Graduating from uni is a scary prospect, involving many of us in denial that our time will come. Deciding the ‘next step’ seems to suggest that we suddenly need to get realistic, whatever that means. Edinburgh Graduate Jessica Anderton however has managed to continue her love of fine art to start her own Scottish contemporary design company, Jessica Anderton Designs. Speaking to Lifestyle, Jessica shares her tips and insights into starting a business.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own business?
One: Resilience and persistence is key to starting your own business. Don’t be put off by people saying, “senior business people will never read your email.” During my first year exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art, I created a series of paintings, each showing the cross sections of six instantly recognisable chocolate bars. I decided to contact Mr Grant F. Reid, the CEO / Office of the President at Mars, Inc. asking if he would be interested in purchasing the pieces. Within ten days, I received a response from him personally and he had purchased the paintings. Needless to say, the naysayers were all wrong and he has proven to be a great supporter and mentor to me throughout my career to date.
Two: Pay attention to the small things, as these can make a huge difference to your consumer. Everything communicates. Mass-produced packaging reflects badly on your brand as it makes your products look cheap. I invested in high quality bags, adding tissue paper and ribbon, and including hand-written thank you notes to customers to show that I care about their business, the presentation of my products and my brand.
Three: You don’t need to have any experience in business to start a business. If you are determined to learn and believe your business will do well then it can. You need to be a sponge, absorbing everything to do with the creative industry and business. But keep an eye on the cash flow and be prepared to ask people for help.
What challenges did you come across that you hadn’t taken into consideration?
Knowing when to decline an ‘opportunity’. After graduating, I wanted my artwork to be seen as much as possible. I wasn’t taking the right precautions when displaying my paintings, i.e not signing a ‘contract’. It is essential to make sure your products and business are protected and displayed in a professional manner, as this reflects badly on you.
I think it’s really important to not talk yourself down and as cringey as it sounds, be your biggest fan. It is also important to get out and meet people face to face rather than constantly researching online or speaking via email. Edinburgh has a fantastic network of people- even if you think a meeting will be pointless, definitely still attend.
What is important to consider when developing your brand?
When developing your brand, it’s important that you’re enthusiastic about learning new skills. I felt that I would only be good at the creative side of the business. As time went on, I invested in a new sewing machine and used my spare time to learn how to sew. I now manufacture all my tea-towels and lampshades within my studio, and I am currently learning how to make cushions.
How do you get companies to notice you in such a competitive industry?
Research into companies’ ethoses and target markets. Also telling your story makes you stand out from the rest. The public have a great appetite for creatives and how we work! The great benefit about being an artist, is when you’re painting something you love, you have a natural enthusiasm about the work and want to push the idea to do as well as it can!
Don’t be scared to contact million pound companies! I like the quote by Dita Von Teese, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” Your business will never appeal to everyone but all it takes is one person. Last week, I contacted Oliver Tress, the owner of the lifestyle company Oliver Bonas, and he personally replied congratulating my success and helped by copying the buying team with images of my products, fingers crossed.
What is your favourite product of your own collection at the moment?
It would probably be my first ever product, the BAR Cushion. It reminds me of the very start of the process which was so exciting.
The research aspect of choosing between colours and materials for the reverse is also a really exciting part of the process because I like to keep up to date with the interior trends and colour schemes. Even the small details of designing my brand logo label (featuring my English bulldog, Binky!) and care labels is fun because I know it’s an essential part to make a high-quality product.
Jessica Anderton Designs has exhibited in leading galleries including, The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and has also had her products stocked with PAD Lifestyle in Edinburgh, within their Harvey Nichols concession store and in Jenners Department Store.
Image credit: Craig Waddell