Welcome to my new blog series of Spotlight blog posts, which are something I’ve been working on for a while. I am lucky enough to be friends and cheerleaders of some of the UK’s hottest indie interiors businesses and I wanted to showcase them here and help you find other beautiful products that you may not have found online.
Through this blog series, I delve behind the curtain of businesses and find out why they were born, how they keep going and what inspires them. You’ll find handy links to source their products and get to know more about the brands at the bottom of the post.
First up is one of my faves, Susie from Totter & Tumble. She’s an all-round superstar and her playmats feature heavily in our household and our brand imagery. Let me know what you think, I always love hearing your feedback.
Susie, please introduce yourself:
Hello, I am Susie -I'm just a regular person, who happens to be the purveyor of beautiful playmats, champion of family interiors and mum to two wonderfully tiring little people.
What did you do before your current business?
I taught in primary schools for over a decade - and carried on for a year into Totter + Tumble! I absolutely loved it after having falling into education straight after university, and only gave it up when the juggle became a real struggle. I have no business background, so I am now the learner - and I am really enjoying that!
What drove you to start your business?
The alternatives pained me. We had just put every penny we had into making our kitchen beautiful and family-friendly, poring over the colours of the walls, cabinets, worktops - even the colour of the grout was debated. And when we went to put down our jigsaw playmat I nearly cried. It was dogeared from the second day we had it and the cracks brought back memories of trying to clear between the pieces, but equally knew a rug was a disaster too. Now with a toddler and a baby, it was so apparent how it was that common playmats are merely designed to solve a short term problem, whereas I knew now that floor play lasts for years. And to top it off, it was hideous, overwhelming assault on the senses.
I am fortunate in that all the members of my immediate family have all started their own unique companies- they are ALL entrepreneurs in the truest sense. When I kept on complaining about there not being a decent playmat that didn't compromise on the features I craved, they just reminded me that I could do it. My father is particularly good at orchestrating conversations to build up an idea without realising it. As a job he helps companies achieve their goals by working with them from the inner circle - I should have seen him coming!
What's your favourite thing about it?
Within my particular company it has been that my playmats exceed people's expectations - and that ultimately Totter + Tumblers feel as excited by the playmats as I do. Otherwise I have loved learning about businesses, meeting incredible brand owners and building it up organically. It is good to be there at the school gates too now that my eldest has started in Reception.
What would you do differently, if you were to start again now?
I was fortunate in that I loved my previous career teaching that afforded me a year perfecting the product and making sure I had a manufacturing partner that held the same values that I did before launching. Essentially I wasn't going to do it unless everything married up with no compromises. I stick with the notion that product is king.
But what I have found harder, and probably would have teaching too, is balancing home life, childcare and work, and visualising how that may change as the business grows - and having a really frank discussion with yourself about how that may change your time and how you use it. What that looks like for your family and how to manage that as it affects everyone. Maybe putting stricter guidelines in place - like not checking emails before bed - may have helped me developed a healthier framework. I was so busy working out worst case scenarios, I didn't forecast for if it went well!
What was the big "that's it!" moment that made you know that this was the right path for you and your business?
I have had lots of smaller ones - but it all comes back to the product; the playmats. From opening the final samples and being truly delighted, to getting the first batch of customer feedback where they felt the same. Giovanna Fletcher, unbeknown to me, was given one by a friend and then did the most generous set of stories on how wonderful they were. People still screenshot her instagram with the playmats and post them in forums - that is bananas. But it has been steady, organic growth for the business but also for me - we have grown together.
What does the future hold for your business?
To be revealed - there have been some really exciting meetings recently that I can't mention yet! But I am really enjoying what I am doing now too.
If you didn't have your business, what else would you love to do?
Sleep. Only joking, I still wouldn't get that. I would definitely still be teaching and be knackered but happy.
Lastly, what is your inspiration in your home? Where does your style and design eye sit?
I like clean-lines but period properties, with more earthy hues and I like to buy once but buy well. Our kitchen is clean and light but we have gone to the dark side in the living room - dark Green Smoke f&b walls, soft pink ceilings and brass light fittings that I have been hankering after for ages. But at the same time, we have easy-velvet sofas, flexible Ikea trovast storage and -of course- Totter + Tumble playmats! Everywhere!
In the UK we are really good at adult interiors, and really good at kids or nursery interiors, but there is a big gap in the true family interiors. With two young children, we carefully plan out what we like and with what works.