Small Business Friday - Penelope Hope
I haven't shared a Small Business Friday creative with you in a while, and I must admit I dropped the ball while preparing to go away on holidays at the beginning of April. This interview and photos have been with me for a month now, so without further delay I would like to introduce you to a brand that can liven up your interiors with its colours and designs. And not only that, but it is run by a very passionate lady (who is as beautiful outside as she is inside)! Please meet Nadia Newton - the designer/ owner of Penelope Hope.
Penelope Hope is a lifestyle brand, that celebrates colour and pattern and expressing your own personality. They exclusively design and produce a colourful and glamorous range of homewares and accessories. Nadia launched the brand in 2014 after taking a career break to raise her young children and she has been non-stop ever since! If you are into interior design, and actually live in Guernsey you must have passed her colourful shop - I envy you!
Everything is produced in small batches with a whole lotta love, designed in Guernsey (by Nadia) and manufactured in Great Britain with the upmost of care and attention to detail.
I caught up with Nadia to get the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur in this industry. I was really motivated by her responses to my questions. She is really going for it so I hope she will be an inspiration to many of you. Dare to dream big, plan and use all resources available to you!
Cushions made from Mono Marble Fabric, £85p/m, Penelope Hope
How difficult was it to start from scratch after a long maternity leave?
I was itching to work and use my brain again to be honest! As much as I loved my children and spending time with them, I realised I needed something else to make me feel fulfilled. I felt I had lost a big part of my identity by not working and knew that I needed to do something about it.
To give myself a break from nappies I enrolled in a morning re-upholstery & soft furnishing course. During my time on the course, I completed a button back lounge chair, two velvet wing back armchairs, an office carver chair and a set of roman blinds and voile curtains for my bedroom.
That was when my passion for homeware and interiors was piqued. So rather than looking for a job I decided to set up my own business. It had always been something I dreamed of doing when I was ‘grown up’.
During my pregnancy for baby number 3 I researched, planned, designed and learnt as much as I could about fabrics, designing and launching a business. I had to fit it around my parenting duties but I was relishing it. Our third child came along in July 2012, and 18 months later I registered my new business under the name Penelope Hope (there is a story about that too!).
I had decided there was a gap in the market for a bright and bold contemporary textile brand that could help people embrace colour and pattern and to introduce it into their interiors in a fun and fresh way. With an emphasis on originality and using quality fabrics and great workmanship.
I wasn’t catering for the mass market, I wanted Penelope Hope to be a boutique brand that was coveted by those in the know. I had to throw myself into not only designing desirable prints and products but also leaning how to run a business.
So suddenly I become not only the Designer but the Director, Marketing Manager, Book Keeper, Graphic Designer, Sales Manager, Packing Officer, PR officer, Operations officer, Customer Service rep, Office Manager & Cleaner and probably a lot of other roles too!!
Penelope Hope is deeply influenced by the surroundings in Guernsey
Who/ what influences your colourful designs and what does colour mean to you?
I have always been a big fan of colour, the brighter and more vibrant the better. I am a firm believer in the psychology of colour and know that when I am surrounded by the ‘right’ colours it lifts my mood and comforts me like a warm hug!
The ‘right’ colours for me might not be the ‘right’ colours for someone else and instead could have the opposite effect on them. I definitely believe that colours influence people differently depending on their personalities and we all go through phases of needing certain colours at certain times.
I was brought up in the beautiful island of Guernsey with lots of nature, greenery and beaches surrounding us and as I also have a bit of a bug for travelling these are the main influences I draw on when I’m designing.
Imagine yourself lying on a tropical beach, feel the sun on your face, hear the sea lapping on the shore, look up at a blue sky with palm trees swaying in the breeze. Reach over and take a sip from your Pina Colada. It feels good doesn’t it? I try to bottle that feeling in my designs. I want people to be reminded of a special place or favourite holiday and to feel that warm hug.
Guernsey, image: Nadia Newton
How important are your travels to drawing inspiration and sourcing new hues?
I get a huge amount of my inspiration from my travels, from the colours to the patterns to the general feeling of a place. There is nothing better than exploring foreign shores and soaking up the culture and ambience. Before we started our family, my husband and I spent a year travelling around the world and went to some amazing places that are etched in my memory.
We did a motorcycle tour through Vietnam passing paddy field after paddy field. They were the most amazing vivid green I have ever seen! When I am designing I am recalling on those memories and most definitely using them a big source of inspiration in my collections.
Splash fragment fabric, £85p/m
Do you have any favourite colour combinations?
I am particularly into blues at the moment and having just redecorated at home I have used a colour palette of charcoal grey, indigo blue, dark teal and with accents of canary yellow and magenta pink.
I love bold saturated colours and find it hard to limit myself on the number of colours I use, they all have their special qualities! I am also really loving black, white and green together. The next project in my redecoration is a bold black and white striped wallpaper in our hallway with a green Penelope Hope Monstera Leaf print upholstered storage bench.
Cushions made from Mesemerize (left) and blue Stipe (right) Fabric, £85p/m
What is your proudest moment so far in this journey?
Oh this is a tough question for me as I have huge dreams for Penelope Hope so only feel like I have scratched the surface of what I want to achieve.
I’ve had some feel good moments along the way such as seeing our Mesmerise lampshade featured in my favourite interior glossy, LivingEtc, in one of the news pages; collaborating with Swoon Editions on a limited edition armchair in our Plunge Fragment Fabric and it being a fast sell out; getting accepted as a partner on Notonthehighstreet after a live pitch up event at their head office.
But, to be honest I am most proud of the feedback I get from my lovely customers on how much they love their purchases and seeing them return for more is a wonderful feeling. That is what makes me do what I do.
Nadia Newton is not afraid to follow her dreams. She's still on the school run but an entrepreneur at the same time!
When you design your textiles, do you have a particular client in mind?
Yes, most definitely. I have several customer profiles and will always be thinking back if a design or colour way will appeal to them. I know that my designs are not for everyone, and I am happy with that. I would rather design very specifically for one type of customer that will feel alive when they see our products than try to be too board and not connect properly with anyone.
Our customer loves colour, quality and being a bit different. They don’t want to follow the herd, they are individual and want to express that individuality through their home and personal style.
Pina Colada print, available in fabric, lampshades and tea towels!
Nadia uses her own products at home. How about that marble effect lampshade?
What does your typical day look like?
I drop my children off to school then head to my studio. I normally have my breakfast at my desk as I check my emails then get stuck into work. No two days are the same and I have to split my time across all aspects of the business. Packing orders is a top priority so I normally get these done first and then get on with the to do list.
I might be shooting new products, writing a newsletter, liaising with our manufacturers, uploading new products to our website, interacting on social media or designing a new print.
At 3pm I dash to pick up my kids from school and then I'm on mummy duty until they are tucked up in bed. I’m often back on my Macbook cracking on with more work, edits or research. If I give myself the night off you’ll find me watching Netflix with the hubby and eating chocolate!
Penelope Hope iPhone cases to ensure you kick off summer in style! £29.
What is the most difficult part of being a female entrepreneur?
I would say that the most difficult part is trying to juggle all my responsibilities and coping with the guilts! We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all and to be perfect and it’s not possible or sustainable! The Instagram pictures don’t show the mountain of laundry I have piling up and breakfast dishes still out at 5pm!
I adore my kids and want to be there for them but I also want to do something that lights me up and puts a spring in my step. I get the guilts when they are moaning about having to go to the post office yet again after school.
But I do also believe that I am showing them a great life lesson that moms and dads can work hard doing something they are passionate about, following a dream and through hard work and dedication they can create something to be proud of. I am not only doing it for me but for them too.
Pineapple drum lampshade Pina Colada in Mono Black and White, £95
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being immersed in all my favourite colours and patterns all day! I thrive on the creative side of the business, dreaming up new collection ideas, researching trends and developing new products. I can spend hours getting lost on Pinterest or Instagram!
Getting positive feedback from customers and seeing repeat customer orders coming through is also very rewarding. I was in a local shop the other day that sells my accessories range and I overheard a lady explaining to her husband that these products were by Penelope Hope and how much she loved them all. It was a lovely feeling hearing her gushing about my products without her realising that I was the designer!
Pina Colada Green Tea Towel, £12.95
How do you balance traveling to events, work and family life?
I have to be mindful of my young family and my husband’s work responsibilities, especially when it comes to travelling for business. I manage to fit a few trips a year to London for research, sourcing and supplier meetings. I have also exhibited the brand at a trade show each year since I have launched the business and I have had to call on the help of my parents and parents-in-law to help look after the children whilst I am away for a week.
As they are getting older they are less needy but they do miss me a lot. Generally, I feel like we have a fairly good work/ life balance. We spend a lot of time together doing family stuff at the weekends to make up for the busy week. I still collect the children every day from school at 3pm and ferry them to their after school activities and then come home and cook their tea!
I know I spend too much time on my iPhone or Laptop around them but grabbing a few minutes here and there to reply to an email or schedule some social media posts is part of running your own business and just has to be done.