Paper and illustration obsessive Clare Shields established stationery and homeware brand Lil3birdy in 2011. Naïve in style, the products aim to stir up imagination and fun into the home. All the designs started life from Clare’s London studio as ink drawings and are developed into a range of desirable products. Everything is manufactured in England and ethically sourced, and all paper products are made from renewable resources. I talked to Clare about growing her business, overcoming challenges and what gets her up in the morning.
1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?
I run Lil3birdy from my home studio on my own, I do everything from designing and production to PR and marketing.
2. What did you do before this?
Before I set up Lil3birdy, I worked for a short while as a freelancer designing textile prints for several international design studios. Previously, I worked in luxury fashion marketing for two years.
3. What was your a-ha moment that pushed you to change / realise your passion in life?
I’ve dreamt of working for myself and creating something of my own since my student years in textile design. After graduating I felt I needed a bit of time to learn about how a creative company operates before I went alone. After three years of industry experience I felt ready to work on a product range of my own.
4. How did you make it happen?
In the beginnings of Lil3birdy I made my own products at home. I was making greeting cards, postcards and gift tags at this point. I would print and cut everything, which was very time consuming but it was a cheap and convenient way to get started and experiment with ideas. In order to test the response of the public and market my first design range, I signed up to some London markets in summer 2011. I also opened an Etsy.com shop. My debut market was Of Cabbages & Kings in North London, which is an established designer/maker market. After a successful first season of sales, I was given the opportunity to meet with some buyers from House of Fraser for their new Mary Portas concession and they placed a wholesale order. Since then I’ve been building up my stockists list and promoting my growing online shops.
5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge through out this journey has been to find good quality manufacturers in the UK. I have experienced many disastrous product runs and after many orders with different companies I’ve established some fantastic contacts with manufacturers whom I hope to continue using.
6. Who is your role model and why?
I don’t aspire to a particular person but admire people who have worked hard to make a successful and rewarding career from their craft.
7. What is the best advice you have received?
8. What keeps you awake at night?
Ideas I have for the business
Knowing I have a plan for the day. I list all my tasks for the year, month and week in advance.
10. What is the big dream for your business?
My future plans for the business is to exhibit at a trade show in 2014 to meet more retailers and establish a larger collection of Lil3birdy stockists. As well as my current stationery and homeware products, I would like to expand the product range to educational gifts for small children.