A luxury leather-work designer has found start-up success with the help of the Let’s Do Business Group.
Paula Kirkwood set-up Rogue Saddler last year after successfully applying for a £2,400 Start Up Loan to help her launch her unique and hand-crafted designs from her home in Brighton. Paula designs and hand makes luxurious leather goods for men and women, which she sells online.
One year on, Paula shares her experience of the Start Up Loans (SUL) scheme, starting her own business and her plans for the future.
The new business funding enabled Paula to buy equipment and materials to create her first online collection.
Paula said, “The scheme was perfect, I’d had plenty of business experience but had never set out a business plan on my own and was quite out of touch with this world after having my daughter. To have someone mentor me through the process and in the early days was great for my confidence, which I lacked.”
In addition to a start-up loan, participants receive support throughout the process and mentoring in their first year of trading.
“Being supported by my mentor and having a team of likeminded people on the scheme gave me a sounding board for ideas and worries. And of course without the funds I wouldn’t have created anything to sell.”
Starting Up Rogue Saddler
Before setting up Rogue Saddler, Paula ran a design and production studio for a fashion charity and prior to that she ran an ethical wedding dress design company in Sussex with two others.
After having a child Paula found she needed to work around her daughter, but with such a niche background she found herself struggling to break into the jobs market. Paula had a great idea for a business and set about making it happen.
“I needed a business that I could run from home as I had a young daughter not yet of school age. I have always had a passion for particular fabrics such as, denim, canvas and leather and after being given an industrial sewing machine suitable for leatherwork, I set about teaching myself how to produce bags and small accessories.”
Paula successfully completed the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme last year, a government-initiative aimed at helping people to become self-employed through a series of workshops and a financial support.
Bringing handcrafted goods to market
The Start Up Loans (SUL) scheme enables fledgling entrepreneurs to launch sustainable and viable businesses through a low-cost loan and mentor support. The application process enables applicants to drill down into their business and make sure their ready to start-up.
“The scheme helped me to identify things that I hadn’t considered, such as parts of the year when I’d be really busy and other parts when I’d be quiet. It helped me to see that I needed to create other lines and release those during the quite periods to create more interest throughout the year.”
When asked what the most helpful part of the scheme, Paula said: “Without it I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for it! The support physically and finically has been amazing.”
Start Up success
One year after launching Rogue Saddler, Paula has a growing list of loyal customers and, thanks to them word is spreading about her work.
Paula sells her leather handbags and accessories online, through two sites and in addition to her own collections, has collaborated with designers in the UK and USA.
Looking ahead, Paula will launch a new collection this month and aims to get her goods into retailers early next year.
She will be attending MADE Brighton in November, gaining exposure to high-end retailers where she hopes to stock her goods in the future.
Paula’s advice for other start-ups is:
“Make sure you have a tight business plan, don’t leave anything out, think of everything that could occur and create a safety net. Take all the help and support offered to you, its invaluable! And go for it!”