Today's Sunday Spotlight is Orange & Grey, the brainchild of two insta friends of mine Angie Talbot and Ellie Gair. Launched only very recently, yet with a great back story, I love that these ladies are trying to install some positivity into our homes.
Orange & Grey is a Leeds-based lifestyle brand, launched by Ellie Gair Dummer and Angie Talbot.
We launched in February 2018 so we are very much a new start-up. We wanted to create a range of lifestyle products that made people feel capable, empowered, strong and positive and that at any time when that customer used one of Orange & Grey’s products, the strong arms of a fearless tribe were around them, spurring each person on.
The name Orange & Grey links back to feeling and colour psychology - orange being a nurturing, warm, energetic and courageous colour and grey typically balanced, calm and still. Coupled with the understanding that at any time, in anyone’s life, there are points in which that individual will feel powerful, energetic, confident and positive and then times when that grey cloud of self-doubt, panic and vulnerability hits.
The psychology of motivational statements and quotes translates so well across any demographic but in particular we wanted our audience to be people like us - mothers, entrepreneurs, friends, individuals with their own quirks - we understood that audience because it was who we were. We wanted to give people the words to use when they couldn't always find the words themselves.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I think we both had different reasons for coming together to create Orange & Grey:
Angie - As someone who suffers from anxiety I wanted to create a range of products to lift people and give them a confidence boost. It was also important to me that whatever I did was able to fit into family life and was able to be worked around the kids. Before having Harry, my first child, I had a career as an account manager for a big finance company which I loved and then I fell pregnant with my gorgeous little boy. Once Harry was born he was diagnosed with CVS which is essentially a condition whereby a child has severe vomiting, nausea and chronic pain with no warning. This meant I wasn’t able to work a traditional 9-5 because I had to be able to drop everything and care for him whenever he had an episode. After then having my second, Luella, I was essentially a stay at home parent for 11 years. Both my kids are older now and Harry’s condition isn't as severe as it once was so it felt like it was time to get back into working life but also the right time to do something for myself.
Ellie - My background is in fashion, PR and recruitment - I worked like a maniac in my career for 16 years and then kind of hit burn out. I was working in London mostly but we’d relocated from there up to Leeds and I’d had my little boy, Gray, who is now 7. At the end of 2015 I got to the point where I was at rock bottom and was trying to figure out what I was going to do so I could be a better mam, be more present and still have a career, but flexibly and on my terms. I found network marketing which is an incredible business model and gave me so many skills and opportunities but it wasn’t driving me with passion, necessarily. I have a pop up events business hosting cool supper clubs in Leeds but knew there was something else missing from the jigsaw but I couldn't figure out what it was. I think because of struggling to find out who I was meant to be, feeling like I was failing at everything and not being best version of myself, I developed depression and kind of hibernated for a good six months. Then a session with my business and life coach, Katie, changed everything. We talked about what drove me, about my passion for design and visuals and the idea of creating a lifestyle brand was formed. Little did I know Angie and I had a similar vision until a coffee together one morning and it was like the lights went on in me again.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Luckily we live about a 5 minute walk from each other. Essentially we both work from home - Angie from her kitchen table and me from a home office, but we make time every week to take Orange & Grey to neutral ground - whether it be a local cafe or coffee shop or a co-working space - just so we can be creative with less house or personal distraction. We’re also massive advocates of getting into the fresh air and walking the dogs to talk business alongside this. It’s good for the soul!
At the moment the stock is all in Angie’s dining room so the dream would be to have a space where we could hold stock and both come together to work from. A shed would do at this stage.
3.How did you fund your business?
It’s all self-funded. Now we are making a little profit, we use the profit from sales to re-invest in new products and for re-ordering stock.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
It’s been frustrating at times to not be able to build our brand and ranges as quickly as we would have liked. We have so many ideas but we aren't making enough profit (yet) to actually see those ideas develop into tangible product.
So yes, it would have been amazing to have had access to some sort of grant or business funding so that we could also pay professionals to do a professional job on the things where our talents lack - so the website for instance - neither of us are remotely technical and what takes 5 frustrating hours to do would probably take someone who knew the platform a few minutes to do. We don’t feel the website currently reflects who we are as a brand necessarily and it’s not as slick or as visually appealing as we would like but therein lies the positive too, right, because all the time you’re learning as a business and learning as individuals to do things that push you out of your comfort zone, so once the website is figured out and nailed, we’ll have that skill for life.
5. What help was missing for you?
We would LOVE to have a business mentor - you know someone who has walked the walk before us. We are both so different from one another too which is a blessing because we bring something different to the table, but sometimes our ideas clash and it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when something feels so personal to both of us.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
Maybe not sitting down and creating a solid plan. We winged it quite a bit, and to some extent that’s largely what we still do now, and whilst we made a conscious decision that in the early stages we’d be led initially by our audience and what they wanted, sometimes we wish we’d set out a more structured business plan.
As a business we were both very clear that we wanted to support and encourage other small businesses and small business owners and always use local suppliers, but that has bitten us on the backside a couple of times with big delays on product delivery, mistakes on the order or the order arriving and not being of the quality we’d expect or be prepared to put our name to. We had a brand new line which should have gone live at the beginning of May but we are now having to start from scratch with a new supplier. These are all lessons learnt though and while it’s been incredibly annoying we’re sure almost all businesses have gone through something similar at some point.
7. What have you learnt?
Angie: Learning new skills every single day. Learning to face fear and not to let fear hold me back. I’ve come out of my comfort zone and Orange & Grey has made me realise I can achieve something and be a confident business woman.
Ellie: I’ve learnt that I enjoy Orange & Grey. I love what we’ve created so far and that back in the olden days I might have thrown the towel in and outsourced when something felt beyond my capabilities, these days I keep on trucking til the job is done. It’s a steep learning curve leaving the comfort of the corporate world where there’s someone on hand to delegate to, because that’s their job, to suddenly being all of those people. I suppose it’s weirdly empowering for someone who doesn't like change particularly.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Don’t wait until everything is perfect or you’ll never do it. If it’s good enough or you have an idea, just run with it. If you’re working full-time you have be prepared to sacrifice time with family and friends to build your vision / brand / business idea in the pockets of time you can carve out in a day or night, so be organised.
Failure isn't necessarily a negative thing - even if something you try first time doesn't work or doesn't get the noise you were hoping for, it’s not the end of the world - you will have learnt loads of lessons and skills along the way and found out what you’re capable of - it helps to build resilience and enables you to work out what you might do differently next time.
Also, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to the business plan or the wheels come off the strategy you’ve built - often you have to let the business lead you and trust that your customers and your audience know what they're doing and what they want too!
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
Angie: I love creative process of deciding what products to go with and showing people what we are up to on social media
Ellie: It’s knowing that something you’ve created yourself is being enjoyed by someone else and making the recipient feel strong and valued. There’s a real validation in that and in knowing you’ve done it right and you’re helping someone in some way through the products that sit within your brand. I’ve always loved writing and bring creative with photography so it’s brilliant that I’m able to bring that passion to Orange & Grey.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
Angie 5: I’m fully embracing and loving the challenges of being a business owner. Orange & Grey has given me so much more confidence.
Ellie: Honestly, sometimes it feels like 10 and sometimes it feels like 1 - no day is ever the same and we encounter challenges, set backs and victories in equal measure. but even the days when it feels as hard as a 10 are still brilliant because we’re doing something we love.
I love the back story that brought these ladies to their business idea. Both having struggled in some way personally, this business has given them something to focus on, to build their confidence and to learn new skills as well as creating an empowering brand for homeowners. They are still learning, and that's fine, as I think any business that stops learning stops growing.
It is always a steep learning curve starting on your own, perhaps without all of the skills you require, but there is a great sense of satisfaction in learning these new skill and as their business grows, they should be able to outsource some of the work they enjoy least.
Two nicer ladies would be hard to find, so go on, give them a little support to get this new start up growing.
Head to https://www.thegirlwiththegreensofa.com to read insight, profiles and business spotlights from Nicola, an amazing friend and social media influencer.