10:51am Friday 21st December 2012
By Lauren Pyrah
Vicki Lloyd, 37, runs NE Day Crafts from her Darlington home, which supplies a number of services, including providing support and business advice to craft start-ups, as well as design services to craft kit manufacturers.
WHILE many working mothers strive for a work-life balance and struggle to pay child care costs, Vicki Lloyd found the perfect solution: setting up her own company.
Inspired by her children – Ellie, then six and Dylan, then four – she realised there was a gap in the market in the children’s crafts area, and left a full-time job to take the plunge into self-employment in 2009.
“My husband thought I was mad,” she said. “I took a huge risk back then. But I was paying most of my wages in child care and I was unhappy in my admin job.
“I was working all the hours God sends and I never took my kids to school or picked them up. The childminder saw more of my children than I did.
“At the time, I was also looking for things for my children to do – they wanted to be creative and there was nothing out there. There were classes at the arts centre but nothing to do outside this setting, or at home. That’s where I got the idea for my business – it is all because of my children.”
She set up a crafts business which both ran workshops and made activity kits for parents to do with their children at home, with sessions in Sure Start centres and private parties, as well as work for local authorities.
However, as council and Sure Start budgets dried up thanks to public spending cuts, and more companies entered the craft parties market, Mrs Lloyd found she needed to diversify her business.
“This year had a huge impact on me because council budgets vastly reduced and arts funding pretty much stopped,” she said.
“I got an opportunity through Stockton Council, to work with people setting up their own craft businesses. I have been there, done it and got the t-shirt, so I can give good advice and really help people. There is very little support for people setting up creative businesses, so it’s great for them.”
She is also pursuing an opportunity with a Yorkshire firm to design craft kits for them to manufacture.
“I am hoping to sign a big contract with a firm to design products for the classroom. They have people putting kits together but they are lacking the design capability. I am also looking at using the company to be a distributor for some of my own products,” she added.
Next year, she hopes to expand the public speaking side of her firm and has high hopes for the company’s future.
“I would like the next year to see me going into more schools and do some guest speaking.
“It is something I have done on a small scale and it is very enjoyable.
“I would like to tell them what it’s like to run a small business and encourage them to be creative.”
She said setting up her own business had improved the amount of family time she was able to set aside.
“I do work different hours – sometimes when the kids are in bed, and my husband jokes that he needs to make an appointment to see me, but it is far more flexible and I love being my own boss. “Quite often, employers don’t understand about things like going to see your children in their nativity play, so it’s great that I can work the hours which suit me.
“You also appreciate it more when you do a good job when you’re working for yourself.”
Favourite North-East building and why.
The Great North Museum in Newcastle – It makes a great family day out and I always come away learning something new What was your first job and how much did you get paid?
My first job was a paper round delivering the Advertiser from one end of Edinburgh Drive to the end of Conniscliffe Road in Darlington – It was a long way to walk with a heavy bag. I can’t remember how much I got paid, but I know it wasn’t enough.
What is the worst job you've had?
Working in a Darlington restaurant –I made a useless waitress and kept spilling the drinks. I only lasted a week as was so clumsy.
What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?
I love lovely winter warmer foods at this time of year, so I would cook a homemade fish pie with seasonal vegetables followed by apple and cinnamon crumble with crème fresh.
What would your superpower be?
Super speed as I never have enough hours in the day to get things done.
Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.
My dad; comedian John Bishop; Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Hilary Devey; and comedian Sarah Millican.
Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much?
Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?
That’s a tough one as I have so many people I love on Twitter, but would have to say Theo Paphitis as my number one.
Sorry, I don’t have time to read books these days, unless they are craft books.
When did you last cry?
What is your greatest achievement?
Have to say meeting Theo Paphitis and having my photo taken with him.
What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given?
Being scared and taking small risks is a sure sign your business will succeed – staying in control takes courage.
Favourite animal and why.
Penguins – they always make me smile and remind me of the film Happy Feet.
Most famous person on your mobile phone.
No one really exciting unless of course you include Twitter on my mobile.
What was the last band you saw live?
JLS – With my daughter.
Describe your perfect night in.
A quiet night in with husband, no children and having a candlelight meal, cooked by a celebrity chef.
In another life I would be...
A cat in a happy home – sleep all day and get fed on demand.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Victoria Wood – She reminds me so much of some of my mannerisms.
What irritates you?
Lack of manners and rude people. I was brought up with good manners and it really annoys me when people can’t even say please or thank you for things. Manners cost nothing in life.
What's your secret talent?
I make the most fantastic homemade bread
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