Featured Entrepreneur: Tina Crawford of TobyBoo

19 JAN 2013

TobyBoo Original Embroidery by Tina CrawfordWhat’s your name, the name of your business and what promise do you make to customers?

My name is Tina Crawford and I’m founder of Tobyboo. We bring beautiful, traditional, finely made gifts into your home that stem from original embroidered artwork.

My products are perfect for anyone with a nostalgic love of Britain. Although the illustrations I create are entirely original, they remind people of the wonderful sights and experiences only found here in the United Kingdom. My customers, traditionalists at heart, also love the fact that my products are sourced entirely within the UK.

What’s your website address? Where can people find you on Facebook and Twitter?

You can find my website at www.tobyboo.co.uk and you can look me up on Facebook and on Twitter @tobyboo.

TobyBoo Tea SetWhich of your products are you proudest of? Why?

My Oranges & Lemons tea set. I took a lot of time and effort to source exactly the right company to work with and finally found a family business in Stoke. To see my designs on fine bone china is fantastic. The shapes are beautiful and my customers tell me the set makes a perfect wedding gift.

Why did you start your business?

I started my business after I became chronically ill. I had to stop work but I still had a child to support. So I turned a hobby, my original embroidery, into the foundation of Tobyboo.

I was two years into Tobyboo when I joined School for Startups.

I knew that I had something wonderful because people responded so well to my work whenever they saw it. But I didn’t have any business “know how” so quite honestly there was no business. My expectations for how the course might help were far exceeded.

What meaningful and useful skills have you acquired over the last year through School for Creative Startups?

I have a real working business. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t have that before. Doug really managed to make the parts of business that scared me most, like sales and merchandising, almost easy.

TobyBoo CushionsFor example…Pricing. I still find it the hardest part of running a business to stick to because I, like most artistic business owners, instinctively want to set my price too low for the market. But that urge is fading because I realize that when prices are too low there’s no margin for distributors and resellers which means your work can’t be sold in stores.

When I look back, I had a hobby and I occasionally sold work. That was nice, but it wasn’t a business. I now stock Mary Portas at House of Fraser countrywide, The Museum of London and I am doing my first trade show in a month.

My business is now large enough I need to get premises for stock and will be hiring someone to help me. That’s the result of just one year at School for Creative Startups.

Tip:  If you own a creative startup, or would like to, check out the SchoolforCreativeStartups website.  Learn how to build and run a successful creative enterprise properly. Apply for a sponsored space in our full one year program now or come to an S4CS free evening.

Which speakers and mentors have had the biggest impact on you and your business?

Dan Maier and Charlotte Hogg have been incredible. I continue to seek their help and advice all the time. They understand me, my business and our industry. That’s so important.

Student wise, I learned a lot from Jamal of House of Jamal. He taught me about confidence and I learned how to treat my company and myself as seperate entities. That’s very important.

Is there anyone you’ve pitched to, or sold to, recently that you’d like to tell people about?

Yes! I pitched to Liberty before the course and I only wish you could see the before and after. At that meeting I was naive and clueless. Liberty loved my work and I can see now that it was my business knowledge that made working with them impossible.

Recently I pitched to Peter Cross and the buyers at House of Fraser. And, Yes, I felt nervous. But I knew all my figures and lead times so well they had no questions to ask after my presentation. We just had a deal. Other presenters in a similar position had to exchange phone calls and emails to answer questions they couldn’t address after their presentations. I managed it all in one meeting.

I know exactly how to sell my products and my business now.