Thursday, 7 June 2012

Crown and Glory Interview

This week I had the pleasure of talking to Sophie King, who runs Crown and Glory. I cannot thank her enough for her cooperation. All images courtesy of http://crownandglory.bigcartel.com/


It’s tough starting a business; it’s even tougher doing it on your own in a recession. Sophie King found herself out of a job after finishing a degree in Photographic Art at Newport University, South Wales, and decided to expand on her creative hobby of making hair accessories. A year and a half after creating her own company, Crown and Glory, Sophie is looking to the future of her brand and couldn’t be more thrilled about the challenges that lay ahead.

 As I sit and look at her headbands, I can’t help but notice the intricacy and hard work that has clearly gone into every piece in the collection. Currently working from home doesn’t faze Sophie, “It’s suited fine until late - with minimal outgoings and no pressure from the risks associated with having premises so early on. I do hope to move into a studio or such like soon, though, especially when Crown and Glory gets to the point that I am able to begin hiring.” The idea of Crown and Glory clearly gets her excited, with a five year plan in place her future is a bright one, “I hope to be at the heart of a bustling studio filled with creatives all working on Crown and Glory's latest collection, a company that values UK production, an exemplary customer service record, and wine o'clock on a Friday - oh, and a studio cat, of course!”

 Sophie understands the value of hard work and dedication, after finding herself temporarily out of work her creative talent kept her busy and her spirits hopeful. It wasn’t long before she realised that Crown and Glory was more important to her than just a hobby, it was something she was willing to risk her wellbeing on. “By June 2011 I had progressed Crown and Glory to a level where I took the chance and decided to call it my job - the prevailing reason being if I didn't give it a proper go, I'd always wonder 'what if'?” Taking the risk clearly paid off, she is buzzing with enthusiasm and it soon became obvious why.

 As we talk about the possible expansion of Crown and Glory, Sophie makes it clear that Cornwall is where she intends to stay, “Cornwall boasts a wealth of untapped graduate talent. ‘Unlocking Cornish Potential’ help Cornish graduates find entry-level positions, and in turn help SME's create graduate level positions within the region, by funding and mentoring.” As I clearly look puzzled she kindly explains that after four months of research she found out there were funding schemes she could apply for, and thankfully for her the ‘Graduate Business Start Up’ fund helped her get on her feet. For twelve months Sophie received funding and mentoring via the European Converge, “Most people don’t realise that funding is available to them, they just need to search these things out as they aren’t common knowledge.”

 Talk turns to how she copes being a one-woman business, if she finds it tough, it certainly doesn’t show. Like so many small designers there is a wealth of competition which sadly has come to light, “I've come across copycats is by absolute chance - don't Google yourself, kids! It's hugely frustrating to see entire product lines being cut and pasted onto someone else's website - of course there's being inspired by someone's success, which is flattering, but point blank ripping off another designer's hard work is disgraceful”. Sophie can be putting in 80 hours a week of work to meet demand which adds to the frustration, yet she rises above it all, “Of course it's an industry wide problem, so to be perfectly honest, I deal with it by ensuring I'm concentrating on new product lines and improving my brand. I try not to be too precious about it, but I focus on the fact that I will always be one step ahead of the game when it comes to copycats.”

 I can’t help but be impressed by her organisational skills and ability to work all the roles that a company needs, “I love what I do but working myself to the bone is not sustainable. Of course this does not just involve fulfilling orders - I do all the PR, marketing, housekeeping, accounts, admin - I attend business workshops, networking events, press days - designing and researching new product lines, tea making and cleaning to name but a few.” I find it hard to say I do anything even slightly comparable to her, but she takes it in her stride and is incredibly modest when I tell her how impressive that is, “Well I do love what I do”.

 I have my eye on a beautiful pale blue fascinator for a summer wedding. It ties in with S/S pastel obsession that has dominated the runway and high street. For thirty pounds in my eyes it is a steal, “Thankfully I think the UK market at least is definitely beginning to understand the difference they can make if they just spend a few extra pounds and support small businesses. Some of my items are more piece work, so while the actual creation doesn't take long at all, you have to remember the time and effort that goes into resourcing for that item, photographing and marketing it and costing. Some of my more intricate pieces and bespoke orders can take several days to allow materials to settle properly and glues and paints to dry before adding the next layer. It’s really varied, which I love.”

 I ask Sophie about keeping her company on trend; whether she tries to tie in her lines with the seasons, or whether she creates the lines as inspiration comes to her she thoughtfully responds; “A bit of both, really - although the products are trend led and for S/S 12 we first launched the main line as a cohesive collection in one go, I'm always adding to it in response to product popularity, customer requests and suchlike. I think this is important for an online store as it keeps the product lines fresh and ensures great traffic, too.” It is incredibly refreshing to see a woman as young as Sophie to be so passionate about her career, but being a career she has forged from scratch there is clearly a personal determination to succeed.

 Her inspiration comes from everywhere, which she is worried sounds cliché but as she talks about her favourite piece (“Of course I’m not allowed favourites..”) the Whole Lotta Rosie headband, it’s obvious the positive feedback and happy customers are only going to keep spurring her on to bigger and better things. 

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