From fashion designer to the police force and back again to her creative roots, Derby-based artist and business owner Sarah Perkins talked to us recently about her start-up journey and how NBV’s business mentoring has helped her creative business to grow.


Can you tell us a bit about your business?

My business, Sarah Perkins Art, specialises in creative animal art & pet portraiture. I produce contemporary modern pieces of art that are then reproduced into prints, vegan suede cushions, mugs, greetings cards etc. It’s just me at present and I work from Banks Mill Studios in Derby.


What led you to starting your business?

I was always really artisitc as a child which I followed through in my studies. I went to art college and became a fashion designer for five years. I then decided on a complete career change and joined the Police Service. I have since retired after 21 years service. I retired on medical grounds due to a back injury. Friends and family encouraged me to pick up the paintbrushes again and, after creating a portrait of a friend’s dog for her 50th birthday, the business grew from there!


How did you find out about NBV’s Business Support?

I currently work from an incubation Studio as part of Derby University. They provide me with support and encouraged me to engage with The Big House Project. Through The Big House I had meetings with NBV business advisor Filomena Rodriguez. From our first meeting Filomena had me engaged and focused to continue with the support from NBV.  I have received pre start up and start up creative business mentoring over the past 14 months. I have also attending a “pricing your work” workshop.


How has the mentoring helped your business?

Filomena has been amazing at guiding me through pre start up to the present day. The advice and encouragement has been invaluable. I definitely feel like she has put the wind in my sails to progress as far as I have in such a short time. Filomena has built my confidence in calling myself a “professional artist” whilst praising my business abilities that I don’t always give myself credit for.


What challenges have you overcome in your business so far?

My main challenges have been balancing my family life with my business. I’ve also invested my own money which has been a leap of faith and a case of having to hold my nerve until I see the fruits of my labours.


Any positive changes in you or your business?

My successes are that I am now in 4 shops and a gallery. My website is launching on 1st September which I’m very proud of. I have a great following on Facebook and improving on Instagram. And I’m looking forward to the busy “golden quarter” period ahead.


What have been the highs/lows of running or growing a business?

The highs – have been having such amazing customer feedback. People have commissioned me and bought my art – it’s so rewarding to know that people love what I produce. Being accepted into galleries and shops to stock my work/products. Being able to actually follow my artist passions and dreams.

The lows – are not being accepted to a couple of arts trails that I’d applied for. I’ve tried hard not to let it knock my confidence.

The cash flow is difficult and I’m keeping focussed that my efforts will pay off. Not having enough time in the day and balancing family life is also tricky.

What are your future business plans?

My plans are to produce a larger body of artist work in order to expand my range of homewares. I also want to maintain a constant flow of portrait commissions so that my cash flow is more stable and then I can actually take a wage. I’d like to encourage others to follow what is in their soul and give business a go!


Any tips or advice for others?

My advice would be to follow your gut/heart and give it a go!


If you’d like to follow in Sarah’s footsteps, contact NBV today to see how we can help your business grow: register or call us on 0844 887 2568*