Welcome to our meet the brands series of blog posts, where we take you behind the scenes to meet the makers and small brand owners that make Shop The Squares possible.
This week we’re chatting with Gayle Mansfield, owner of Gayle Mansfield Designs, maker of super stylish minimal and typographic prints. Gayle lives in Worthing, West Sussex, with her partner and daughter and works from her spare room.
1. What made you decide to set up your own business and why print?
I had been at home with our daughter for a while having left my previous career as a project manager for a social housing organisation. I knew that I wanted to work flexibly around our daughter and with mine and my partners combined skills/passions (graphic designer/interior design) we thought an arts prints business would work. We had spent some time renovating our home and looking for wall art and decided that we could in fact create our own. My partner had a previous client who was selling his printer so we just went for it; I knew from the outset that I wanted to fulfil our orders in-house as I am a perfectionist (control freak).
2. What was the hardest thing about getting started?
With no previous experience in the field I think my confidence really lacked at the beginning, as it felt like a huge shift for me to completely change career. As I had been a stay at home parent for a while it took be some time to find my feet and get my head back into work mode. It was also a little nerve-racking not knowing how our ideas would be received!
3. Describe a typical day
I drop my daughter at school and then I might exercise before starting work, or some days I will start as soon as I am back home. I generally work in school hours, so 9-3. No day is exactly the same but a typical day always involves fulfilling customer or shop orders and posting them out. I might meet a fellow local small business owner for a coffee and a chat/offload! I spend time every week planning new work, taking product shots for Instagram, seeking out potential new stockists, liaising with anyone I am collaborating with, working on marketing activities. I quite often have a motivational podcast on or will take some time to watch a business video/webinar.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about setting up their own small business?
Be fully aware of how much time it will take! Make sure that you are truly passionate about your business, as it is all consuming. Don’t expect things to happen overnight, be patient, and accept that it is a long game! Most importantly though I would say JUST DO IT, and work things out as you go along, don’t wait until everything is ‘perfect’.
5. How important is social media to your business?
So important! As Instagram is such a visual platform it is vital for us (the changes to the algorithm are a little frustrating though) It is a great way for our customers to get to know us, get our brand out there and to network with other business owners/influencers, etc. I don’t tend to use Facebook as much as Instagram although I probably should!
6. What’s your biggest challenge?
By nature I am a planner, but when you run your own business, although you may set goals/targets, things always come along which potentially change the course you thought you were heading in. So I have had to learn to let go! I find self motivation/procrastination a problem sometimes, as there is no-one around to bounce ideas off. I lean towards introversion so working alone does generally suit me but I still feel lonely at times. Lastly I would say resource/time is a challenge; I have to squeeze quite a lot in to my short day. I can always pick things up in the evening though if needs be.
7. How is your work/life balance?
It’s not too bad. I have a bit of a problem switching off from the business but recently I have been imposing some rules and I try not to look at my phone between 9pm – 8.30am. I also make sure I factor exercise in at least 4 times a week and have social things booked in on the weekends /evenings to look forward to. I am grateful every day that I have created something where I can be there for school drop off/pick up and not to make a horrible commute!
8. Describe your personal style
I am very drawn to minimalism/white interiors, with a hint of vintage/industrial. I like my surroundings to be calm and organised if possible as my brain is so busy! In terms of clothing style I probably dress like our prints! Lots of black/ grey with a bit of yellow thrown in!
9. Where do you find your inspiration?
Pinterest, instagram, interiors magazines, restaurants, hotels.
10. If you weren’t running Gayle Mansfield Designs, what would you be doing?
I have often thought that I’d like to have retrained as a primary school teacher, but my true passion is interior design/styling so it would probably be that. Whatever it was it would be a drastic change from my career of 15 years as I was most definitely ready for something new!