Welcome back to ‘Interview With A Mum In Business‘. Today I’m introducing to you Chloe, the homeware and jewellery designer behind the brand Cotton Clara. She is also kindly giving away one of her beautiful embroidery kits to a very lucky reader. You can enter the competition at the bottom of this post.
But first, if you’re new to Life Unexpected, let me share with you a little bit more about this series. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am so passionate about supporting Mums who have created their own business. This series has been created to be a platform for Mums to showcase what they do, as well as giving a rare behind the scenes of what it takes to follow your dreams around the juggle of family life.
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: Cotton Clara
This weeks interview is with Chloe, mum of two and the creator of home and lifestyle brand ‘Cotton Clara’. Chloe makes the most colourful, unique, embroidery kits and decorations, for both kids and grown-up spaces. To make her products she combines laser cut wood with fabric and thread and the outcome, as you’ll see below, is stunning!
I don’t want to give too much away though, so without further ado, here is Chloe from Cotton Clara!
Tell us a bit about your business? Why and when did you start it?
My business has evolved quite gradually so I don’t have a specific start date, it began after my 2nd son was born in 2014. I was loving being at home more and getting more time to be creative, compared to being in full time work, I think I just had extra head space. I was really determined to find something I could do that meant I didn’t have to go back to the day job. It would take me until September 2017 to get to the point where I could do that. So, I spent 3 years working on the business, getting it to a stage where it could support us as a family.
How did you get the idea for your business?
I wanted to make something for my first son for his nursery, before he was born. As children we’d been given some hand stitched baby blocks from America, I wanted to recreate these but could find nothing modern on the market. So, I started designing my own.
While my products have moved on from this particular technique and product, it was the start! I kept thinking of new ideas and broadened my ideas into modern craft kits. I wanted to do something unique and modern, something no-one had dreamt up before. This led to me designing the stitching onto wood kits. And the need to buy a laser cutter!
How did you fund your business?
With a loan from my father in law. I did this while I was still in a full time job, working to try and make the business fly. Since buying the laser I haven’t looked back. It’s allowed me to make into reality loads more product ideas that I had, so that now I don’t just do modern craft kits. I also make other homewares and jewellery too.
Where do you like to work from?
I have the attic space in our house. It’s nice and big and light. I can take great photos up here, but I am rapidly growing out of the space. We’re planning on building a studio in the garden very soon! I have my laser cutter in the conservatory which is not ideal. So, the garden studio is really needed! I just love being at home so I can be there to pick the boys up from school and I used to hate my commute!
How do you balance both work and family life?
I work every evening when the children are asleep, so get lots done then. There are also busy periods where I might have to work the weekends, but generally I get my work done when the children are at school. The difficulty is finding time for my husband! We both run our own businesses so we’re really busy and we have to really make an effort to book in time together or we just end up working all hours! I try and build exercise into most days. I find this massively helps my mental health and keep me balanced and sane!
What is your vision/dream for your business?
I have big dreams! I look at brands like Rice DK and Cath Kidston and dream of one day in the future expanding my business to something like this. I have so many ideas for new products and I’m passionate about my brand. In the medium term though, I want to grow the business to be big enough to have a small team. I want to expand my product range and expand my wholesale business.
What have been your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
Time has been the biggest challenge, there is just never enough of it! I want to do so much and there is so much more I can do to improve my business. I’ve overcome this by just powering on! Both of my boys are at school full time now so I’ve had more time than I’ve ever had!
So far I’ve managed to build the business with just the loan from my father in law for the laser cutter, everything else has been funded through the business. There is always more equipment to buy to make the business better, so funding has been another, lesser challenge.
What has been the highlight of running your own business?
Every time I sell something I get a buzz! One of the highlights was exhibiting at Pulse trade fair in May. I did feel like a proper business person! But, I can honestly day every day is a highlight. I’m poorer financially but I have never been happier, running my own business and being my own boss! I’m an ENFP and I think it suits my personality type down to the ground!
What advice would you give to other mums starting a business?
Focus your idea down as much as you can. Get as much help as you can, and just start. If I look back now, the things I was selling 4 years ago make me cringe. But, I just started and evolved into what I’m proud of today. You will have to work hard though. I have never worked so hard in my life! And also be prepared to sacrifice a tidy house, you can’t have everything!
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I try and get up before the boys and go for a run. Then I get the boys to school, I come back and work on orders first. I try not to do any housework, as I wouldn’t if I was at work would I?! And then it’s just a mixture of photography, wholesale enquiries, designing new products and buying materials. I’m up and down the two flights of stairs to the laser cutter all day so that keeps me fit!
Do you have any tips to banish the mum guilt we all feel?
Not really. I just tell myself, even if sometimes I’m distracted, replying to emails etc when they are around, at least I’m here and they are at home which I’d much prefer to them being in after school clubs. I think they prefer it too! I also hope they are learning to be little entrepreneurs. I’d love them to start their own businesses when they were older!
Do you ever get the chance to have time off for yourself? If so, what do you like to do?
I do love to run, and I do love a DIY project on the house. I might take an hour to have a potter around the shops on my own or catch up with my long ignored friends! Having a business doesn’t leave much time for socialising at the moment. (I don’t think I’m selling it well?!)
What is your favourite thing about the products that you create?
For sure, the colour! My favourite thing is to play around with colour and come up with different colour combinations and create things that will just brighten up people’s home.
Thank you so much Chloe for this really lovely insight into your business. Chloe is is also kindly giving away one of her beautiful ‘Thankful’ embroidery board kits to a lucky winner. How much fun would it be to do one of these? To enter, simply fill in the rafflecopter below.
How beautiful are Cotton Clara products?
I am picking up so many of these as Christmas presents. I love just how unique her range of products is and I love how bright and colourful they all are. I’ve not seen her style of products anywhere else before and I really love that she creates things for your home and also products that you can interact with and help to finish off yourself.
You can find out more about Chloe and Cotton Clara here:
That’s it for today’s interview. If you missed last weeks interview with Alex from clothing store ‘Ada and Alfred’, you can catch up with it here: