Top tip for setting up and running a successful company [interview]

Today I'm talking to Charlie Mankin, founder, owner and designer of two online businesses: Stitchsperation (modern cross stitch) and Sydney Rose Designs (hand made quilts, home decor, clutch bags and accessories).

Charlie lives and works in Somerset, UK, with her husband and two fur babies (cats) called Monster and Munch(kin) - yes they were named after a well-known snack!

Hi Charlie, thanks for talking to me today!

Hello, thanks so much for having me!

Tell me about a day in your life. What happens in a normal day for you?

A normal day for me usually starts at around 8am when I drag myself out of bed. I am definitely not a morning person and need several cups of tea before I can be approached or put together a coherent sentence!

My days are never exactly the same but I try to keep some structure as much as I can: mornings are usually for working on my businesses and then the afternoons are for freelance work for other people. I usually start the morning with emails and social media and making orders. If I have fabric to paint for an order I'll do it in the morning to give it time to dry. I'm exhibiting at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London in March so I have a lot of prep work to do for that at the moment.

Afternoons are mainly spent in front of the computer and I aim to finish at 6pm for dinner. After dinner I go back to my business for an hour or so, but I try as hard as I can to step away from the computer by 8:30pm. I usually spend the rest of the evening chilling and stitching new designs in front of the telly.

What are you working on at the moment? Any exciting new developments you can share with us?

I'm getting really excited (and equally terrified) to be exhibiting at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London in March 2018 (1st-4th). It's my first event with Stitchsperation and there is so much to do! I don't think I really thought about the amount of work that would go into it before I applied. Now I'm in the thick of it, it can get overwhelming at times!

I'm also looking at branching into wholesale with Stitchsperation too, so it's all go at the moment!!!

For all the budding creative owners out there, tell us your top tip for setting up and running a successful company like Stitchsperation or Sydney Rose Designs.

Believe in yourself and your vision. You know what you want and what your brand is about, no-one else does. Always fight for yourself, if you don't, no-one else will.

Which other designers do you admire and get inspiration from?

I am currently obsessed with printmaker Frea Buckler @freabuckler on Instagram. Her geometric prints are incredible and the colours she uses...just wow! Another hugely inspirational designer is Elizabeth Pawle @elizabethpawle her eye for colour is fantastic!

I know you've been learning to knit recently, a step away from your usual cross-stitch, quilting and sewing. What prompted you to try knitting?

I tried to knit several times as a child. Both my Mum and my Nana tried to teach me, but every time I put the needles down, the knowledge went with them! I never seemed to be able to retain it. I was sure that I didn't want to try again as it would just be another thing to take away my precious time and I didn't have the room to be a wool hoarder as well as a fabric hoarder! Then I saw the Freda Star Stitch Cushion and wanted (no, needed!) it in my life, so I bit the bullet and asked you to teach me!

What has been the best part of learning how to knit?

Actually seeing the item you are making grow and become something real. The first time I started to see it actually looking like I wanted to I got a little bit overexcited!

What have you found the trickiest?

I think the hardest part for me has been learning what the different stitches look like as I'm going along. Also making sure I don't make any mistakes and am able to undo them when I do make them (frequently!).

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about learning how to knit?

Do it! It may take a while for it to sink in but that's the good bit. While you're concentrating on getting the stitches right you forget about everything else! For someone whose mind is always on work, this is awesome when I need to take a step back and really relax.

What is on your bucket list?

So many things! I want to expand my business, write a book (or two!), build another house, paint a canvas, travel, design a fabric line...ALL THE THINGS!!

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Making something. Whether it's sewing, knitting, cooking, gardening, pottery, it doesn't matter. Just the sense of accomplishment when you have made something from scratch, with your own hands, is an amazing feeling.

Evening in or evening out?

I don't get to dress up and go out very often, which I do love, but a night in with a good friend, yummy food, gin and my cross stitch is definitely one of my favourite things!

What brings you the greatest satisfaction in life?

Creating. I've always made things, ever since I was little. Whenever I feel out of sorts it's usually because I haven't done anything creative for a while. That's how I know I'm doing the right job!

Thanks for spending some time talking to us Charlie! It's been great to learn more about you and get some really useful tips too!

If you want to learn how to knit or nurture your knitting skills, I provide one-to-one tuition tailored to meet your needs. Why not give it a go?

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