A Design For Life
Today I have a guest post by my friend, one-time co-conspirator on school matters, and über-talented interior designer Judith Harrop.
Judith is a working mum, running her interior design business from her studio/showroom in Gomersal, West Yorkshire. In this piece, Judith explains what drives her, the challenges of being a mumpreneur, and how she looks to embrace social media to promote herself.
More about Judith’s interior design services can be found at:
Over to Judith…
I’ve been an interior and furniture designer for over 25 years. I’ve been published in national magazines, I‘ve worked for peers of the realm and a retired British Ambassador, not that anyone would know.
As my business grew through word of mouth I enjoyed new projects, fulfilled my clients’ briefs and moved on to the next, always low key, under the radar and with quiet English reserve.
Life changed when I was pregnant in 2003 as I suffered from the most debilitating morning (anathema if ever there was one) sickness, business slid and after the birth of my daughter I made a conscious decision to take some time out and be a stay at home Mum. Good decision, as I was poorly prepared for the brain scrambling hormones and the desperate sleep deprivation I was to experience in that first year. My hat comes off to those women who, either from choice or need, go straight back to work after maternity leave. How do they function?
As time went on though, whilst enjoying the proximity to my delightful firstborn, I craved the fulfilment of work. I became a kitchen table business, Amy grinning up at me from the confines of her playpen whilst I beavered away at design drawings on the computer.
I had been fortunate enough to pick up work from architect and developer contacts, who were blissfully unaware that their latest project was being created by a dishevelled woman, still in her pjs, creating autocad drawings and researching parquet flooring whilst preparing endless ice cube trays of pureed carrot and sweet potato.
Shuffling business around my daughter’s needs, I became concerned about how I was to reestablish myself as a residential designer. Premises were becoming necessary for my growing resource library, and the need to have a ‘professional’ image became more important. I found myself a lovely studio in a big old building which was home to other related businesses. I moved in. Rustic brick and beams suited my style and within a short time I had a working studio/showroom which I would be proud to invite my clients to.
Back down to earth, I needed to find new sources of work to increase my client base.
My previous approach to business had been ‘build it and they will come’ but if you build it and don’t tell anyone about it, they’re really not going to come are they? My problem was that my whole psyche told me not to promote myself, my mother’s words ringing in my ears “stop showing off”. In our house raising one’s head above the parapet was an offence, anything that smacked of attention seeking was, well, just not acceptable.
So there I was with my little devil of doubt sat on one shoulder and my need to promote my business on the other.
Then, as it is in life, a curious thing happened. My local council decided in its wisdom that (to cut a very long and rambling story short) my daughter’s primary school (OFSTED Outstanding) should be closed. Before I knew it under the subtle (?) supervision of one particular school governor [editor's note: she means me - HUN] I was leading a parental revolt, talking to the local press, standing up and speaking in the town hall and was even interviewed for our local BBC radio news.
Funnily enough the world did not come crashing down around my ears and I didn’t receive sacks full of hate mail. The parents were a force that was listened to. Collaborating with governors, press and local councillors, we made a difference and our school is still here. I am proud of this.
So, I had found my voice, the school experience brought me new confidence and I knew I had something to say about my passion for my business. I began to explore marketing techniques (without feeling it was a shameful thing to do). I had equated marketing and selling with some kind of seedy practice undertaken by those who can’t get work. (I’m sure Coca Cola see it like that!) I began to understand what I thought I knew already, that building business is about building relationships but it’s ok to tell people what you do and what you can offer, because quite often they’re interested to know.
So just spare a thought for the small businesses that use Twitter and Facebook and blog to promote themselves, they’re just letting you know they exist. The seasoned bloggerati out there are sceptical and rightly so, but I for one intend to find my little place in cyberspace and share my skills and my news and my knowledge and if it brings me one new client, well, fantastic. And if it doesn’t, well, I’ll still enjoy the experience, and hopefully I’ll have made more than a few friends along the way.
Thank you, Judith.
Another editor’s note: I’ve known Judith for around three years now and I can say, with hand on heart, she is one of the most conscientious and compassionate people I’ve ever met; a woman of seemingly infinite drive and tenacity. I would recommend her to anyone in a heartbeat.
If you or anyone you know has need of interior design services visit:
…where you will find full contact details.
Disclaimer: I received no payment for this post.