We have all had those moments. Sat at our desks, the 3 o’clock slump hits and you find yourself staring blankly at the computer screen contemplating life. Artist, designer and entrepreneur Rebecca Loftus was no different, only she decided that something needed to change. Working hard on someone else’s dream wasn’t what she had envisaged for her life. With a diverse background in music, photography and fashion, it was taking a step back and finding a creative outlet that led to the creation of The Loft and Us. Fast forward a few years and Rebecca is now selling her art online as well as e-design and styling services. Here Rebecca talks to House Edit.ie about taking care of yourself during the process of building your dreams and not settling for mediocrity.
1. How did the loft and us come about and what made you make the leap to starting your own business?
In all honestly, I didn’t have a choice. I was in an excruciatingly boring office job, which I knew if I didn’t escape from soon, I would have gone insane. Spending the rest of my days living a life of mediocrity and un-fulfillment as I worked to prop up someone else’s dreams was definitely not the lifestyle I’d signed up for.
As a creative outlet I started to paint in my free time and post it onto my personal Instagram account and from this people started to enquire about my work. I briefly set up an Etsy account but to be honest, I have always had the kind of mantra of go big or go home, so I decided to scrap that and set up my own website to sell my art which then naturally evolved into homeware and interiors.
2. Tell us about your background and how you got into art and interiors?
My transition into the art and interiors world happened organically really. I started out working in the music industry which then led me into a long career within the photographic industry before a brief stint working for a high end well known Italian fashion brand, which wasn’t the best. Think Devil wears Prada x Mean Girls x The Hunger Games on acid.
It was by this time I was starting to feel frustrated, as I knew I wanted to embark on something of my own that I felt truly passionate about but I didn’t have the confidence to follow anything through. With the growth of social media, I was introduced to so many cool new brands. I think it was honestly Instagram that inspired me to follow my dreams. I suddenly had access to people from all around the world who were being open and honest about how they started and grew their brands.
Apart from taking art at A level, I’m essentially self-taught. Everything I’ve wanted to do in terms of my own business such as design repeat patterns, sourcing the right manufacturers I’ve literally just decided it was going to happen and figured out how to do it along the way – not always ideal!
My interior design background stems from my parents, so I will gladly give them all the credit, they have impeccable style and watching them transform properties from derelict shells to contemporary masterpieces as I was growing up definitely gave me the bug from an early age, so it seemed natural to entwine my two loves into my business.
3. As well as your online shop, you also offer an interior design consultancy service. How do you juggle managing a business, designing and keep that elusive work/life balance?
I don’t! Well it is a struggle so I never take on an interiors project unless I can give it my full intention. As I’m sure you know, it takes a lot of time to source the perfect accessories, fixtures, and fittings for a client’s space. I’m currently in the midst of creating The Loft and Us interiors look so in the future when a project falls to another designer from our brand other than me, they will be able to create something which is quintessentially our look and I will just be able to oversee the final draught before it goes out.
If I’m really honest my social life has taken a serious nose dive since launching the brand as I’m throwing all of my free-time into growing the business. With us adding so may new products to the line over the next few coming months, I honestly don’t have enough hours in the day, but its a sacrifice I’m willing to make at the moment. I just keep reminding myself to stay focused, remember why I started, where I want to get to and just trust that everything will fall into place.
4. In your view, what is your USP & what makes you stand out from the crowd?
I think where we excel is the story behind the brand just as much as the designs themselves. I really tried to think about what I found important in a brand. Originality, quality products and customer service were paramount.
I knew I had to create products that were original and unique so people would be able to recognise one of my designs easily and not just be another generic quirky pattern everyone else is doing. Our original illustrations, which we will soon be expanding into stationary and greeting cards, are really at the centre of the brand and what we do. At this point we have done zero marketing yet as a brand so when people stumble across our brand organically the first thing they always say is how much they love our original hand-painted illustrations so I think we’re onto something here.
5. What has been your biggest learning curve since opening up your own business?
Time management, what I think will take an hour, or a couple of days or weeks never usually does, so planning accordingly and realistically is key. Also knowing how the market you’re venturing into works is key, don’t try and please everybody. When you know your audience inside out, then everything you do going forward, your marketing strategy, content writing, designs everything is aimed and speaks directly to them, so you don’t waste unnecessary time trying to cater to everybody.
6. What is the most difficult aspect of being your own boss and equally the most rewarding?
Well, the most rewarding is easy, I call the shots and I have complete creative control of the brand. There is no better satisfaction than seeing someone want to spend their hard earned cash on one of your creations and knowing your gut instincts were right with the design process.
The worst part is as we are still a small brand I have to get to grips with tedious matters such as margins and accounting. Also sourcing the right manufacturers for some of our products seems to be like the Morse code. I have no idea why some manufacturers make themselves so hard to find.