Name: Niamh Roseway-Jones
Name of company: Thorns & Roseway
Can you tell us a bit more about your company?
Thorns & Roseway is an illustration business, specialising in watercolour animals. I paint and craft all the designs myself, taking inspiration from the local and the far away. I hope through my artwork and the products we create, we can not only bring a little smile to someones face, but also raise more awareness about the importance of conservation and the threat to endangered species.
It all began as a hobby, I printed cards using my studio printer, hand cut all my gift tags, and wrote every address out by hand. Aside from a few technology upgrades, this business is still something I put my heart into, and a lot of love goes into it. Just about everything in my studio is splattered with paint.
Who is your audience?
Generally, animal lovers. My youngest customer was about 8, and oldest into their 70’s. Whilst my work mostly attracts female customers, I’ve had a few men rocking their kitchen aprons very well! I also get a lot of parents-to-be or parents with new babies, the baby animals are my best selling designs!
How long have you been trading and what is the history of the company?
I formed Thorns & Roseway with a friend and work colleague back in 2017, we were yearning for a creative outlet and decided to design a few cards. In the November of that year, things got a bit more serious, people were buying our products and our first Christmas season went really well. I went on to take a hobby, to a business, and now run Thorns & Roseway by myself, with help from family and friends when it’s needed. I try to support local manufacturers wherever I can, and I love sharing the creating process with my customers. It always makes me laugh at consumer events, when customers find out I am the artist and this is my business. I’m not the best at taking compliments, but the love people have for the designs makes the days of admin all worthwhile.
What three words best describe your business and its products?
Creative, Passionate, Driven
Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m a sucker for a good David Attenborough documentary, and baby animals or sad looking animals always tug at the heart strings! I generally have an idea of the direction I want to go in, I also like to use Facebook and Instagram to find out what my customers want.
How has this landscape changed over the years within the home and gift industry?
I have been using social media from the start, and whilst I still have a lot to learn and won’t be winning any awards for ‘the followers on Instagram’, it has been such a valuable marketing tool for me. It’s also really nice to be able to interact with customers on a bit more of a personal level. My customers feel connected to my product knowing that I’ve been to visit my locally sourced manufacturers, they can watch videos of my designs being made, and they can have an input into what products I release in future.
Do you do any advertising/PR?
This is something I haven’t really done to date, but I’m hoping to work on in future. Attending my first trade show this year showed me just how important raising my brand awareness is, and I met so many people I never would have.
What do you wish you’d known at the very beginning of starting your business that you know now?
Whilst sometimes it can feel like it’s a bit dog-eat-dog out there, there are many people who are there to help and support, and asking for help does not mean you are failing. Also, don’t be afraid to say no! Sarah (Ward, CEO of The Giftware Association) also gave me some great advice, reward yourself for the small successes, everyone should be doing this!
Do you feel the economic climate is improving or is it getting tougher to trade?
This is a tricky one, no-one really knows what is going to happen. Whilst people are more conscious of their spending habits, there is still a big demand. Society is increasingly conscious of environmental impact and I think this has also continued a lot more people to think about where their products are coming from. Small retailers are having to compete against the likes of amazon and ebay, and consumers are starting to expect super quick, free delivery, with low product prices, no matter where they shop. I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges for independents and small businesses at the moment.
What do you see as being the biggest problem for giftware suppliers in the gift industry?
At times it can feel that the industry is saturated with certain products, and trying to keep designs and products fresh and innovative is definitely time consuming. Trying to be three steps ahead at all times is exhausting, and margins are getting increasingly tighter.
If we could help you with one aspect of your business, what would that be?
Is it cheeky to ask for more competitive discounts at trade shows? They are quite a big investment, with no guarantee of success. As a small business, a trade show can be a fantastic opportunity few new retailers to see my product, but I feel like we are being priced out of the opportunity.
What news do you have to share with us so we can celebrate your achievements in 2019/2020?
In October our products were released in Twycross Zoo. One of my biggest hopes for the year was to try and help raise awareness about conservation and the threat to endangered species, and working with Twycross is a great step forward.
What are you looking to achieve in 2019/2020?
Moving into 2020 I hope we can continue to grow our family of stockists. I also hope to make bigger steps in reducing our environmental footprint, and furthering our work to raise more awareness about animal conservation.
You can find out more about Roseway and Thorns here and buy her beautiful products too – https://www.thornsandroseway.com/