We recently spoke to Lincolnshire based business owner, Cindy-Lou Thompson of Chicktin Creations, whose pastime, (born out of adversity), has blossomed into a unique and rewarding business.
Can you tell us a little about your business?
Working from home in rural Lincolnshire, I create bespoke, handcrafted, highly realistic needle felted sculptures of any animal, but I specialise in breeds of dog. The sculptures can be one-offs or commissioned work.
To date, I have sold to over 20 countries and am very well respected in the needle felting world, which spans the globe. I also develop and write the needle felting kits (one a month) for a large wool company – World of Wool – based in Huddersfield. To date, there are 27 kits, which also sell worldwide both to trade and private individuals. These kits are very popular and a few months ago had sold well over 10,000 kits.
I have held workshops both here in the UK and in Australia, which were very successful and fully booked, although the current situation has put a halt to those, (along with a couple of specialised big wool fairs I normally attend.)
My first book ‘A Masterclass in Needle Felting Dogs’ has just been published by Hubble & Hattie, this covers advanced techniques of four dog breeds from start to completion. Within the first week, this book sold out and is now on the second print run with a projected third run too.
I don’t employ any staff (an accountant if that counts!) and have no future plans to do so as my work is very specialised, which very few people could replicate.
What led you to take the plunge and start your own business?
Having suffered serious illness cumulating in sepsis and a urostomy, to aid my recovery I started teaching myself to needle felt to fill some time and be creative. As my creations became more detailed, I started getting commissions, enough to consider starting a business.
I’ve had a varied employment history, including HGV driver, dog trainer in Barbados, dog warden, private secretary for a commercial garage, courier, laboratory technician for a large food factory, and various other jobs during my 13 years living in a converted truck travelling the world with my husband.
My qualifications are mostly art and science, and I also read BA Modern Arabic at the University of Leeds.
How did you find out about the support on offer from NBV?
I discovered NBV from a Google search for someone to help a young business. The main attraction was the free impartial, sound business advice.
How has the business mentoring helped your business grow?
My business advisor John Owens’ help has been immeasurable. He has kept me focused and given me First Class advice and steered me in the right direction for my small business. I can’t thank him enough. I had an idea but didn’t know the best way to move forward and with Johns’sound advice, I soon realised I would be able to make a very viable business and one which could grow with passive income, something I hadn’t thought about.
My main initial challenge was to know what to do with my income and to channel it in the right direction for me. This I did by making the business into a Limited Company. It was the best advice for my situation and has worked perfectly.
I am an artist at heart, not particularly business-minded, and finding out the basics alone isn’t easy, but having a friendly advisor to talk to, who knows their stuff and is on my side, is real peace of mind. I honestly believe I would be in a right pickle had it not been for John.
What are your plans for the future of the business?
My plans for the future are to continue to grow the passive income, making more kits and to write another book and also to teach workshops, maybe abroad, (although that is all on hold for the present). I particularly want to have some exhibitions, moving into the fine art circles.
What have been the memorable highs and lows of your business journey so far?
The highs of running a business; the feeling of great achievement through adversity of completing commissions, getting recognition for my craft and seeing my name become well known and very respected in my area of work. I’m particularly proud of the fact that both my publisher and the wool company (whom I write the kits for) approached me with a proposal of writing a book and writing kits, respectively. I realise many artists may try for years to gain this achievement and never manage it.
Being able to make a living with my own hands, doing something I love, is an amazing feeling. I am lucky indeed.
The lows; it can never be a 9 to 5 job. It never stops. It’s only me who is able to create the sculptures, so the pressure is always there, to complete and manage all the other jobs, bookkeeping, answering enquiries, social media, networking and planning the future. You have to quickly learn to be an all-rounder, but it is nice not to have anyone to answer to. I am my own boss. If I make a mistake, I have to correct it.
Have you got any advice for others starting out on a similar business path?
My advice to others is don’t be afraid to ask for help from NBV. You will receive sound business advice allowing you to make the right decisions for the future of your business. My business was born from adversity not an idea. I didn’t set out to start a business, it sort of took over me! I’m a great believer in “as one door closes, another opens”, you just have to recognise it.
Do you have a great business idea you need help getting off the ground? If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of businesses like Cindy-Lou, contact NBV today to see how we can help you make your business dreams a reality.
Image of fox product from World of Wool