Next up in my small business interview series, I’m chatting to Solii Brodie from BeFab Be Creative. Set up by sisters Solii and Zoe, BeFab Be Creative launched in 2012 to make short run, high-end digital fabric printing as accessible for small designer-makers and interior designers as it is for larger brands.
BeFab Creative offers high-end digital fabric printing with minimums of just 50cm, onto silk, British woven linen, and cotton for both custom printing as well as a range of 160 fabric designs from 12 talented British designers.
The studio’s clients include Screen Scotland, The National Galleries and Sandra Rhodes, as well as having printed suit linings for the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and the Phelps twins of Harry Potter fame. The business aims to provide textile manufacturing at a scale that serves their clients, offering both a high quality and appropriately scaled digital fabric printing service.
Why do you do what you do?
Oft that’s a big one! Because we’re creative problem solvers and we like helping small designer makers solve the problem of how to get their fabric printed and made into beautiful products!
What are you most proud of?
It would be easy to say winning Scottish Small Business of the Year this year, or printing for some big-name designer or celebrity, all of which we are incredibly proud.
However, the thing that we care most about are all the small designer makers that we have helped play a small part in their ability to start their businesses. The knowledge that the designers who work with us can trust that we put the same care and attention into the printing of their designs as they do in the creation of them. These things, though seemingly small, make the day-to-day worthwhile.
What keeps you up at night?
I rarely have trouble sleeping. Which when I had a ‘conventional’ job, I wouldn’t have said with such confidence.
What prays on my mind? Probably two things, and often the ones outwith my control. Despite being incredibly practical, working with machinery that needs maintenance can be stressful. We know our machines incredibly well now and have pretty much come across everything that may need TLC in our six years of working with them, but it’s when something breaks unexpectedly, having to fix this in a time scale that doesn’t affect our client’s order lead time, that is stressful!
However, we’re lucky enough to have some fantastic electrical and mechanical engineers always on hand to help if we need them, and who hilariously only take payment in baked goods. Haha… So, having a fantastic support network in that respect is invaluable, and we wouldn’t have made it through our first year had we not had their help, but that’s a long story!
The other thing, well we’re a small business, so the obvious one is making enough money, we didn’t get into this business to make our millions but making a living is the aim.
What was the best business decision you ever made?
Starting! Also doing it with my sister. It’s so important to go into business with someone you trust and has your back, Zoe and I are a great team, and importantly we also know when to leave the room when we want to kill each other! Haha… I can’t imagine doing what I do without her.
And the worst?
Not always believing in ourselves. You have to have a certain amount of blind faith when you start a business, and our first year was a total baptism of fire. So we maybe didn’t hit the ground running in the same way that we would in hindsight have done. However, what’s that saying “The man with hindsight would rule the world”? It’s so true.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
“Do your best” – it’s something both our parents have always said to us as we were growing up and actually, it’s stayed with us. Even if sometimes, all that means is to get through the day.
How do you attract new clients or customers?
Pretty much all of our clients have come through social media, networking and word of mouth. We have some fantastic champions of our business and that is really important to us. The only trade fair we have ever found beneficial, without fail, is Make it British in London, which is a British-only manufacturing show, where people seem to understand what we do.
What do you enjoy most about your marketing?
Haha… I, like so many, have a love-hate relationship with marketing. I love connecting with clients and sharing the amazing things our clients are working on. However, finding the time is always a challenge and to do it justice is always a battle.
I am a bit of a perfectionist and also dyslexic so, while I like to write, I also have this little thing in my head that says, did you spell that all right? You’re no good at this… I have learnt to ignore those voices in my head as much as possible. All you can do is your best, and if people judge you poorly for that, then so be it! It’s amazing how freeing that is.
How do you relax?
Oh it depends, I am happiest when I am learning a new thing with my hands, creating. This is when my mind is most still; again as a dyslexic, there are constant thoughts and idea and things going on in my head, but having to concentrate on a new skill using my hands, all these thoughts float away.
I’ve also been taking part in a few graffiti games with my friend Isla, and these are great fun to spend a day ‘playing’ with paint on a big scale with someone who never fails to make me smile.
What is your favourite brand?
Oh, that is so hard! I know so many amazing brands and businesses, how do you choose! I guess one brand I am currently championing to anyone who will listen is my friend’s Edinburgh-based business Lucky Cloud Skincare. I wouldn’t be without her face oil, and everyone is getting it for birthday presents at the moment! I think it’s so important to support your friends’ ventures.
And the two I am finding really interesting at the moment are Lara Intimates and Community Clothing. Both are making garments in the UK with brilliant ethics and business models, doing great things!
What’s something you dream of doing?
More travelling! It’s the only thing that owning my own business has interfered with, whether not having the cash or feeling that I can take time out of my business, but I’m working on that, so here’s to seeing more of the world!
We’re working on creating studio space within our own studio space, to offer to other creatives. We’re looking forward to making our space a much more vibrant working environment. So, that’s pretty exciting!