A designer, illustrator, inventor, author and businesswoman, there is very little that Lizzie Chantree doesn’t know about creativity and entrepreneurship. Be inspired by Lizzie’s onward and upward climb as she shares her story of hard work and perseverence with Make It Shabby.
You are quite the entrepreneur and have successfully created and run several businesses over the years. Could you tell us a little more about your ventures?
When I was 17, I went to a college called The School of Communication Arts. They took only a handful of students each year from all over the world. It was an amazing experience and I met so many interesting people. From there I started my own business opening my first retail venture. I designed and sold my own brand of products, selling them at trade fairs like the N.E.C. I was shipping products all over the world. This business grew to two shops and a wholesale business, including a retail gift catalogue. I had this business for over 20 years. During this time I also invented a product called Runaway Spray. It is a ‘ladder’ stop spray for stockings and tights and I became one of Fair Play London’s Female Inventors of the Year.
Whilst my children were small, I decided to learn some new skills and enrolled on a silversmithing course, where I learnt to create intricate silver jewellery. I made and sold Sterling silver and Swarovski Crystal tiaras, bracelets, necklaces and much more to many local shops and businesses. I designed the crown for Miss Southend on Sea for the Miss UK final.
After I had children, I decided to start a new business with my family. I designed a range of products featuring a little green dragon called Sydney. My mum used to tell me stories about Sydney as a child and I loved the stories. Together we retold the stories and I illustrated them. I designed a range of greetings cards and activity books for children, with phonics inside, to assist with independent writing skills in small children.
During this time my daughter had been unwell for two years. To keep myself awake at night I wrote my first novel, Babe Driven. Five years later, I had it professionally edited and happened to read a magazine article about a well known author who was self-publishing his novels. it really interested me, so I submitted my book Babe Driven to Amazon for self-publishing. The response has been truly wonderful!
What setbacks did you come across over the years? Are there any that stand out, or any times where you wondered ‘what am I doing?!’ How do you overcome those moments?
When I had my first business, I was told I was too much competition for the shops and refused a market stall. I was so frustrated, as I didn’t have enough money to finance a shop, but needed to start somewhere. I contacted a big shopping centre and arranged to meet the manager at that time. They let me have a static barrow unit straight away after seeing my product range. They were looking for unusual products and I arrived there at the right time. This was a great starting point for my business.
With my jewellery business the long hours at night made things difficult and I eventually had to decide if the business could fit into my home life. When my family asked if I wanted to start a business with them, selling products I design, but we all make together, I jumped at the chance.
When I was involved with Fair Play london’s Female Inventor of the Year, there was a lot of press coverage. I was asked to write a quick script for Richard and Judy to perform on This Morning about inventions, as I was on the show that day. That was scary! They did the sketch and it was wonderful!
You’ve been designing jewellery for many years now. How long have you been crafting for? How did you begin and when did you realise that you had such talent for creating designs that people wanted for themselves?
I began crafting when I was very young. I have always made things and love seeing someone wearing something I have made, or walking into a home and seeing one of my paintings on the wall or a piece of glassware I have designed in a cabinet.
I studied graphic design and shop display and design at college. I worked in a design agency for a year, before I left to start my own ventures, working with clients like Converse. I designed a street basketball range for them.
I trained in silversmithing and I paint very colourful canvases. I love to write. I am a keen photographer, but I really have no more than a basic knowledge of how my camera works! I love to see creativity and it inspires me every day.
I realised that people liked my designs when they repeatedly asked me to make new things for them, so I decided I could turn my creations into a business. I did lots of research first though, to make sure there was a market.
My shop, Write with Sydney is a gift and creative business. We sell presents for all the family. Our shop is based around Sydney the little magic dragon and his family. We have activity books for children, short stories with practice writing, code cards and gifts galore! We are currently illustrating and designing our first range of children’s books about Sydney and his family. He is a very naughty dragon!
My parents run their own business and they have always made me believe that most things are possible with hard work and creativity.
Could you tell us about #CreativeBizHour on Twitter, and how it came about?
I invented #CreativeBizHour because I was new to Twitter and found the whole process fascinating. I didn’t really use my account properly until well after I published my first book. I found it intriguing that you can reach out to so many other creative people and people who really interest me. I had recently been on a local business course and they mentioned Twitter as a marketing tool. I thought it would be a fabulous way to assist all creatives to find a new audience for their work. I contacted some people I had met and asked them if they would be interested in hosting a new networking hour I was starting. They loved the idea!
#CreativeBizHour has truly amazed me. We have had well over 10.5 million impressions in one hour some weeks. I have met some inspiring people with really creative businesses and I hope they are all finding new contacts and clients through #CreativeBizHour.
The idea is to use the hashtag in your tweets, then retweet anyone else using the hashtag, that inspires or interests you. Your products then get seen by the followers of anyone who retweets your original tweet.
Research! I would say to always research your market thoroughly before starting a new business. With inventions, a product search to see if there is anything similar to the product you are hoping to patent, is time well spent. Most of all though, is wherever possible, to love what you do.
Finally, what are your hopes for the future of your work?
I am just about to publish my second book and our range of children’s books. I can’t wait to see them in print. I love to write and draw, so this is a dream for me.
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