lovely Things last year, selling hand painted vintage furniture and accessories, and upcycling (otherwise known as sprucing up!) old belongings.

Start-up story | Charlotte Dennison of Lovely Things

"We met when we were working for a very small local solicitors' firm and we quickly became good friends," explains Charlotte D (left), a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service. "We attended a local workshop for hand painting vintage furniture and loved the instant change and character of simply painting wood. "After lots and lots of practice painting, sanding, waxing, distressing and buffing (all by hand) we decided to try and sell some pieces," she continues.

"We realised we were onto something when we got calls from people wanting to see the pieces after we had put photos of them up on Facebook. We haven't looked back since."

Managing jobs, business and family

However, the mums admit, with children ranging between the ages of 10 months and 12 years, keeping on top of their workload can be challenging and rely a lot on the support of their friends, families and partners. "We are terrible at keeping a track of how long an item takes to paint," admits Charlotte S_,_ a legal assistant for Ryedale Council. "The kids go to bed and we get the brushes out, so it is literally a kitchen table business. "We first started painting furniture together for friends and family and then we then put a couple of items on eBay and to our surprise they sold! "As we are still in the very early days, we keep our own books and our overheads are low,"

Charlotte S continues. "Our target market is anyone who appreciates the time it takes to do something by hand to create a one off. At the moment interest is high, people are thinking more about where they're shopping, about sustainability and above all we find people like to shop local. "We don't have fixed prices for the items, but four chairs and a table can reach up to £399, and we'd charge £50 for a single chair and pad. However, we always invite customers to make offers."

Popping up in Malton

Start-up story | Furniture from Lovely Things

Initially the pair wanted to rent out their own shop for three months, but found the costs were just too high, and their protests for landlords The Fitzwilliam Estate to be forward thinking and support local retailers fell on deaf ears. But word-of-mouth spread and, after showcasing their goods at a craft fair in Pickering and a market in Malton, they finally got residency in a local interior design shop."We were approached by Sarah Clark, an interior designer and owner of a huge, gorgeous shop and she suggested we think about having a pop-up shop inside hers," explains Charlotte D.

"You could have knocked us down with a feather. We had the meeting, agreed the terms and within a few months we had a large area in this fabulous shop filled with our lovely things." And things are looking up for the legal eagles as interest in their unique products grows and a selection of boutiques and florists in Yorkshire now stock the brand.

"Now we're branching out and supplying some of our large handmade fabric notice boards to a florist. We did contemplate a website but with Facebook and Twitter it's hard to justify the cost. We have a few orders to paint customers' existing furniture and fancy trying a few new techniques so we'll see how it goes. It really is a case of watch this space!"

Lima Curtis is a journalist who writes about business, the environment and science for Expert Market.

Get inspired and boost your business at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 21 October 2016. Find out more and book and a place here.

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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