A passion for design and the desire for more freedom led Ruth Kilgour Salmon to set up Litterarty, a unique interior design business. She talks to BQ about her entry into this year’s If We Can You Can competition.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Since university, I have worked many very differing roles from office administration to marketing and public relations, as well as retail sales and receptionist jobs. I have also worked as and when I can at art galleries on a voluntary basis.
What inspired you to set up your business?
A lifelong passion for design and interiors of course, but also a need to better fit my work around my, let’s say, more unique lifestyle requirements.
I suffer from a form of mixed connective tissue disease, a rather hidden but no less chronic, health issue. This is something I have had since childhood and while it never stops me achieving what I set out to, in fact it makes me more determined than most, hospital appointments are a constant feature in my life. While employed I struggled with the anxiety caused by worrying about these commitments and the way others viewed me due to this fact, which only added to life’s stresses. I have always felt driven to one day create a not so ‘normal’ job for myself by creating my own business. This allows me to be more flexible and self-dependent, to be in control of my workload and fit my work into my life.
I also wanted to put to real use the knowledge and skills I gained at university and through my employment, combining them all to fuel a great business. To top that all off, I also grew up with a father that set his own business up and have always been surrounded by business owners, perhaps this set the tone.
What makes this business different?
When I set about creating my business I spent a lot of time hung up on the fact it had to be completely unique and different, but then I quickly realised that in today’s fast paced society this is tricky if not nearly impossible to do, unless you are inventing something technical or scientifically ground breaking.
However, to offer a truly unique service is actually relatively easy. I am unique, there is only one of me, that is part of what I am offering. A vision, my vision and my personal customer service. That is what essentially makes my business different. That being said, I am offering a very specific design service, a remote service that taps into the time restricted, money tight, design loving young professionals of today. An interior design service that has no geographical restrictions and that offers a fixed multi optional fixed price service that makes employing an ‘interior designer’ more accessible, with a real focus on offering guidance and a transferring of knowledge.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
A friend told me about the challenge and it intrigued me. Being able to meet and network with likeminded people who strive to develop their own businesses with passion and determination to create the life they want to live. The fact the organisation can offer industry support and contacts that have the chance to help my business find its feet and hopefully flourish. It can be so difficult to get attention and gain any form of publicity especially when in the early days and very restricted on budget. I see this challenge as an opportunity to potentially help on all these factors.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
I aim to grow the design box concept and reach a wide market on a national and even international basis (perhaps in more than three years!). I see my business growing to have hopefully have a physical shop/showroom, this would function both as a carefully curated retail space in which I can promote emerging and established designers/makers and a small consultation space to support my design work. I would like to be in a position to employ a second designer who supports and fits with LitterArty’s vision. I will continue to search for and promote new amazing design and support as many emerging small businesses as I can along the way.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
There are so many factors that have been rewarding.
Perhaps the most significant so far. I have recently completed a local commercial refurbishment, the project scale frightened me at first and I did not feel 100% prepared but having been given the opportunity I knew I had to prove to myself I could do it. This project is coming to completion at present and I am incredibly proud of the fact I did it and with more ease than I expected, my client is very happy and there is no better feeling. This has been very rewarding as I have really proven my abilities to myself.
Generally though, the overall learning curve has been endlessly rewarding. As has the feedback I have received so far from clients.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Working alone and missing the aspect of daily social interaction, working for yourself can be quite isolating at times. Keeping up momentum and pushing forward when you hit a wall is also harder when working alone. Apart from that the other challenges have been creating ‘budget’ when lacking finances and financial planning know how, and really effective daily time management can be challenging at times, especially in the early days. The whole process has been a big learning curve, as the days go on my business knowledge expands and confidence in myself grows.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
I had support from Newcastle University careers service, but since the development of my business came outside of the three years from graduation criteria to receive this service, that advice was limited.
I am currently working with Princes Trust enterprise scheme for a boost in support. Apart from that the only guidance I have had has been from a more personal source through friends with their own businesses and family.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
Do it! If you have a genuine passion and an idea that you think will work, do the research, work really hard and go for it. Even if it has to fit around current employment, if you really want to do it you’ll spend all your extra time trying. It is really daunting, of course it is, but there is so much support available to help guide you through the process. This is something I did not take advantage of and I do wish I had sought out a bit more support at the beginning of the process from some of the great organisations that are out there. Sometimes it is isolating and difficult but the fact that the hard work is for your own goals and not working for someone else or punching a corporate clock makes it all worthwhile. It has enabled me to feel so much better about myself, I love being challenged and overcoming those challenges has filled me with a real sense of pride and fuelled my ambition further.