Becci Mai Ford on crafting for mindfulness, building a creative business and taking chances in life

For my third interview on Jo Fisher Writes, I got in touch with Becci Mai Ford; founder of Ellbie Co. and lover of colour!

Becci started her own creative business in 2016, and hasn’t looked back since. Focusing on her love of promoting mindfulness and happiness, Ellbie Co. offers crafting kits to encourage makers to take time out of their busy days and get creative; from DIY patches, and bunting, to piñatas and cushions and more!

She’s now looking forward to the future, and growing her business even more. With some new kits recently launched online, and even a space at the Instagram Christmas gift market in London in December, she’s aiming high and enjoying every moment.

Becci shares her experiences of running her own creative business from her little flat in Brighton, her time in advertising school, visiting South Korea, and the people who have inspired her the most.

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Hi Becci, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me! Could you tell us a little more about yourself?

“Well, to start with I’m a massive child at heart – I’m attracted to colour and kawaii design. I love the idea of being different and standing out from the crowd and I’m somebody who just loves learning new things to be honest. I’m at my happiest when I’m either planning my next step or making something (just sitting and watching TV is my worst nightmare).

“I live in Brighton at the moment and when I get some time away from my mini-home office, I’m usually either running by the beach or hulahooping! If I’ve had a rough day I can normally be found snuggling up with my two guinea pigs, Nugget and Bean.”

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Last year you launched your own company, Ellbie Co. Could you tell us about how Ellbie Co. came to be, and where it all started?

“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, but I just wasn’t sure when or how this was going to happen, so it was just in the back of my mind as a future possibility.

“I moved to South Korea for a year of teaching and whilst I was there I fell in love with kawaii design and had some ideas about possibly combining these designs with my passion for crafting in some way.

“I moved back from South Korea and went straight into SCA – an advertising school in Brixton, and it was SCA that gave me the confidence to think that I could actually do this. It’s not a normal ‘school’, as you get access to some amazing industry experts who have also run their own businesses. It was such an inspiring place to be and is hidden away in the top of a church in Brixton!

“SCA put me outside of my comfort zone (in a good way), and it was in this uncomfortable space that I realised that the only thing that was going to really make me happy in life would be to run my own business and create the things that I wanted to create.”

“The idea for Ellbie Co. came about from my own frustrations. I realised that more and more people my age or younger are interested in crafting. However, a lot of people don’t know where to begin and the current craft kit offerings are tired and old-fashioned. I wanted to find a way to help people find a starting point with crafting that wasn’t stressful, but that would also give them an awesome end product that they could be proud of!

“So, I decided to combine my love of cute design, with fresh, modern craft kits, easy-to-follow instructions and an emphasis on crafting to aid mindfulness – and Ellbie Co. began!”

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How is it all going so far?

“At the moment it’s really mixed! But I think that’s mainly because it’s still early days.  Everything has been positive so far – I’m just focusing now on growing and moving forward.”

Tell us what a normal working day for you is like!

“I tend to get up at 9am as I work from home most days. I still like to get a bit dressed up though; I tried working in my PJs but I get nothing done! I then head straight upstairs where I get myself a coffee and put on some music before settling down in my little orange office space.

“I normally try to get through any emails first, and then settle down to my to-do list! My list varies depending on the day. Over the last few weeks I’ve been finishing up my new craft kit range in time for Christmas (which is now available to buy – yay!). So I’ve been doing lots of hands-on making, designing packaging and photographing kits. But sometimes I will have days where I will just work on SEO – which isn’t as fun!”

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It’s not been long, but what have been your highlights and proudest moments with your business so far?

“My proudest moment came after the Ellbie Co. Launch party. I was sat in Franco Manca in Brighton with my boyfriend and my friends Ellie and Dom. We were waiting for our pizza and my website had just gone live…suddenly I got a ping on my phone saying that I’d just made my first two sales! That feeling was amazing, and made it suddenly all just feel very real – it was really exciting and lovely being able to celebrate that moment with my friends!”

What have been the most challenging parts?

“Staying motivated when things aren’t going as smoothly as I would like them to is probably the hardest bit. I tend to plan five months ahead with my business and set goals, but you never can quite guess how long things are going to take!

“It can be hard to make decisions at times as nobody is there to point you in the right direction –  but after a while you do just sort of learn when to trust your gut instincts.”

How did you get the skills to get where you are now? Did you take any courses, join any clubs or did you just learn along the way?

“To be completely honest, Google has been my best friend when it comes to finding out things, as well as a lot of trial and error! Obviously going to advertising school has helped me to some extent too.

“But it’s largely been a lot of Google searching and asking people in Facebook start-up groups for help and advice.”

“I think you can try to prepare as much as you want with learning relevant skills when trying to start a business, but really the best thing to do is to just start – and then learn naturally as you go.”

What’s next for you and your business?

“Well Ellbie Co. has launched recently a new range of mini craft kits in time for Christmas which I am really proud of because they are so soooo cute!

“I’m also currently working on a mini e-book about mindfulness and crafting which I’m hoping to release in the New Year.

“Next year I’m going to be working towards our new crafting subscription boxes, which I can’t wait to get started with! Hopefully I’ll also continue to get new stockists and customers involved! It’s all very exciting!”

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If anyone is reading this and thinking of setting up their own creative business or enterprise, what advice do you have for them?

“I’d say be brave and go for it! It is so rewarding to put something you have made out into the world – I always love it when customers send me pictures of their latest Ellbie Co. DIY creations!

“My main bit of advice to anybody doing it would be to just think about what you are going to be offering and make sure you aren’t going to under price yourself, as so many people seem to run creative businesses but don’t account for their time when making their products.

“Running a creative business is hard work and you have to be a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ –  an administrator, marketer, photographer, designer, manufacturer, accountant and secretary! But it is a fantastic journey to go on and you will never be bored!”

Why do you think art and craft is so important, especially in this increasingly digital age?

“I think it gives us a level of satisfaction and a feeling of productivity whilst also being relaxing and therapeutic, which is something that staring at a screen doesn’t quite give you.

“In this digital age, we are so used to getting bombarded by short bites of information all the time that our concentration spans have shortened and that means that we struggle to access ‘flow state’.

Flow comes when you are able to just concentrate on one thing for a prolonged period of time and when you are in this state you find that you relax more.

“When you are crafting and making something, you are concentrating for a prolonged period of time and are able to get into flow state.”

“I think we forget to just switch off and have a break away from the screen sometimes, and crafting gives you that break in a fun and satisfying way. You don’t need to be a pro to give it a go – it’s open to anybody!

“Most importantly, it’s just really fun to let your inner child free and get a bit messy from time to time!”

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So, when you’re not working hard and getting crafty, what do you like to do in your spare time?

“I like to make things that are just for me rather than Ellbie Co. At the moment I’m trying to learn how to make my own clothes. I was given a sewing machine by my boyfriends’ mum, and I’ve been figuring out how it works and started playing around with some dress patterns – it’s very tricky though! But hopefully one day I might make something that I can actually wear.

“I’m also getting back into playing music – I forgot how relaxing it can be, so I’ve dusted off the keyboard and started learning again.

“When I have a rare day off, I like to go swimming in the sea (if it’s hot enough!) or take a nice walk towards the marina!”

What and who inspires you the most? 

“My main inspiration comes from quite a sad place. An old childhood friend of mine passed away in a car crash aged 21.

“It was losing her that pushed me to take the leap now rather than later. I wanted to do the things that she won’t ever sadly get the chance to do.”

“I also wouldn’t have started this business without the constant support of my partner Mike – he has kept me going throughout it all and listened to me chat forever about trademarking and pricing!

“Also my two best friends Ellie and Phoebe are a constant source of inspiration for me – so much so that my business is actually partially named after them! They are just always pushing themselves to try new things and are both such lovely people – it’s hard not to get inspired by them.”

Are there any mantras and mottos you live by?

“Difficult is worth doing”

“It has been a great source of strength, especially on the days when I’ve worked from 9am-4am!”

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I know you’re currently based in beautiful Brighton. What makes it the perfect place for you to live and work in?

“I think just being surrounded by so many creative people. The community in Brighton has been very welcoming and friendly since day one! It’s a great place to get ideas and it’s such a colourful city. It’s the sort of place where you could people-watch for days and not get bored.

“Plus if you ever need a few minutes breather away from work there is always the beach! I still can’t believe we live here to be honest!”

Have you been reading, listening or watching anything great recently?

“Well, I’ve been dipping in and out of a great book called In the Company of Women, which was given to me by Ellie and Phoebe. It’s really inspiring reading about other women’s business journeys and gives me something to aspire to!

“I’m also really enjoying the series Glow on Netflix – it is so good! Hopefully there will be a second season.”

Finally, if you could only do one crafty thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose, and why?

“Oh that’s really hard as I love doing a mix of everything really! But probably my favourite crafty thing is making cushions or plushies – I have a big assortment of random soft toys and cushions that I’ve made scattered about my house. I think I just like making snuggly things to be honest!”

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Becci and good luck with Ellbie Co!

Follow Ellbie Co. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and visit the website to find out more or buy something crafty!

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