This week I spoke to Lois Griffin who runs "Our Green Room" - an online and shop based interiors business in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.
Can you describe your business and what you do?
Me and My partner run an online interiors business (
OurGreenRoom) selling modern wall art, cushions and curtains. We run www.ourgreenroom.co.uk from the office and workroom in our home and also have a small retail space in Bradford on Avon (No.5 Weavers Walk), open on a Saturday. All the items are made by hand, here in Bradford on Avon.
How did you got started and what is the inspiration/idea behind what you do?
I have always been creative and been able to sew, I have also always had quite a strong entrepreneurial spirit and the two just came together naturally. We started the business from scratch, all starting from when I was decorating my bedroom and really wanted to find some wall art to match these beautiful, bright lime green cushions I had bought. The design on the cushion was fantastic, so bold and bright, but I couldn’t find any art to match it, or live up to it, anywhere. Shops seemed to be filled with the same old canvas prints, photos of buildings, swirly lines, close ups of flowers etc. I had seen it all before and I really wanted something a bit different, something that had the wow factor – nothing seemed to live up to these cushions!
In the end I decided to make my own wall art! The result really pulled the whole room together, and the fabric art looked fantastic alongside the cushions. Friends constantly commented on the art and cushions, saying ‘wow, where did you get those from?’ People started to ask me if I could make similar pieces for their homes too. So I started making things for friends and eventually began listing online. To say that demand outstripped resource, was then, and still is now a massive understatement! Everyone who sees our stuff, loves how refreshing and colourful it all is. We even have people considering redecorating a whole room just to tie in a few of our jazzy cushions! I spend quite a lot of my time now keeping up to date with fabric trends and we only use the most exciting and innovative designs available!
How many hours you work and how do you fit these around your family?
We have only just sorted out a regular childcare routine for our three children (yes we are mad). It was difficult because the eldest is 9 and the youngest is only 8 months, so they are all at different stages needing different things. We seem to constantly be doing appointments, clubs, school runs, parent meetings. I’m sure everyone with three kids knows how it is – a million things to remember and a very busy schedule!
The children are in childcare and school now 9-5 Monday to Thursday and we always have a Friday off to clean the house (grandma day). We try to be strict and turn our PC’s off between the hours of 4.30 and 9pm (eldest’s bedtime) but they tend to go straight back on again till the early hours! Me and Rob try to find two evenings a week to relax, go out or just watch some telly over a bottle of wine...although sometimes this ends up being a business meeting.
It is hard running a business with a small family, especially if there is a problem; I really feel the urge to sort it out and it plays on my mind, sometimes this isn’t great when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your family and I can get quite stressed.
Having said that, it’s great that I can take my child to the doctors, pick them up from school or a club, watch a play and not have to ask anyone. I have set my own hours at 9-5 but I could easily finish at – If I wanted to! Although generally, I don’t do that because my to-do list is endless!
What do you love most about your business and are there any negative aspects?
The negative aspects are the financial mayhem, far from rich we seem to be always juggling bills both personal and business and making a profit is extremely difficult these days. The flexibility however and the way that I get more time with my kids than when I was working full time, is worth the sacrifice.
What would be your top tip for someone looking to start their own business?
Network, meet some like-minded business people in your area, join forums, get involved. There are thousands of business owners out there who have plenty of experience and advice to give, and the value of that can sometimes be underestimated. I have worked for myself for 6 years, and believe me I have made lot of mistakes along the way – but I have learnt from it and it would be good to pass that on.
Find out more about Our Green Room: