Life before Hey Little Ginger
Hello, I'm Emily and I'm the creator of Hey Little Ginger; a small design and illustration business, based on the Wirral, that is a celebration of all things new baby and family. I thought I would give you a little insight into where it all started and what keeps me going!
I have always been a lover of arts and crafts and throughout school and college it was always my favourite subject. I went on to study an Art Foundation course and then completed a Surface Pattern and Printed Textiles degree at Leeds College of Art. After university, I applied for all kinds of jobs and started my employment at a craft company in Wrexham. I thought this was my dream job and I couldn't believe how lucky I was to actually get a job in the design and craft industry! I spent over a year there; designing dies for die cut machines and working on craft videos for their YouTube channel. I also had the opportunity to design their patterned papers and stamp sets, which I was so pleased to do. I learnt a lot here, I tweaked my skills in Illustrator and PhotoShop and I was so happy to be working in this industry. After a while though, the company made some changes, the commute got a bit too much and I didn't feel like I was using my skills to the best of my ability. The management had new ideas, which didn't quite suit what I'd signed up for. I also had a boyfriend that lived away in London at the time and we were finding it difficult to work out the best times to see each other and spend time together. We had both got jobs straight out of uni, which was so, so lucky but also meant we hadn't got to do a lot of the fun stuff and, with no major responsibilities, we felt like we were in a good position to spend some time travelling. So, we made the decision to leave our jobs and do just that. We booked flights to Australia and decided that we'd spend some time on the East Coast. We weren't away for too long, but it was something we had on our bucket list and it was the perfect time to go!
After returning from our trip, we both moved back to separate homes on the Wirral, and started the job hunt once again. It took a while this time around and having been together 24/7 for the past few months, it was strange to be living apart once again. After a while, I got a part time job in a lovely boutique gift shop and my boyfriend starting working in Liverpool. This was also the year my sister was getting married, so it was nice to have flexibility to fulfill bridesmaid duties and help with wedding prep! Towards the end of this year, we started renting a house in lovely West Kirby, where I could even walk to work which was a welcome change to the 1-1 1/2 hour commute I had had previously!
This was the year I also started working on some products of my own. I had set up an Etsy shop, but I decided, alongside a part time job, I could put more effort into this and sell mainly greeting cards or prints as and when it was convenient. I've alway wanted to own my own business, and I guess this was the very beginnings. On my days off, I would work on illustrations, ideas and apply for local makers markets just to see what happened! In this time, I illustrated the very first baby milestone postcards! There have been a few additions and changes since then, but this is where it all began.
This was a busy time with various jobs and ideas. I knew that I wanted more and found it increasingly difficult to keep two very different jobs going. I was getting more hours at the shop, making it harder to create and I wondered whether one full time job would be easier! I started applying once again for jobs, mainly in the craft industry because it's what I knew. Originally, I applied for freelance work as I thought this would still give me the flexibility I wanted. After sending my CV to as many craft companies I could think of, I got a call from Tonic Studios. This wasn't really a normal job offer though; a position had opened up to work as a demonstrator on Create and Craft TV. It was hilarious. Live TV with no experience, no idea of the brand and not a lot of time to prepare. It was a bit surreal and completely out of my depth. But, an experience. I only did a couple of shows but, to be quite honest, I wasn't that good and I think it showed. Ha.
So, moving forward to February 2017, I was offered a job as a Surface Pattern Designer at B&M in Liverpool. I couldn't believe my luck! An actual design job for an actual company with a team of lovely designers and it felt like everything I had been building up to. I was still continuing to add to my Etsy shop and I felt quite strongly that even with a full time job, I wanted to carry on fulfilling orders and networking with the small business community.
I learnt so much at my time at B&M and for the first year or so, I really did love it. I worked on a small close knit design team, looking at trends and designing anything from homeware to travel accessories. It was so varied and I loved that about it. After a while, colleagues in the office, started asking for greeting cards and personalised items outside of work and my side hustle started to grow a little bit! So, this is where I started to think a bit more seriously about my own business. I have always known I've wanted to do more and this job was great but (maybe it's just me) but I'm just not made to sit in an office 9-5. I started to find it really difficult to be creative, to not have as much creative freedom as I thought I could have and, to be brutally honest, I was bored. I started to feel a bit stupid because why would you give up on a secure, well paid(ish), DESIGN job for a tiny side hustle, but there was an itch there that I couldn't ignore. I'd also given myself another long commute through the city centre, which was breaking me down at this point! Anyway, things went from bad to worse, when our team had a refresh under new management and it quickly became very obvious that I couldn't keep going in this position. It was sad but, when the passion and the spark has gone, it's hard to get it back. I don't want to sit here and trash the company but it was definitely a good decision to leave. PLUS, there was something much more exciting on the way!
I had also hired a business coach by this point and I was getting good advice on how to map out a business and gave me so much to think about. I planned to have a bit of a re-brand and launch more products under my business name "Emily Atherton." Looking back, I had so many ideas but just not enough time to really execute them. It's amazing to have all that advice to look back on though, I always refer to the notes of that time, especially when moving forward with a new collection or launch!
So, while working on this re-brand, designing and creating new products, I also found out I was pregnant with our first little baby. We were so over the moon and it was such a lovely exciting and amazing time! But, wow I had no idea what was coming!
I left my job at B&M for maternity leave in August 2019, and our baby girl arrived in October 2019 (2 weeks overdue!) Amongst the new baby fuzz, the sore boobs, the cuddles, the getting stuck under a sleeping baby, the mess, the washing, the winging it, the very many sleepless nights, the utter joy of giggles and a sneaky global pandemic thrown into the mix, it's safe to say things slowed down a little for my small business! It was still there, but it naturally, and inevitably, slowed down!
I continued with my online store and orders did continue, especially through lockdowns. I started becoming more and more involved in the community and knew that this was still something I wanted to continue with. After a few job interview that didn't quite work out, I gave myself an ultimatum and decided it was now or never. Hey Little Ginger started to build and the journey, once again, began!