Please tell us a bit about the nature of your business...
I'm a self employed illustrator, designer and author living in Devon. I've a multi- hyphen career as I have several income streams. I illustrate children's books, I have a small web shop selling my handmade products/prints/textiles but I also license my designs to various companies who use them on products. I also occasionally give talks to illustration students and teach screen printing.
What inspired you to start your business?
I'd been a full time music specialist in several schools in and around Brighton and I was wanting to start a family. My partner and I adopted a baby girl in 2008 and I left my full time teaching job 2 weeks before this. I wanted to start a new career from home so that I didn't need to be away from our daughter. It was a challenge as I was being a new mum and having a new career all at once and it was a very busy time for me! I didn't get any maternity pay so worked long hours every evening and whilst she slept in the day.
What was the most challenging aspect of building your business in the beginning?
I had to make money from the very start as I need to provide an income for my family. Having the weight on my shoulders to do this was extremely hard (around being there for our child) as although I had managed to save a little bit from teaching, it wasn't going to last long. I'm prone to anxiety around issues of uncertainty so this was challenging - in hindsight, the lack of finances helped me to be very dedicated and business headed. I think if you have someone supporting you financially, you make very different decisions and are perhaps not so tenacious. I asked myself the question 'what are you going to create to make money from today' each morning - for years!
If you were to launch your business again, would you do anything differently?
I'm not entirely sure as its all been a steep learning curve and one learns just by doing it. I think I'd try to be a lot kinder to myself and would affirm that everything was going to work out and be ok. I would also tell myself that I was 'good enough'.
What keeps you motivated?
I'm not completely sure - I think it's partly learnt behaviour coming from two very high achieving parents. Working very hard has very much been the ethos in my life - when I studied at music college for 5 years, I practised the violin for 6 or more hours a day and played in orchestras for 3 - I loved working at something and getting better at it. I think now I've transferred all that previous dedication into my new career. I love what I do (which helps enormously!) and I love achieving. I'm also still driven to earn money to provide for my family (and various DIY home improvements!) and love seeing my work be enjoyed by adults and children around the world. Working on my children's books gives me enormous pleasure and it's a lovely kind world to be in.
How do you balance work and family life?
It's easier now our daughter is at school and walks herself. When she was a toddler, I'd sew and stuff toys out the back whilst watching her! I start work at 8.30am, break for school pick up at 3pm, work 4-5.30pm and then pretty much every night once our daughter is asleep (till around midnight). Sometimes I don't do the 4-5.30pm part so I can be with our daughter or go to the post office etc. I work part of the weekends but we always have family time too. Our daughter uses the studio and I'm often drawing alongside her so I am still chatting to her at the same time. It's a juggling act which works very well.
What’s your proudest business moment?
There's been a few but I loved walking into John Lewis and seeing lots of my mugs being sold there. I also loved seeing my poster in Ikea and some in Habitat. I still can't quite believe how I've had so many book deals. This was so overwhelming.
What’s been your most successful form of marketing and/ or brand awareness?
I think Instagram has been very useful the past year or so but in my earlier days, having a blog (which I did daily) really helped. I deleted years worth of blog posts many years later as I thought the photos looked terrible!
Do you have any positive habits or routines that you feel have attributed to your success?
I rarely have a day off, ever! I'm also good at being self disciplined, I love challenges, learning new skills and am good at meeting work deadlines - for example, if I'm working on a children's book, I hand it in a few weeks before I need to. I always tackle the boring parts of my work in the morning (ie. admin, emails etc) leaving the fun parts to look forward to doing in the afternoon and evenings.
What's your favourite business app/ tool/ book/ podcast etc?
Emma Gannon's news bestselling book, "The Multi-Hyphen career" and Instagram.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs just starting out?
I would say to start your new career behind the scenes of another job that pays the bills. Start it as a side hustle, if you love what you're doing, you'll definitely find time to make it work. I think the majority of reasons I see new entrepreneurs failing isn't because they are not talented , it's because people aren't finding them online.
If you want to get in touch or see more of Jane's adventure, head over to her website or social media:
Jane Foster Designs
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