BY Abbie Tanner
Creative, family-focused and passionate for all things nature and sustainability, we chat to Helen Parker, the Founder of Tillyanna on what a usual day looks like, the path of working for yourself and how to turn a passion project into a business.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I live just outside of Abergavenny, South Wales with my husband Rob and two children, Annabelle (14) and James (12). We have a yellow Labrador and one cat who both love lots of attention! We live in a small cottage in the woods and love the simple things in life, we are never far from home so our friends always know where to find us!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I think I always knew that I would work for myself. I worked in my Dad’s business when I left school rather than going onto further education, I then went onto spend a few years working for his accountant (who now is my accountant!) before starting my own business. I spent a few years at home when our children came along but knew I needed to get back to full-time work when James started school and that is when the Tillyanna journey began.
You have a great interest in re-usable products. How have you managed to fuse your passion for sustainability with these beautiful personalised designs?
It has been a natural progression for us to create re-usable products. Our first products were personalised cushions which were made from linen as it was important to us to offer a sustainable fabric and then our product range grew from there. We have always looked at ways to offer personalisation without moving away from our ethos and quality and this has evolved over the years. We love seeing our little jute Christmas and Easter sacks being used again and again, we want them to be part of a family’s memories.
Where are you based and what is it like?
We are based in a small village called Llanover just outside of Abergavenny. It is very important to us as this is where I grew up with my family and we all attended the small village school. It is surrounded by the hills of Monmouthshire and is a beautiful place to be able to work from, we feel very blessed to have our Tillyanna HQ here.
Who do you work with?
My family! We are a true family business, I work with my husband, my two sisters, my sister-in-law, my niece and my daughter during the school holidays. And of course, we have our Mum who lives just up the road checking in on us!
What does a typical working day look like to you?
I wake up and check my emails and social media before I have even opened my eyes properly (working on this). I then get the packed lunches done for the day before Rob and the children leave the house. I get myself ready and make my way to the studio which takes about 10-15 minutes in the car.
Every day looks different depending on what needs to be done. We always have a cup of tea and a chat first and then I fit in where I’m needed the most. If we are busy then I can be printing or packing or sticking on pom-poms!
On quieter days I can get into my office and start thinking about product development and the direction of the business, if not then I pick this up later on in the day. When we started the business, our main focus was to be able to do the school run so even when we are really busy I still take an hour out to collect the children from school.
My evenings are usually taken up replying to emails, catching up with our team who work remotely, updating the website, ensuring that everyone has been paid (very important) and I can catch up with Rob with regards to stock coming in and orders due out.
What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs out there looking to turn a passion project into a profitable business.
You need to be resilient and prepared and make sure that you are offering more than just a product, this takes time so be ready to stick at it.
You need to believe in your business but also know that it takes a lot of hard work, it takes over your life to grow a business that can be profitable, be prepared to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it!
Always listen to advice from others, it doesn’t mean you have to take it. Trust your gut instinct, there will be times when you don’t do this and it will only end one way! And finally, always be kind and you will be amazed at what may follow.
Shop the Tillyanna collection HERE and enjoy not only a wonderful product but know that real love, care and passion that has gone behind every single design.