Updated: Mar 15
In this new blog series we aim to highlight fantastic creative people who we either work with or admire every week! This week its Karen Arthur founder of Reddskin UK.
1) What led you to start up your business?
I knew answering these wouldn’t be straightforward. Soooo I first set up business back in the early 2000s. My daughters primary school asked if anyone wanted a stall at their summer fair. I have always been a sewist, making clothes for myself and my daughters after school and at weekends.
It was my way of de-stressing from my teaching job.
I had a selection of Ankara fabric and decided to make a few bags using that. I remember it was my first foray into trading, so to speak, and it was a gloriously sunny day.
I made 6 handbags in different fabrics and printed off an order form. My mum travelled down from Banbury were she lives to be with us. She sold her delicious coconut bread for 30p a slice which, of course, sold out immediately.
My eldest made a banner and we took music to play. I sold out and made a load of orders. The feedback was an immense buzz. I was hooked!
I spent the next few years or so selling bags and cushions at local craft fairs. I called it a hobby.In 2012 I did myself a little Wix website.
Then the following year, after gentle encouragement from clients and friends, I made a few items of clothing and added them to one of my Open Houses. They sold out.
At that point I decided that I might have a business.
Then the unthinkable happened. My mental health started to deteriorate, a combination of many factors, with hindsight. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I lost all will to be creative.
By June 2015, just after my 53rd birthday, I had left my 28 year teaching career behind. I was forced to recognise that it was time to focus on me.
So I found an amazing therapist and prepared to meet my monsters. I had the time to think about how I wanted to curate the rest of my life and I decided to do what I love. And that’s making relationships with women through fashion and teaching people to sew.
2) What were the biggest obstacles to starting up?
Me! Karen Arthur! My imposter syndrome. Its a daily battle that I am slowly winning.
I’m a big believer in silence, journalling and affirmations.
Most mornings I can be found having a gentle pep talk with myself at the bottom of my garden.
Seems to work on the whole!
3) What do you love about your business?
Meeting clients. Coming up with new designs. The flexibility of my days.
Talking about my passions.
Helping women to gain the confidence to wear what they love too. Spreading the wear your happy word.
4) Who would be your dream client
I love working with women who know their own mind but are open to change and new ideas.
It’s difficult to tell from the medias portrayal of women but someone like Angela Merkel would be amazing. Angela in a full length Ankara cape. Brilliant!
5) Where would you like to take your business ultimately?
As long as I continue to love doing what I do I’m open. The older I get I seem to be relishing trying new things. Because, why not? I may not make or design clothing forever.
But I will always be creative. I’m an excellent teacher, designer and an engaging speaker and I love travelling so something that combines all of those will be great thank you very much!
I don’t plan to stick to one singular thing. As my mental wellbeing improved I discovered the links between fashion and mood. I noticed that making conscious clothing decisions could have a positive affect on how I felt throughout my day.
I call it ‘wear your happy’. The conversations I have with women suggest that it resonates. I am interested in taking Wear Your Happy message much further. I held my second Wear Your Happy LIVE! event in June after the success of my first one at Space at 61 last year.
6) Where have you received the most support along your journey?
My friends, new and old. I’ve met a lot of new friends on Instagram and they have been so supportive and inspiring!
Social media has a lot of downs and I struggle with it at times, but it’s also helped me to up my game too.
But my biggest cheerleaders , undoubtedly, are my daughters.
I am often gobsmacked at the wisdom that leaves their lips. They inspire me to be better too and I’m excited to see where their journeys take them.
7) Would you consider going back to employment for someone else now?
HELL NAW. For what? I’m not that good at being told what to do anymore.
I may have made myself unemployable!
So unless someone plans to offer me a truckload of unlimited funds to basically do what I want forever, Issa no from me.
I’ll move heaven and earth to stay out of conventional employment.
8) What do you consider the key skills a small business person must have?
Have absolute faith in yourself and what you’re offering.
Develop Stick-ability and Keep going-iciousness (they are words. Shush).
Don’t take anything too personally. The wisdom to know when and which aspects of your business to outsource.
For me that was my tax return. I sound like I know what I’m talking about, don’t I? Like everyone, I am a work in progress. These days I treat EVERY thing as a lesson.
9) Have you been influenced by any business books or blogs recently?
Yes. Candice Brathwaites journey is an inspirational. She often gives tips on her Instagram stories but it’s also wonderful watching her (and her beautiful family) rise.
'You’re a badass at making money by Jen Sincero is great for money mindset shifting.
I listen to The Sunday Jumpstart podcast after Natalie Lue of Baggage Reclaim recommended her in her Instagram stories. It’s 30 minutes every Sunday to kickstart your week.
Plus Tamu Thomas Live360 brand evolution is exciting! I can’t wait to see her next move.
10) What would your top tips be to anyone considering starting their own business?
There’s never a right time so you might as well start now.
Let go of needing to ‘do’ business the right way because there isn’t one.
It’s very ‘noisy' as everyone has an opinion and everyone is an ‘expert.,
Take time to listen to yourself…to what feels right.
Take advice then make a decision. Once you find your niche then run with it. Go into it for the long haul not the quick buck otherwise you will always be disappointed.
Patience really IS a virtue. Align rather than hustle.
11) Do you think networking is important for your business?
Absolutely yes. It doesn’t always seem like there might be a right fit for you. But, as I said, if you consider the long game you never know who will think of you and recommend your service or product. Often years down the line.
My experience is that business isn’t linear. Networking is nerve-racking though.
As gregarious as I may seem I, like many, suffer from social anxiety and have actually attended events having not spoken to one person in my early days.
I think it takes the pressure off if you don’t call it networking and simply refer to it as getting to know other people. New friends yay! See it as a life experience.
Thanks so much Karen for sharing your story, & thank you for reading again this week!
To find out more about Karen Arthur
I am also 1/3 of Craftmoves using Craft to tackle loneliness amongst londons commuters https://www.instagram.com/craftmoves/
Don't miss reading more in the 'Have you Met?' series
Interview 18- Maddy Carrick
Interview 17 Anja David
Interview 16 -Bridget Daley
Interview 15 -Karen Arthur
Interview 14 -Rebecca Trowbridge
Interview 13 -Angélina Jandolo
Interview 12 -Kelly Harris
Interview 11 -Sara Dalrymple
Interview 10 -Ciarán O'Fathaigh
Interview 9 -Elizabeth Knights Trench
Interview 8 -Aba Edwards-Idun
Interview 7 -Roxsanne Slatford
Interview 6 -Lara Pearce
Interview 5 -Ashanti Jason
Interview 4- Shannon Reed
Interview 3 -Claire Connor
Interview 2 -Becca Teers
Interview 1 -Cat Bateman
Singing for my Supper
If you enjoyed reading this article and maybe others I've written, found a tip that worked for you or learned something new, it would be great if you'd consider sending me the price of a cup of coffee :) https://www.paypal.me/thanksforreading/2.50
Space at 61 is a venue for hire in Nunhead near Peckham. Often used for childrens parties, workshops, classes, talks, filming and popups you can hire us from £20per hour. The 'Have you Met?' Blog interview concept was created by by Shona Chambers owner of Space at 61 and Shona Chambers Marketing. To read more like this visit www.shonachambersmarketing.co.uk