Welcome to the first in a new series of blog posts for 2018- Meet The Brands- where we take you behind the scenes to meet the makers and small brand owners that make Shop The Squares possible.

First to take the hot seat is Helen, owner of Lived and Loved and business partner of Shop the Squares.

Helen lives in a small village just outside of Solihull with her husband, two young children and their latest addition Raffa the miniature labradoodle.

1. Why did you decide to start Lived & Loved?

I wanted to find a career that would be flexible and work alongside being a mum. Something home based yet still creative.  Before I had my children I was a successful fashion/knitwear designer having studied at Nottingham Trent University and gained a degree in fashion design.  I began a lengthy career within the major high street retailers, creating fabrics and designing garments for knitwear. I totally LOVED this job and it was my world, creating, designing, travelling the world and making great like-minded friends along the way.  But as you can gather this wasn’t conducive with being a mum. It’s a very full on career and you have to live and breathe it. So something had to change.  I found myself gushing over interiors and loving putting colours, textures and looks together as I had with fashion, and home making was becoming quite an obsession whilst I was spending more time in the home on maternity leave.  I had successfully painted a few pieces of furniture in the past and loved the transformation that they underwent.  So I thought why not try a few other things and see if they sell. So that’s how it began.

2. What was the hardest thing about getting started? 

I felt extremely motivated with the business, getting pieces in, re designing them, creating themes and mood boards, it’s what I’m good at.  I was used to doing these and I thrive on the visual loveliness of it all.  I thought I would sell online, eBay etc, but it wasn’t good enough, I wanted a brand, a clear vision and everything to look just ‘so’. I wanted something that was all my creation, a professional look and something to grow and nurture.  So Lived and Loved was born.  BUT… I have all these ideas and when it comes to websites and SEO’S… eek!  I am no techy person that is for sure, so the website, and all its techy jargon is the hardest part for me.  I have a fantastic friend and fellow working mum, she builds and creates websites and she helps me a lot and I know she must think I am such a dumb blonde. But thankfully she’s brilliant, very patient and extremely helpful.

3. Tell us about your a typical day

A typical day at L&L HQ generally starts with the craziness of the school run, getting two children 5 and 8 ready is no easy task, so by 9am I feel like a day’s work is done already.  So, it begins with coffee- probably like most of us mums!  I then either squeeze in a class at the gym or give the new pup his walk around the local park.  Benefits of being self-employed!! Once that is done its overalls on and into the workshop.  I tend to have a few pieces on the go at any one time and as the business has grown so much. I have lots of commission works and a queue of customers waiting for the right pieces to be sourced, which is fantastic. I spend around 4 hours repairing, sanding, priming and painting and then it’s back in for admin, sourcing, emails or trips to suppliers for paints and general supplies. Then it’s off to collect the children at the end of the day and back to being a mum!

4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about setting up their own small business?

GO FOR IT!  Always give it a go, you’ve nothing to loose, and you just never know what will happen or where it will take you.

5. How important is social media to your business?

EXTREMELY.  It’s a brilliant way of getting your brand/ business out there to the masses and it’s a lovely community too. Instagram is so good, there are some lovely people out there, all helping and sharing in each other’s businesses success. It’s the perfect marketing tool and easy too, even for me, the techy phobe!

6. What’s your biggest challenge?

Looking for the pieces to paint, for customers and stock. I have such a particular look for Lived and Loved and it’s important that the brand retains this. I am particular about what I sell and finding items that fit my brand is the hardest and most time consuming.  I have so many requests for cabinets in various sizes and the sourcing of these is the challenge, but after lots of trailing through various secondhand sites, the right piece eventually pops up.

7. How is your work/life balance?

Great, it was my goal when starting out and this is something I keep at the forefront. It’s important for me and this is why I set up the business.  It’s hard work but I am getting good at spinning all the plates and having a life that suits me.’

8. Describe your own style

Antique chic, Vintage meets contemporary, stylish and on trend. Timeless and elegant design.

9. Where do you find your inspiration?

Instagram, interior magazines, fashion and lifestyle.  I am very ‘trend driven’ probably due to the fashion background and the need to always be looking for the next big thing!

10. If you weren’t running Lived & Loved, what would you be doing?

Probably still designing knitwear, working long hours and getting frustrated with the industry.  I love fashion and design but I felt it change so much and the creativity was lost.  I had pretty much ticked off the roles and retailers I wanted to work for and achieved so much, so I was definitely ready for a new challenge!

You can contact Helen via her web site;

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