FAB interview with the extremely successful Hannah from Wrendale Designs!

February 4, 2018

WOW  I'm so pleased to have another AMAZING interview for you!! It's so wonderful to have a peek into other people's businesses, especially working parents!! As you know since having baby Summer the way in which I work is so different. I wonder what I did with all my time before... 


In this blog, I am focusing on working parents; how we cope with it plus how it affects our businesses! This is an interview with the extremely successful Hannah Wrendale from Wrendale Designs. Founded in 2011, when Hannah started the business Lara was aged two, Amelia was three and Oliver wasn’t born - they are now nine (Amelia), seven (Lara) and four (Oliver)



1. Tell me about youself and your business? Your elevator pitch if you will.


I am a zoologist-turned-stockbroker-turned-illustrator and founder of Wrendale Designs which produces cards and giftware featuring my artwork.  I have always loved wildlife and this is the major inspiration for all of my work.


2.       How do you manage to run a successful business with three children? Do you have any advice for other mum’s with their own businesses?


I don’t think that there is an easy answer to this question – most of the time I feel that I’m winging it!  It’s so difficult to balance the time you spend with your children and the time you spend working when you don’t have fixed hours.  It helps me a lot that I can work from home – I mainly paint at home, so I can do this while the children are here and it gives me that bit of overlap between family and work.  I also think that it’s essential to ask for and accept help – both with the children and with work.  I couldn’t do what I do without Jack sharing the load with school runs etc, and delegating at work means that I can spend time prioritising the most important bits. 


3.       How do you tend to manage your time? What would a typical week involve? Do you have any time off and how many hours do you work per week?


I'm the ‘Creative Director’ - officially Jack is in charge of finance and operations and I am in charge or sales, marketing and creative. We both work together on business strategy. 


One of the reasons I wanted to run my own business was so that I could fit work around the children and not have to rely too heavily on childcare.  I think I overestimated the amount of control I would end up having over my working hours!  As the business has grown, it as demanded huge amounts of energy and time, way more than I expected.  The result is that I pretty much feel constantly guilty that I’m either neglecting the business or my family – I still want to pick them up from school at 3pm and have two days ‘off’ with my little boy who is still at nursery – I think if I couldn’t do this I would feel that I’d failed in the fundamental objective as to why I started the business in the first place.  To fit in the amount of work I need to do I get up at 5am to work before the children wake up and continue to work into the night after they have gone to bed.  I also rarely have a weekend without working.  I’ve basically ended up having to give up any time for myself!  I don’t think this is in any way advisable and I’d welcome any tips from mums who are handling it better than I am!



4.       What’s Jack’s typical week?


Jack spends more time in the office than I do – he is there all week as his role as managing director means that he needs to be more hands on than I am.  He does the school run on the mornings I am in the office which allows me an early start on those days.  We have over 20 staff at the office/warehouse now so a lot of his time is spent managing them and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.


Staff - we’ve got graphic designers, customer services, accountants, sales (two focusing on export), order processors, procurement manager, warehouse management and warehouse staff.


5.       How have you seen changes with the growth of your business and your growing children??


For the first few years we were working from an office at home – this was ideal when Oliver was a baby as I could work around his nap times but it’s harder to juggle this now he is a bit older and we have premises.  The nature of the work has changed too – as a one-woman-band at the start I was doing a bit of everything – accounting, designing, sales, debt collection, marketing, picking orders… I quite liked the variety of this but it is a bit of a relief to be able to focus on the bits I enjoy the most, although the workload never seems to go down.


6.       What do you believe is the secret to your success?


I think there is always something that we could be doing better or striving to achieve so I don’t ever really stop to think about whether I think we’ve been successful or not – it all feels so transient that dwelling on past successes is a bit backwards looking and I think it’s important to keep looking forward for the next challenge.  That said, I think it’s important to keep focused on your goals and be honest if something isn’t working – try something else instead.


7.       What has been your best piece of advice?


‘Don’t be a busy fool’ and ‘Don’t be afraid to say no’ – I know it’s two but they do go hand in hand!  It sounds obvious but I seem to have to fight against an inclination to say yes to everything and plough on with projects or requests without really stopping to question whether it’s going to benefit the business or if it’s actually making us any money.



8.       What are your top five actionable tips?


* Write a business plan – start out with a vision of where you see yourself and your business in five years, and then plan how you are going to get there


* Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses – get help with things that you aren’t good at.


* Don’t worry too much about market trends or you will always be a step behind – be original and start the next one


* Listen to feedback and adapt according to it but don’t take negative words too much to heart – I once approached an agent in the early days with my cards who sent them back along with a letter (and randomly, an order from one of the customers he had shown them to!) saying that there was nothing special about them and he didn’t think they would be successful commercially – I would love to meet him one day! 


* Always ask yourself if you are still enjoying it – if not, ask why and what can you do to change that.


9.       What is the most challenging thing about running your own business? Has this changed over the years with your amazing growth?


I think the thing I personally find the most challenging is coping with pressure.  Admittedly, this is largely pressure that I put upon myself but I am a dreadful perfectionist and take it very personally when any slight thing goes wrong – as the business has got bigger, the number of issues naturally goes up and I still struggle to take a step back.  It can be very draining and if I’m not careful really affects me.  I think it’s important to get some perspective on these things as they are usually insignificant in the grand scheme of things!


10.   What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and being a parent? How do you overcome this?


Having much more to do than you could ever possibly have time for and always feeling that you are slightly underachieving on all fronts as a result!




11.   What is your favourite business book, podcast and blog you have read and heard?


* I read a book called Gung-Ho which I loved.  It’s about creating a motivated and happy workforce and is very entertaining – much more easy to read than most business books. 


* Also, it’s not very highbrow but while I’m painting, I find I am more productive listening to music or podcasts and my favourite thing is listening to inspirational people on Desert Island Discs – you just get a lovely potted history and some amazing sound-bites and it’s quite uplifting.


12.   Where do you see your brand going? What would be your dream project?


My overriding goal when we started the business was to create a brand that would become a household name and would be available to buy in every town in the UK – this is still what I’d like to achieve.


13.   If you could do it all again what would you do differently?


I can honestly say that I’m pretty happy with the major decisions we have made – I don’t think I would do anything differently


Isn't that amazing, THANK YOU SO MUCH Hannah for such an open and honest interview with wonderful tips!!


Tips I found really interesting were:


I loved the tip about "being honest if something isn’t working – try something else instead." It’s so important and something we have to keep reassessing as something that was your best seller/ very successful in your business in 2017 may not be in 2018.


Which follows on nicely with "Listen to feedback and adapt according" There is no right answer you just need to do something and see if it works. If it doesn't work try something else, and if it does work keep going with it until it doesn't. Unfortunately there will be a time when it doesn't anymore and that might be in one year, 10 years or 50 years down the road, everything runs it's course eventually. It's having fun with all the trial and error that counts. Enjoying the journey as they say! 


Also 100% agree if you're not enjoying it "look at why not and how can you make sure you are enjoying it."  We only live once and therefore must make the most of the one life we have!! Can you delegate it, can you move on from it? There are many things that can be done! As Marie Forleo says "Everything is figureoutable.” 



Sooo interesting I could go on forever... But I'll save some for Mon 19th Feb, it's going to be a great post about getting your work in front of the right people and the importance of self promotion. I am talking about that exact topic at the V&A museum SOLD OUT event on Sat 17th Feb x x x


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