In this edition of Startup Stories, I speak to Sophie Roberts, an entrepreneur who has combined a love of design with a passion for creating ethical, eco-friendly products that have the power to inspire others.
Founder name: Sophie Roberts
Business name: West Plum Studio
Social profiles: www.facebook.com/westplumstudio, www.instagram.com/westplumstudio, www.twitter.com/westplumstudio
Tell us something about yourself
Where are you from? I’m originally from West Bromwich but have lived in Yorkshire now for 10
years, as well as 7 in Leeds and 3 in York, where my business is currently based.
When did you first become an entrepreneur? I started my business in November 2016
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? I think it was probably the culmination of some big events happening in my family, taking The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design courses which totally opened my eyes to a whole new world, having my son and then getting the opportunity to take redundancy from my own role.
What values/ causes etc matter most to you? I’m really passionate about making it easier for people to shop ethically by creating beautiful, good quality products that are as eco-friendly as possible. This is at the absolute heart of my business. I also want to help empower as many people as possible to follow their dreams with my hand lettered motivational products. It may sound cheesy but I stood in my own way for a long time and I found motivational quotes/ phrases really helpful to get me out of my own head and moving forwards. I want my work to help people reach their dream quicker. I’d love to work with small business owners who are helping people to pursue their dreams, coaches, therapists, consultants etc.
Tell us a little more about your business
West Plum Studio is an ethical design studio based in York. My mission is to make it easier for people to shop ethically by creating beautiful, good quality, eco-friendly products.
I have an own label range of stationery products; greetings cards, notecards, prints and postcards that feature my original geometric designs and hand lettering.
It’s really important to me to support other local businesses and minimise the carbon footprint of my business. All of my products are made locally here in Yorkshire and are as eco-friendly as possible.
How long has your business been going? I started the business in November 2016
What’s next for you/your business? Next I’m working on expanding my product range to include organic fabric
and other eco-friendly stationery and gifts. I’m developing my motivational range of products and working on ideas for workshops. I’ve also got a few exciting collaboration ideas I’d love to explore.
Let’s talk entrepreneurship and starting out
What advice would you give to anybody wanting to start their own business? I think my biggest piece of advice is to ‘just start’. I’m not suggesting you go and hand in your notice tomorrow, unless of course now is the right time for you but whatever it is that you’d love to do take a step towards it each day. Keep moving it forwards. Please please don’t wait for it to be perfect – get your idea out there for the world to see! If you’re stuck or need help, ask.
There are so many people out there looking to support you whether it is other small business owners or specialist service providers like graphic designers, photographers etc. you’ll move forward so much quicker asking
What has been the hardest thing about becoming an entrepreneur? This is probably struggling with my confidence as it can impact so much of the business even down to making simple decisions. I think this can often be a problem for small business owners especially those who work by themselves, at home. I’m now in a number of great online groups and have started networking locally all of which has really helped. Now if I do struggle with my confidence I’ve got a great support network to ask advice from. I’d encourage everyone to create their own support network.
What has been the best thing about becoming an entrepreneur? This would have to be flexibility for me. The flexibility to do what I want in business – the designs I create, products I sell, where I sell them and also the flexibility to work when it suits my family. Having a young family and also close family members who have been seriously ill in the past few years means its so important for me to be able to spend quality time with them whilst also pursuing my passions.
Sophie, we know how busy you are, thanks so much for taking the time to share your fantastic and inspiring story with our readers.■