I am so excited to introduce Katie Craven as my first guest on my new blog series, ‘Meet Charlotte’s Inspirations’!
Katie and I met along our journies of creating our brands through The Prince’s Trust. Like me, Katie also pursued The Enterprise Course, where she learnt the skills needed in knowing how to turn her business into a reality.
Katie is a dear friend of mine and such a huge inspiration and support to me. Her warm laugh, infectious energy of creation and the beauty she translates through her work is something I admire hugely. Her designs are simply stunning and treasure the special piece she did featuring Charlotte Elizabeth’s own Bloomsbury!
Do check our Katie’s site, where you can shop her greeting cards (this one is my personal favourite!) along with her stunning silk scarves, and do check out her Instagram @katiecravenuk for daily inspiration.
I hope Katie’s advice can help you in your own journey, she is so inspiring!
Tell us a little bit about yourself…where do you come from, what did you study, and how did your business begin?
I was born in the rolling hills of Somerset but grew up in a village in Lancashire! I studied Art & Design at college and went on to study a Degree in Fine Art at Liverpool John Moore’s University. I always knew that I wanted to be an artist of some kind but didn’t know how my creativity would unfold. After I graduated from University, I spent my time working part time and creating an illustration portfolio before my business started to emerge in around 2014, when a friend mentioned to me that The Princes Trust helped young people set themselves up as self-employed. At this point I had no idea how to go about working for myself and I had been feeling pretty lost! The Trust were absolutely amazing from our initial meeting, and I was soon put onto the Enterprise Program, which helped me to learn everything I needed to know to get my business off the ground. It was from working with the PT and my mentor that I started to realize that I really wanted to produce beautiful products that would be adorned with my magical illustrations! In 2016 I worked with the PT to create a homeware range that was sold at George at Asda with 10% of the profits going back to the trust to help other young people set up in business. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to be able to give back to a charity that helped me immensely!
How did you get into illustration?
During and after University I created many large-scale paintings in my style which I found very enjoyable… one day however I picked up a fineliner pen and it was like me and the pen were always supposed to meet! It was the perfect tool for turning the worlds inside my head into instant reality, right before me on paper! These pens were perfect for adding as much detail as I wanted and being able to easily draw anything I imagined (I swear they made me draw better!) From then on, I started creating illustrations for magazines, books, clothing brands, ceramics, and homewares.
When was your ‘aha!’ moment when creating your business?
My ‘aha’ moment would be when I realized that I really wanted to create products that are not only beautiful but were also made to last. With British luxury at the core of my brand, I wanted to create products where attention to detail is taken at every aspect of our products journey and to take pride in selecting the highest quality fabrics and paper stocks to ensure the longevity of our luxury collections. Sustainability is also at the forefront of everything that we do, therefore all of our greeting cards and paper products are printed on FSC certified card, sourced locally to us in the beautiful Lake District. We really do love our natural world so doing our bit to protect it is very important to us! I also feel passionate about supporting our British economy and British manufacturing, therefore all of our products are made in England. Ultimately, my ‘aha’ moment was the realization that I wanted to create a luxury brand that creates designs and products that bring beauty, joy and magic into our customers lives, and that I would also be proud of selling.
Where/When do you feel happiest?
I feel happiest when I am out on a walk in the woodlands near where I live with my husband, and also when I am in my studio whilst working on a new collection. I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to draw for my job!
How do you keep motivated when running your own business?
I suppose I think about the fact that there is nothing else I would rather be doing! I really love the excitement of designing and bringing new ideas to life. I have designed for other companies before and as much as I love doing that, there is nothing better than being able to create your own world, in terms of creating a brand that brings joy to others, the freedom to evolve creatively, and being able to have your own voice and message.
Also, to keep motivated, I like to map out what we need to be working on and what our next steps are, so that we are always working towards something with an end goal in mind, which really helps us to move forward and not stay stagnant.
Favourite way to start the day?
I am usually at my desk pretty early with a cup of Yorkshire tea, because I tend to work best in the morning! In the Summer I usually start my mornings with a walk on the hills around my local countryside but in the Winter, I take that walk a little later once the sun as risen. I also like to plan out my day in the morning and check that my weekly schedule includes all immediate and long-term plans designated for that week.
Do you take everything as it comes, or are you a 5-year planner?
I am definitely not a 5-year planner, but I have an idea of where I would like to be in 5 year’s time – however I like to make sure that I don’t berate myself if life doesn’t work out the way I planned. I definitely do plan ahead in terms of trade shows and collections as we have to work on those many months and sometimes even a year before they launch in stores.
Spring! It is just so hopeful and beautiful – I love that the world starts a new, and especially after a long winter in England, it feels so incredibly special when it finally arrives!
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
To sleep on it. Sometimes if I am really unsure of a decision to make or if something has gone wrong and I don’t know of the best way to tackle it, a good night sleep always brings such a fresh perspective on things, and sometimes I wake up knowing exactly what I need to do next! I think about this advice all of time and certainly follow it often.
Favourite Bloomsbury colour?
That is so hard to choose but I think my favourite is the Pink! It is so beautiful and the perfect shade of pink, well done Charlotte!
What podcast or book are you loving right now?
I am currently re-reading Tara Mohr’s ‘Playing Big’ book because I think she conveys such a powerful message with helping women especially come into who they really are and take up as much space as they need to in the world, which I feel is incredibly important for all women to do! Also the podcasts I love are the High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes, How I Built This with Guy Raz, and Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker.
Who’s your role model?
I really love fellow female designers such as Kate Spade and Emma Bridgewater. I admire them both for their tenacity, determination and vision for the brands they both created. I think having things that are beautiful, useful and long lasting around you on a daily basis really does make life feel so much more wonderful! You know great design when you see it, feel it and use it, and it really makes all the difference. I also really admire Victorian designer William Morris, as he created such incredibly beautiful designs which shall remain classic and timeless for many decades if not centuries to come. He truly believed in the creation of beautiful things to make the world a better place and that is a belief I also hold. Honestly, I really admire anyone who has the ability to create something beautiful out of nothing!
What would you tell someone else thinking of starting their own venture?
I would tell them not to be afraid to ask for help when they need it. I really struggled with this when I began my business, and this probably held me back, because asking for the help earlier could have meant I began without months of delays, simply because I thought I was supposed to know everything already. Unfortunately, we are not equipped to know everything we need to in life so there will always be times when we need to ask for help. There is no shame in doing so! Also, always make sure that the person/s you are asking for help know enough about the subject to be able to offer you useful advice… because there is nothing like bad advice to put you off!
I would also say to believe in yourself and your idea, especially because everyone that has created something amazing in the world first started out with just an idea, and I believe that there is enough space in the world for yours too!