Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Who are you and what do you do? Hello, I’m Lou Vigars. I’m the owner of The Nook Interiors, which is a gorgeous shop full of vintage finds and homeware, as well as homemade gifts. The Nook Interiors is also home to workshops that I run, my most recent one being macrame, but I teach all sorts of homes style crafts. I also offer an interior styling service, helping people to style their homes, having recently completed a diploma in Interior Design. I live in a quirky cottage in a village on the outskirts of Bristol, with my husband and two lovely kids. What inspired/motivated you to create your business? I was a teacher for years and gave that up when I had children. During that period of time I started doing upholstery and chalk paint classes, I would run stalls at vintage and handmade fairs selling my homeware crafts. For a while I ran a vintage crockery business hiring to weddings. As well as doing demo’s and talks to women’s groups on up-cycling furniture, with fabric, paint, and sharing creative ideas for the home. Throughout these years I always dreamed of having my own shop. Then by a stroke of luck, everything aligned whilst I was finishing off my interior design course in 2018, when this space became available. It acts as a great front for my interior styling business, as well as showcasing my vintage furniture and homeware, and my dream became a reality!
What advice would you give others wanting to start a business? Or rise up through the ranks? Go for it! Take a risk and follow your heart. There’s no point delaying your dreams, and it’s never too late to start doing what you love. I didn’t let my age hold me back, I saw an opportunity to learn a new skill in a field I had always loved, get a diploma in interior design and then to run a Business and I went for it, and I am so thankful that I did! What have you learnt on your journey as a business owner? There’s a lot more to it than having a nice shop! There are many facets to consider. Finances, time management, social media etc. A big thing that I have learnt is to not forget why I’m doing it, it is easy to get bogged down in Business admin. I’ve learnt to employ others to do the tasks that don’t play to my strengths, so that I can focus on the parts of my Business that I love to do. I never want to lose sight of why I started my Business, my love for all things interior. So that’s what I spend my time doing. What has been the toughest challenge being your own boss? Being in such a high position? Time management, finding the time to get everything done and to the standard I’m happy with, I’m a perfectionist! Prioritising the jobs that need to be done, but aren’t things I’d choose to do. And I think the toughest challenge is getting the work/life balance right, not going home and continuing to work because I love it so much. It can be hard to switch off. What is the best thing about being your own boss? It’s exciting! There are no limits to what direction I can go, I can pursue anything that sparks joy in me. Everyday is enjoyable because of that. I am always motivated because there is so much variety to my role, one day I could be meeting a client to interior style their home, the next I could be in the shop working on mood boards, or running a workshop, or I could be catching up with lovely locals who are buying vintage homeware from the shop. What do you do in those times when you feel like giving up? I think about all the things that are going well in my life, all the things I have to be grateful for and give myself a talking to! I’m lucky enough to have some good friends who are also self-employed so they understand the ups and downs of being your own boss! I can off-load my doubts and concerns onto them and they help me see the positives and encourage me to persevere. Things have never really been so bad that I’ve seriously felt like giving up - though there are definitely days where it’s harder to motivate yourself than others! I’m very honest with myself and if I really felt like giving up then it would probably mean something was seriously wrong and probably not worth pursuing. Looking after yourself is very important especially as a business owner and mother what so you do to recharge? I’m very bad at that and often keep going until I burn out - not recommended! I’m still in the early stages of this business so there’s lots to put in place and I often find myself working on evenings and weekends - it’s fair to say I think about work constantly! It’s hard to switch off when you’re excited about what you’re doing - and there’s so much of it to do! I make sure I go to Pilates at least twice a week, it keeps me in a positive frame of mind, makes me feel better about myself and helps me sleep. I find getting outdoors and immersing myself in nature really helps me slow down, switch off and appreciate my surroundings, as well as being inspirational. Walking my lovely dog, Frank in the local countryside or getting away to the coast are my favourite ways to recharge! Do you feel that being a women has held you back from achieving your goals? By choosing to give up teaching and be a stay at home Mum when we had kids I put myself in a position of total dependence on my husband and that was difficult. Although it felt like the right thing to do at the time, looking back I can see that my self-esteem and mental health really suffered. Part of the incentive for becoming self-employed was probably to avoid putting myself in an interview situation... and not really believing I was employable! So I’ve probably held myself back through a lack confidence or fear of failure. My goals were not very clearly formed either - beyond being creative and feeling happy, fulfilled and respected in what I was doing (like everyone else wants!) Now I know what I want to do I’m very motivated - but it’s sometimes difficult to shake off the inequality of our roles. Even though I’m working too, I still do the lion’s share of the domestic chores. It’s difficult not to see my husband’s job as the most important because he still earns the most and pays the bills - even though I probably work as many hours! Do you feel there is a women's revolution coming as more women set up and run their own businesses and is it a good thing? I hope so! Yes it’s a fantastic thing. Being self-employed has given me a greater sense of identity and a role in the community which I didn’t have before. Although it’s hard work being your own boss - it’s much better than being told what to do! The flexibility to work around family and home commitments is great and I think we’re good at it because we’re used to multi-tasking - and there are lots of different elements to juggle in running your own business that you don’t necessarily realise at the outset! I’m lucky that I have other fabulous women around me to help do my social media, share resources and ideas, support me when I’m running workshops and keep an eye on the shop for me when I need to dash off and collect kids! I think women are naturally good team players and very willing to give and accept help. I’ve ended up with a fantastic support network around me and that is worth it’s weight in gold! Do you have routine or do you a go with the flow? A bit of both! I’d like to establish a better routine but there are still lots of ‘firsts’ at the moment like designing business cards, branding etc. When everything is in place I plan to create a (flexible) timetable so that I make sure I build in time for creative thinking, making, paperwork, social media and so on and don’t just end up doing my favourites and ignoring the other things or vice versa! It’s all about finding the balance at the moment - especially between work and home! It is said that business is a young man's game do you feel the age you are when you start your business has any bearing on the success of your business? I sometimes think I might have had a bit more energy/stamina if I’d started this 10 years ago!! However, speaking personally I feel like I needed to go through all the other stuff to get to this point! I’ve had certain epiphanies along the way - one of which resulted in me doing a Diploma in Interior Design - and then everything came together so that when this opportunity to have my own shop presented itself, I was ready - it was all in place! There is a lot to be said for experience brought about by age! You’re less worried about what people think of you which makes failure less of a concern. Things seem less intimidating, you know yourself better and therefore have more confidence in your decisions. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes - you learn a little bit from each of them and it makes you stronger. There’s a lot to be said for starting a business when you’re older. I’m 46 and I think I’m doing a better job of it now than I would have at 26! What does the future hold for your business? Lots more workshops - they’ve been a massive hit and I love doing them! It’s great to be able to put the old teaching skills to good use!! Seasonal Makers Fairs, maybe Farmers Markets - it’s lovely putting on collaborative events with other local businesses in our row of shops. Possibly offering children’s creative birthday party packages. Seven random facts about yourself 1. I was a primary school teacher for 10 years before I changed career direction into interior design/styling. 2. I appeared on Gok Wan’s show Fill your house for free, I was filmed at home featuring my upcycling projects. 3. I lived in Australia for a year and worked as a dive master in Townsville. 4. I go to Pilates twice a week to stay sane, flexible and back-pain free! 5. I have a cute and scruffy border terrier called Frank 6. My favourite snack is marmite and avocado on toast 7. As a small child I was totally obsessed with The Wombles - then I grew up to be an upcycler too! Anything to add?
One of the happy outcomes of being at home with the kids on a budget is that lack of disposable income makes you very creative out of necessity! When we moved into our current house I was desperate to make my mark on it but had little spare cash. It was the start of my passion for up-cycling and saw me painting furniture and picture frames, creating artwork from old wallpaper samples, candle holders from shells, planters from large tin cans (foraged from other people’s recycle bins!!) and hauling various bits of discarded furniture out of skips to repair and upholster. I’ve painted on my own wallpaper because I couldn’t afford the Sanderson design I wanted and made my own stencils to create giant palm leaves over my bathroom wall. My work got filmed for ‘How to Fill Your Home for Free’ with Gok Wan - which was fun and a real boost! I got involved in a project at a local Farm Shop and ended up redesigning and decorating the entire place inside and out over the period of a year on a very tight budget! All of this has paved the way to me offering my own Interior Styling service through The Nook, helping people work with what they’ve got to create their own unique space that reflects their personality and lifestyle without costing the earth - financially or environmentally. I get such a buzz from going to people’s houses and helping them see how they can make the best of their space and what we can do to make them fall in love with their homes again!
Connect with Lou Instagram: @the_nook_interiors Facebook: @thenookinteriors