Graduate entrepreneur: Beki Gowing, founder of Print & Press, London
This article is one of a series of interviews with University of Brighton graduate entrepreneurs. beepurple is the university’s entrepreneurship support service.
Name: Beki Gowing
Subject studied: Textile Design with Business Studies
Year of graduation: 2013
Business name: Print & Press, London
Describe your business
Print & Press, London is a digital fabric printing bureau for designers, makers, small businesses, and everyone else who wants to turn their designs and artwork into beautiful, affordable fabric prints. Our customers use their bespoke fabric for fashion, interiors and crafts, and we build close relationships to offer creative business support and help their businesses grow. We’re based in South East London, where I also run creative workshops, and give talks on growing and developing product-based businesses.
How did you get your idea for the business?
During my degree at Brighton I worked extensively with digitally printed fabric, and used the printing process to inspire the business plan I wrote as part of my final year Business Studies module. I then joined the Buying Graduate Scheme at John Lewis, but always had the nagging feeling that my business plan would work. After several years I started to get itchy feet and dreamt of working for myself, so I started to research the idea more seriously. After taking out a business start up loan I left the corporate world and started Print & Press, London in 2016.
Why is your business unique?
Coming from a design background, the whole business has been built around creating beautiful high-quality prints that designers and brands can sell. As a student who has used the services of other companies, I could see where I felt the experience was lacking, and have worked to address these with things like printed samples (so customers can see how colours will look on fabric), upfront and clear pricing, express delivery options, and personable customer service.
Being a small company, we can be flexible to support our customers, and often have one to one meetings with customers, print on customer’s own fabric, and process 24 hour print turnarounds.
How do you market your business?
Almost all of our marketing is through social media, predominantly Instagram as that’s where most of our customers share their work, find inspiration, and look for people to work with. It’s also been a great place to meet other businesses, and has inspired a number of collaborations.
Greenwich’s South East Enterprise team, who have worked with me extensively on SEO and content marketing, has also supported us. Going forwards as I’m looking to spend more time delivering talks and workshops, with the day to day running of the business left to the team, I’m hoping to use these events and face to face meetings to meet potential customers and collaborators.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how have you overcome it?
Leaving the structure of a corporate 9-5 and finding myself on my own (at the beginning) was a big shock. I was expecting a huge sense of freedom, but I was actually quite overwhelmed. It made me realise how much I need to talk to people, and just sitting on my own in a studio was not a healthy way to get things done.
I started to reach out to people on social media, attended business advice groups, found a business mentor, and tried to set myself clear deadlines about when to stop working and have days off. Getting other people’s advice and different perspectives has made a big difference, and stopped me feeling so alone. I now work in a creative hub and always have people around to share ideas with, which with hindsight I would have done much sooner.
To what do you attribute your business success?
I’ve always loved solving problems, and coming up with different ideas and solutions. I approach most of my daily jobs as some sort of problem solving exercise, which makes them much more enjoyable. Sometimes things go wrong and it can knock me back, but I’ve learnt to see these things as a challenge, and then I start enjoying working out how to fix them.
I’ve also had very supportive friends and family, who have been great at listening if I need to offload. Switching off is so difficult when you first start up a business, but having people who make you leave the house and spend some time talking about anything other than delivery times and Instragram reach is essential!
What are your business plans for the future?
We’re expanding and moving into a new studio in October which I’m really excited about. I hope we will also get to a point where we can have a Brighton intern, as the placement year on my degree played such an important part in helping me find work after university.
Eventually I’d like us to be able to offer an incubator to support start up textile brands, and to build closer links with local charities to support with art therapy and skills workshops.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone starting up?
Get as much help as you can. Doing everything on your own is hard, and you can’t be an expert at everything.
Try to go to as many events as you can and just talk to people. You might find out something useful, or you might find someone you can work with. Collaborating is the best way to get anything done – you have to do half as much work as if you tried on your own, and twice as many people are likely to hear about it!
What three skills are the most important for an entrepreneur to develop?
Patience – you have to be willing to put in the hours, as no one else is going to do it for you.
Creativity – even if you plan for years, there will be aspects of your planning that won’t work out as you expected and you need to be creative and flexible to adapt.
Confidence – this has been hardest for me, but you have to put yourself out there and tell everyone why your business is so great. Even if you are the shyest person, start learning to fake it for long enough so you can go to networking events and talk to journalists, and make everyone fall in love with your business.
Any tools, resources or books you recommend?
Too many to list! Below are a few I’m finding most helpful at the moment:
- http://www.yesandyes.org/ – Loads of useful advice about routines, making habits, and remembering to enjoy yourself. Sarah will also give you a free review of your website.
- https://www.janetmurray.co.uk/ – More useful advice, this time all about marketing and PR for your business. Janet’s podcast covers so many topics including ‘How To Promote Yourself At Live Events’, ‘How To Dominate A Niche’ and ‘How To Get Journalists To Say Yes To You’
- https://www.quillengage.com/ – I’m not great at technology or understanding my Google Analytics, but this amazing site deciphers it all and sends a free weekly summary of how your website is performing
- https://missinglettr.com/ – You need to pay to access the best features of this site, but it will save you hours and increase the number of visitors to your blog by creating great social media content to promote your old blog posts.