Gemma Bannister dreaded going back to 60 hour weeks in corporate life after she had her children. Instead she created Lotty Lollipop and has built a successful business working from home. It may still be long hours, but she can work around her family.
Gemma talks about how she juggles her day, overcoming self-doubt and how she got into Harrods:
What does your business do?
I fill people’s lives with hand painted loveliness, making personalised art including wedding cake toppers, peg dolls and book bags.
How did you get started?
I started in April 2012. The whole of my product range has come from the home made gifts I made for friends and family when pennies were tight. They were so gratefully received that it gave me the confidence to start selling at local (Derbyshire, UK) craft fairs then later on the internet.
Business was pretty slow in the early days but in January 2013 I made my first Bride and Groom for the top of a friend’s wedding cake. I posted its picture on my Facebook page and Folksy site.
Lotty Lollipop Weddings was born and from that point onwards I have never looked back. I have just gone from strength to strength.
Why did you choose this particular business?
When I had my children I was determined to be off for as long as possible with them. In my former corporate life I used to work 60 plus hour weeks, and going back to this just filled me with dread. The dream of Lotty Lollipop was to enable me to do something I loved, from my dining room table. I could do the school runs, be off with them during the holidays and be around to watch them grow.
Fingers crossed the plan is coming together nicely.
Can you describe a typical working day?
7am – 9am Getting the kids ready for the school run
9am – 10am – Strong coffee made and Admin (invoices, website updates, social media updates)
10am -12am – Painting my products.
12am – Pick youngest (Franky) up from nursery
1pm – 3pm more painting, whilst Franky watches Power Rangers.
3pm – Knock off for school run
7pm-9pm More Painting again.
9pm-10pm Social Media networking and updating.
How do your customers find you?
A lot of my work comes via the internet. I have my own website and a shop on Etsy and Ebay too.
I display my Cake Toppers in a couple of cake shops: The Vintage Rose Cake Company in Nuneaton and The Cherry Blossom Bakery in Bawtry.
I also do a lot of work with a Leicester based magazine Miss to Mrs which I advertise in and write a guest blog fortnightly
What’s been your best moment so far?
Not wedding related but I had 200 of my Hand Painted Jute Bags on Harrods shop floor alongside Pink Addiction Perfume. They had to pass Harrods very strict quality control, which was no mean feat!
And the worst?
Underestimating how busy I got late this year. I was overwhelmed with the amount of orders I took. There were a hand full of all nighters, and a fair few tears.
Anything you wish you had known when you started?
How tough it would be in the earlier days. There was so much self doubt, there were a couple of times when I could so easily of thrown in the towel. I’m so glad I didn’t.
What’s your biggest challenge going forward?
Work life balance. When you work for yourself it is so all consuming and can be easy to forget to find time to play. The juggling act of continuing to move the business forward with new designs whilst managing my existing orders.
I am hoping that by the end of this year I will be in a position and have the confidence to take on staff to help me with the admin and social media side of the business.
Do you have a top tip for someone starting out in the wedding business?
Be original, be unique and love what you do. If you have these three things everything else will just fall into place.