Homemade London opened in August 2010 with a mission to celebrate the best of London's craft designers. We spoke to founder Nicola Barron, and found out how she is building a lasting lifestyle brand.
Hi Nicola. Tell us about Homemade London. What does your business do?
Homemade London is a West End salon, running workshops that teach people how to make everything from lingerie and perfume to handbags and jewellery. Most of the workshops are aimed at complete beginners but the designs, teaching and materials used will ensure that they create objects that they’ll want to wear or keep.
What was the inspiration behind the business? Do you have prior experience in the field?
My background is in TV – I spent 10 years at the BBC, working as a producer. But my passion is fashion and design and when I left the BBC in 2009 I wanted to do something that would allow me to apply the skills I’d learned in a new way.
As a serial evening-class attendee, I’d always struggled to find classes that taught me to make things I’d actually want to wear or keep and I was sure that I couldn’t be the only one who felt the same.
I took a business course at City University, did my research at the British Library’s IP Centre and was mentored by former ‘Dragon’ and founder of Red Letter Days, Rachel Elnaugh.
In addition to networks like Etsy, I drew inspiration from retailers like Coco de Mer, The Cloth House and Liberty and a range of lifestyle experience businesses, including 40 Winks and the School of Life.
Do you feel that previous jobs helped prepare you for entrepreneurship?
TV production requires you to be able to manage tight budgets, adapt to the unexpected and to get on with people from every walk of life. I think these are essential qualities for any start-up business. The research skills I learned also came in handy, since I spent a lot of time finding the best, most inspiring designer-makers in London.
There is something wonderfully ‘back to basics’ about making your own craft items. Do you feel that the economic climate has helped your business?
Well it’s true that some of the workshops we run help people rejuvenate vintage clothes or old jewellery to create new designs. And people will learn new skills that they can reapply.
But actually, Homemade London workshops are luxury experiences. We serve drinks and offer light supper before we start, we use the highest quality materials and ingredients for our classes and we’ve spent a lot of time creating an indulgent salon environment.
I think more important than the current economic climate is the long-term trend away from disposable products towards quality and longevity.
Fundamentally, our proposition is that you will come away from every workshop with an object you will love and treasure, not simply because you made it yourself, but because it is genuinely gorgeous. They should also have had a lot fun and made some new friends along the way.
What advice would you give to other prospective entrepreneurs?
If you need business premises, find a great landlord who will work with you to make the business a success. I’m getting a lot of support from my landlords at Portman Village, because they recognise the long-term benefits of helping their tenants to succeed. Brush up on your Ebay skills, because you can find some really good quality equipment for your business – especially vintage items. And get yourself on Twitter – it’s a great way to find customers and suppliers.
Homemade London on Reuters TV
Nicola from Homemade London was recently interviewed by Reuters. Click on the video to view the clip.