Community Assistant Pete Rogers recently caught up with Jenny Evans the Ceo behind design company Jenny Kate Ltd to find out more about her journey to self employment and what goes into the opening & running of your very own shop!
So you’ve said in a previous interview that Jenny Kate Ltd was a business started by accident. How do you accidentally start a business?
I decided that I wanted to do a textiles degree, signed up, went to the interview, got accepted onto the course at Cardiff Met. It was only on the train home that I realised I didn’t know how to sew!
I taught myself to sew and the first piece of art I made (drawing with my sewing machine) my Mum fell in love with and asked to have it for her birthday. We took it into a gallery to be framed and the owner asked me for more artwork. That’s how my business began.
People are likely to be surprised when they find out how many different jobs and paths businesses owners have had before the company they’re known for.
How did some of your other endeavours such as modelling prepare you for running a company?
I did a load of random things between leaving school and going to university and set up my business. I worked in a pub, was a painter and decorator, was a wedding photographer, a model, managed a homeware store in Sydney, went on an expedition to Oman and interned for an explorer.
Every job taught me different skills that came in handy later in life. Working in the pub taught me how to speak to people, being a painter and decorator taught me the value of hard work and patience.
Being a wedding photographer taught me how to cope with long, high pressure days and modelling taught me the art form of dealing with rejection gracefully.
The homeware store taught me how to brand a business, the expedition gave me self belief and drive and interning for an explorer taught me to think outside the box and grab every opportunity that came my way.
I think it’s important to do different things, they help shape and round you as a person like nothing else will. It also helps you talk to a vast array of different people and deal with different kinds of pressured environments. I wouldn’t change these experiences for the world – they’ve made me who I am, but also shown me how right running my own business is for me.
Today there are so many conversations around mental and physical health, a big part of that has been stress and expectations of people’s work life, how do you see your work life balance? And do you have advice for anyone going into business that could help them with their own balance?
Work life balance is incredibly hard when running a business. I’ve had bouts of difficult illnesses where I’ve lost a lot of my eyesight. I’ve stress ate my weight in creme eggs, not seen my friends and family for months on end… the list goes on.
What I’ve learned is best for me, is I can work extremely and intensively hard if I can see an end in sight. I plan in nice things at the end, so I know I am working towards that goal. Mentally, I seem to be able to cope that way, as I know the end is in sight.
My one piece of advice for other founders and CEO’s? Burning out might sound glamorous and what everyone seems to work towards, but efficiency is much cooler. Some nights you have to stay late, but if you look at what you spend your time doing, there’s probably a lot of your time that could be more efficiently spent (myself included.)
Work hard, but if you crash and burn from over working, so does the business. Know your limits and don’t be ashamed to take time off – you are human after all.
Has there been anything that’s really surprised you about running your own business? Whether that’s something about yourself or business in general?
I’m surprised every day. I never ever thought that I would be doing something like this, because for a long time, I got in my own way and wouldn’t let myself aspire to having a team and offices.
The best and worst surprises so far in business are people.
I am pleasantly surprised all the time by the generosity of the business people working within Cardiff and it’s been a privilege to work and meet with a lot of the business community. However, it is a double edge sword and I’ve been caught out by people too. I try not and take things too personally now, preferring to move on, treat it like a learning experience and focus on the amazing network of people I have in my life now.
Jenny celebrating pitching success with Ashley Cooper and Hayley Parsons.
You’ve just taken a big step in opening up your shop, can you tell us a little about that process and what it means for the company going forward?
We’ve just done our first pop-up store, which was amazing and challenging. The feedback has been incredible and we are really excited for the future – we can’t wait to do another one! We really wanted to show what Jenny Kate is all about, so we went to town on the nature theme, as well as our products – they were absolutely everywhere.
It was an amazing experience and it’s definitely made me want to open some permanent stores, but I am not sure whether they will be in the UK or overseas… we shall see!
The Jenny Kate Ltd shop launched in London.
Finally, what’s the one thing you would go back and tell 18 year old you if you could?
Don’t apologise for who you are, you won’t be around the people who make you feel like you have to for long!