Welcome back to ‘Interview With A Mum In Business‘. Today I’m introducing to you Colleen, an incredibly talented illustrator and the creator behind children’s interior company Little Carousel. She is also kindly giving away one of her hand-drawn, vibrant, illustrated prints today to a very lucky reader. You can enter the competition at the bottom of this post.
Before we get started with the interview, I’ll just share with you a little bit more about this series, in case you are new to Life Unexpected. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am so passionate about supporting Mums who have created their own business. I’m not only a work at home Mum myself, but my job sees me helping small businesses on a daily basis to grow their social media channels and to create their brand stories. I created the ‘Mum In Business’ series, as an extension to my job, so I could support small Mum-run businesses even more and also share with you a rare behind the scenes of what it takes to grow your own business around the juggle of family life. I hope these interviews inspire you to get started on your dream!
If you are a Mum with a business and you wanted to take part, get in touch by dropping me an e-mail.
Interview With A Mum In Business Featuring: Little Carousel
I instantly fell in love with the Little Carousel brand, when I first saw some of their little pillows on Instagram. They were so colourful and vibrant and I loved just how unique and fun they were compared to lots of things that are now popular on the market.
I knew I had to interview Colleen for this series when I found out Little Carousel was a Mum-run business. Her products are so beautiful and the fact that she illustrates and then hand sews them herself, is incredible.
I’m going to hand over the reigns to Colleen now, who is going to share with us a little bit more of the ‘behind the scenes’ of her illustration and design led business and how she balances it all with family life.
Tell us a bit about your business? Why and when did you start it?
Little Carousel is a combination of my love for illustrating and making for children. I design and handcraft my own soft toys, baby rattles, cushions and art prints.
My online shop opened in November 2016 but I had spent almost a year beforehand planning, creating designs and working up the courage to actually do it!
I’ve been an illustrator since my twenties so that side of my business has always been there but I only got into sewing when I was pregnant with my first daughter 5 years ago. I wanted to hand make some things to decorate her room and I even made her some tiny clothes to wear. I totally fell in love with sewing.
It wasn’t long before I started making fabric toys for my daughter and my friends children. Eventually I struck on the idea of getting my own illustrations digitally printed onto cotton and sewing them into my own toy designs. The idea of Little Carousel was born and quickly gathered pace from there.
Where do you like to work from?
I work from a spare room in our family home and really love the space. It is my creative sanctuary. I used to work in the smallest room in our house but as the business has grown we decided to swap two rooms to make more space. Working from home on your own can feel quite lonely and can take some getting used to. But over the years I’ve grown to love it and now crave that time alone to draw and make.
How do you balance both work and family life?
I’ve come to accept that while my children are still young getting the perfect balance is impossible. No two weeks are the same so it is hard to plan too much in advance and I often fit work into tiny pockets of time each day. I often end up working in the evening after the girls have gone to bed and at weekends when my husband is off work. But little by little things get done and I always make progress. I’ve learnt that even spending 10 minutes on something can make a massive difference overall.
What is your vision/dream for your business?
I plan to grow the illustration side of my business. I also work on illustrated projects that aren’t related to Little Carousel. I would like to bring the two closer together.
As well as continuing to add to the range of art prints, I would like to have my illustrations printed on cards and other stationery products with the aim of being stocked in more shops.
What have been your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
Getting to grips with social media and marketing myself has been a big challenge. I’ve never been the best at shouting about what I do. Artists and makers often just want to make the work and would love for someone else to take care of that side of things. But I’ve learned to thrown myself into it and gradually it has become easier and more natural. It feels like there is still lots more to do with it all but my experiences so far have really built my confidence and that is half the battle.
What has been the highlight of running your own business?
How it has allowed me to grow creatively and opened up a lot of new and exciting opportunities for me.
I have also really enjoyed finding friendly creative communities through Instagram and marketplaces that I’m a part of. These communities are a great source of support and inspiration, especially when you work by yourself at home.
How did you fund your business?
I’ve never had any outside funding so initially used savings to get started. Since then I’ve relied on earnings from the business to fund things as I go. I think this has probably impacted on how quickly my business has been able to grow but the advantage to that is having the extra time to develop and improve things.
What advice would you give to other mums starting a business?
It is a juggle but can be very rewarding and fulfilling. Be prepared to work a lot of late nights and learn many new skills. Running a business yourself can often mean you are the designer, maker, website builder, social media and marketing manager, photographer, accountant and everything in between. And don’t be afraid of trying new things or making mistakes. I’ve learnt a lot from my mistakes. Everything I’ve made, good or bad, has shaped what I do today.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
My work always has to fit around my children and home life. Up until now I’ve had two hours to work in the morning when my youngest daughter takes her nap and my eldest daughter is at school. Then after 7pm I’ll fit in another 2 hours or more of work with a little down time before bed. This has been increasingly difficult to manage so I’ve recently decided to organise childcare to enable me to get some full days work. I think I’ll feel spoilt with all those daylight working hours!
Do you have any tips to banish the mum guilt we all feel?
For me it’s all about putting away the phone! When I’m not working I try to not be on my phone and give full attention to my daughters. Particularly if we are out somewhere or doing an activity at home. The phone can be a huge distraction. If it’s not around it is so much easier to stay totally focused on them. It makes for better quality time together and really helps alleviate my mum guilt.
Do you ever get the chance to have time off for yourself? If so, what do you like to do?
This is a hard one! Even now when I do get time to myself, I tend to use it to catch up on work or other things that need doing. I think years of chasing your tail can do that to you. I used to be a great relaxer. But now, not so good.
However, what I will always make time for is good food! When I meet friends or go out with my husband it will always involve a meal and drinks in interesting spots.
What is your favourite thing about the products that you create?
I love that they can become treasured keepsakes for their tiny owners. I’ve had lovely comments and photos from customers telling me that their child’s favourite soft toy is one of my designs. That is a wonderful feeling.
Thank you so much Colleen for letting me interview you! Colleen is is also kindly giving away one of her illustrated prints to a lucky winner. The winner can choose their favourite from her website. To enter, simply fill in the rafflecopter below…
a Rafflecopter giveaway
How beautiful are Little Carousel products and how amazing is Colleen?
I cannot tell you how much I loved this interview. Being someone who works from home too, it’s so nice to hear another persons story and how similar it is to my own. Especially hearing that someone else works after the kids have gone to bed, how the balance isn’t always easy and how sometimes its a struggle to find the confidence to shout about what you do! I love that this interview highlights that building a business is definitely not easy, but at the same time, it is so worth it. Thank you so much Colleen!
You can find out more about Colleen and Little Carousel here:
That’s it for today’s interview. If you missed last weeks interview with Chloe from ‘Cotton Clara’, you can catch up with it here: