EMILY PARKES talks to Lucy Bowler, the lady behind Looby Lou Designs; a fantastic business aimed to encourage children's creativity. Lucy gives tips for anyone thinking of setting up their own business, lets us in on what inspires her and the importance of helping children explore their own creative side.
Tell us a bit about yourself and Looby Lou Designs.
BA Design Craft student, a mother of three and a designer maker.....slightly bonkers you may agree! Some of my earliest memories are of asking my grandma to teach me to knit and crochet, making dolls and sending paintings to Tony Hart!
What gave you the idea to set up Looby Lou designs?
Looby Lou Designs was founded in 2005 ……in the shed at the bottom of the garden! I started by making hand-felted, personalised canvases for children's rooms. Returning to college after having my family, I then took these designs and designed a range of contemporary canvas kits to creatively inspire boys and girls from 3+ years to make their own special and personalised pictures. I found there to be a lack of products giving children the confidence to explore and find their own “making” idea, whilst being introduced to a range of the loveliest fabrics, ribbons and the most interesting embellishments I can find (which little boys and girls just love). The kit’s packaging is also useful as it is a canvas bag that can also be personalised. All products are carefully designed to encourage children to have fun and use their own creativity, which gives wonderful individual results. I have also written and illustrated storyline instructions or poems within the kits to encourage learning of expression, visualisation, reading and writing skills.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting up their own business?
Firstly, make sure its about something you love, something you feel passionate about. At times, it can be really hard going and it's the lovely materials and flow of ideas that keep me going when the cash flow is making me worry! Ask your friends and family for help, I really could not do this without them and my children are my finest critics! Join a networking group for advice and support. Protect your designs as best you can and be prepared to work hard!
What jobs did you have before this?
I spent 13 years working for the NHS and County Council with adults with Learning Disability's. I had a varied career, from hands-on to leading teams in creative ways to improve the quality of peoples lives. All very useful skills to have when running your own business.
What inspires you?
My three beautiful children, my husband, my friends, the sunshine, being creative and the determination to succeed, come what may!
How do you market yourself and your business?
If you had enough time, what other craft would you like to learn?
I am really lucky to be doing a fantastic BA in Craft Design at my local college so am experiencing learning in ceramics, metals and textiles. I would also love to study fine art.
Who are some of your favourite artists/crafters/designers?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Well, hopefully happy, having achieved a good degree and inspiring children of all ages to be designers of the future. I hope my business will have grown steadily and that we will be offering an exciting range of children's craft products ! Who knows....maybe I will have an adult range too.
What is the best part of what you do?
Watching children beam as they stand back and admire their work of art.