Welcome to my new series of posts on Mrs Mummypenny celebrating small business friends. I will be showcasing people who I have worked with in my previous corporate life who have set up their own businesses. Each person will share details about things like their lightbulb moment, key learnings and proud moments. Each post will inspire you and maybe you might take that leap yourself. If you worked with me maybe at HSBC, Tesco, Threshers or EE drop me a line on email@example.com and I can feature you too!
The first interview is with Hannah Smale, the founder and owner of Omorfia Home, a furniture restoration and upcycling business. Hannah and I worked together for T-mobile back in 2010, fellow commercial managers, and both accountants, in the mobile phone world. Over to Hannah…
1)How long were you in the employed world and what were you doing?
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2003 with BDO and then went to work for them in Brisbane, Australia. When I returned to the UK I worked in our family business for a while before heading to T-Mobile in 2006. I was a Commercial Manager / Senior Commercial Manager there for 6 years during which time it merged with Orange and became EE. My role became redundant in 2011 and at that time I felt like I really needed a career change as was so fed up with accountancy but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and wasn’t quite brave enough to make the leap from the corporate world. In the end I went to a start-up as Finance Director until summer 2017.
2)At what point did you think, it’s time to leave and go self-employed? Was there a trigger moment?
The exact moment was so clear to me. It was June 2017 and I was juggling working as a FD part-time whilst looking after two children, one of whom was still pre-school age. I was going to school to pick up the elder one and was thinking about returning a call I’d had about a board meeting. I was so pre-occupied with work that I didn’t notice the electric school gates closing and they then slammed into my car. I burst into tears. I had my son asleep in the back of the car and kept thinking ‘what if this had been more serious. I knew then that I needed a lifestyle change and to do something I loved.
3)What plans did you put in place before leaving, e.g. training, saving money, building customer base?
The start-up I’d been working in after leaving EE was sold to a much larger organisation in May 2017. I received some money from the employee share scheme. I used that to fund my retraining (City & Guilds qualifications) and start my business.
4) Tell us about your business
I restore furniture, both antique and vintage, upholster furniture and also upcycle/paint furniture. I do some of this straight for resale and the rest is commissioned by clients.
Clients may come to me with items of furniture that have been languishing at their homes in need of a bit of love that I can then restore to their former glory – or restyle into something new. For example, one client had some furniture from her late grandmother’s house which wasn’t her taste but she was loathe to get rid of. I reupholstered a mid-century ottoman in a modern fabric for her and painted a console table for her. She now has memories of her grandmother but in her style. It’s really rewarding to see the furniture being reused rather than going to landfill.
I love going to junk shops, car boots and the local auction house. I have found items of furniture that I can then either, restore, reupholster or repaint for resale. Through word of mouth I’ve also been to several house clearances which is a great source of furniture that I can restore and then sell on.
I do a 50/50 split between restoration/ repainting versus upholstery. I think you need to have the restoration skills to reupholster furniture properly as very often the furniture may have damage when you strip it back. The variety of the work is amazing.
5)How is your business progressing?
It’s in its infancy but is going really well. I’ve started to establish a network of clients and am looking at doing the next stage of my City & Guilds qualification enabling me to upholster larger pieces of furniture.
6)Can you share three business successes?
Within six months of finishing my training I have my website up and running, I have a network of clients and finished work of which I’m really proud.
7)Can you share three learnings
I found local resources such as WENTA really helpful and very cost effective. For example, their social media course was fascinating and insightful.
Having a mentor/mentors or someone to bounce ideas off who’s not family is really useful.
You won’t stop thinking about work – but it’s a good feeling!
8)What things do you miss about the corporate world
Talking to different people with different interests. In my last job I worked with a team of software developers and they really opened my mind to new things!
9)What things are you grateful for now that you didn’t have whilst employed?
I’m doing something I love.
I’m learning all the time and stretching my brain in different ways.
I have flexibility in my working day to be there for my children.
10)What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of leaving the employed world and setting up their own business
Think about your potential business and whether you have a known market for your goods/services, is it something that you can start tapping into before you take the leap from the employed world?
11)How do people find your business website, social media links?
Given the nature of my work is very visual, Instagram is really good for my business, but Facebook is also useful for sharing my business locally. My website has further details about what I do as well as items for sale.
Facebook – @OmorfiaHomeLtd
Thank you Hannah, you are doing brilliantly well and I love seeing your projects on Instagram.