‘Amazing journey’ for illustrator
What is your business?
My Painted Bear evolved when I was exploring themes of childhood in my art. The illustrations of the teddy bears and characters I was creating seemed to make connections with others. A lot of my time is spent working on personalised drawings for many occasions. I have also expanded into a product range of cards, prints and notebooks.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up doing what you are doing now?
I have always been creative and tried to establish a career in which I can use my strengths. I graduated from the University of Ulster majoring in Fine and Applied Arts. I exhibited my paintings for many years. As the art market declined in our economic downturn, I had to find another outlet for my art. I didn’t know I would end up working as an illustrator. It’s been an amazing journey.
Did you always want to run your own enterprise?
I didn’t really ever aim to run my own business but I kept coming up with ideas that seemed to lead that way.
What skills/qualifications do you require for the role?
I think you need to be dedicated: it’s a 24 hour, seven days a week commitment. I would say you would need to be creative and have a good awareness of some business aspects like marketing, product knowledge and also keeping accurate accounts.
Has your business been affected by the current recession?
No. I send a lot of my work out across the water, mostly UK but it’s now venturing further afield. It has gone out to America, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy and even Dubai.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting up and what support did you get?
It is always daunting trying to start up a business and weighing up whether or not I would be able to survive independently. By entering the Test Trade Programme with Carrickfergus Enterprise, I have been given the freedom to explore my options, with help and support there if needed. I also previously completed the Boot Camp Programme through Carrickfergus Enterprise. I also had tremendous support from my close friends and family.
What tips could you offer those considering starting their own business?
Reach for the stars. I would say: go for it! But you must be committed and willing to sacrifice a lot of time. Running your own business will take up the majority of your days and nights. You have to be there and be switched on. You have to stay motivated and input energy into your product, always pushing for what’s next. If you are not excited about it, how would you expect someone else to be?
There is always going to be someone doing what you are doing, so you need to understand your product well, what is going to set you apart, or more importantly, what’s going to make you unique, bigger, and better.
Keep some structure and put up some boundaries, although I am still struggling to achieve this. I reckon it’s one of the hardest things to do. At some point you will need to stand down and switch off. I think you need to rest to be able to give your best. I have burnt out a few times. There can be guilt too, about not spending enough time with family and friends. So try to keep a good balance of work and play.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
I have so many ideas, they are endless and this is what is so exciting. I really want to break into the retail sector on a larger scale and take my work out and about and further afield. I want to create a new range working with, fabric, ceramic and many more paper products. I think it’s hard to contain the possibilities and keep them in a manageable frame and be realistic about what I can handle. I think at some point I will need to employ others as I will, no doubt, hit problems with my capacity.
What do you get up to in your free time?
I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I have some to myself, I love to spend it with my little boy Jesse. He is five, and inspires the majority of my work. I love to get out walking and reading and just spending quality time with those that I love.
If you could swap places with anyone who would it be and why?
I am just happy to be me, I wouldn’t swap, I feel very blessed to be in the position that I am in.
The Go Your Own Way Series is in association with Carrickfergus Enterprise. Based at Meadowbank Road, the agency offers a comprehensive range of initiatives designed to assist those who want to start or grow their own business. It can be contacted on 028 93 369528.