Charlotte runs Teal Fox Designs which is a highly successful business creating beautiful clothing and accessories which are customised with awesome high-quality heat transfer vinyl text and graphics. Her website is full of funky, custom clothing as well as being able to offer a custom design service.
Business branding is key these days and one of Charlotte’s specialities is working with businesses big and small to create a variety of products all emblazoned with your awesome logo and tag line. I wanted to quiz her about her business and see what makes her tick so read on for all the juicy gossip!
How did you come up with your business name and colours you chose?
For this business it was relatively easy. I was previously sewing and my page was “The Stitching Fox” so when I moved business direction I wanted to keep some elements to tie them in in case I go back to the sewing in the future. So, I kept the colour palette similar (oranges and teals) and kept the “Fox” as little cute foxes are just my fave! My favourite colour is Teal so due to the business direction I ended up with “Teal Fox Designs”.
What is your favourite product?
My favourite product changes almost all the time… Each time I do something new I fall in love with it. But, personally, I live in hoodies so my TFD hoodie has to be my favourite of my own items.
What is your favourite biscuit?
Ohhh, this is a tough one. I’ve just scoffed half a pack of Custard Creams, they are definitely up there at the top of the list. But, I think my favourite has to be Jammy Dodgers.
What is your background?
If we go back to leaving school I have quite a varied background, Retail, Engineering, Marketing, Admin and Communications. When I left school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I got a job in The Perfume Shop and spent 3 years working in various retail roles. I got bored, decided I wanted to do something “better” with my life so relocated 200 odd miles to Devon where my mum and sisters were and started a Mechanical Engineering Advanced Apprenticeship. That took 4 years and upon completion I stayed in an Engineering role for 6 years until being made redundant.
By this point I had re-sparked my love of being creative and had taught myself to sew and started a little business – “Handmade by Harrison”, which soon became “The Stitching Fox”. After being made redundant I decided to move career paths as I fancied a change. I landed myself a Marketing and Administration role at a new University Technical College (UTC) which specialised in Engineering. Whilst working at the UTC I continued with my business which over time steered direction to the design and print market and so The Stitching Fox faded out and Teal Fox Designs was born.
Juggling a full time (40+ hours a week) day job and my own business was difficult at times but I knew it had to be done. I left the UTC in the summer of 2018 and started another full time role which was an 8 month contract. I wanted to use that 8 months as my target to be full time with TFD. 4 weeks into the new job and I hated it. I knew I wasn’t able to give up a day job completely so when the opportunity to work part time arose, working with my old boss from the UTC, I jumped at it. I applied, interviewed and got the job. It’s perfect, I only go into the office 1 day a week and the rest of the hours I fit in around TFD. It’s where I am now and it just works together so well.
Where did you start and where are you now?
I started from nothing. No experience. No capital to put into a business. All self-taught too. Initially when I started TFD I was using my partners old machines (when we met he was printing and selling t-shirts on eBay) in our lounge at home. It wasn’t ideal. Our lounge was a constant mess and there was no way we could have visitors as there just wasn’t space. I have a small home office but there wasn’t the space for all the equipment for me to move out of the lounge. When I went part time with the day job and therefore was spending more time on TFD I knew I needed more space. I talked to my partner and we decided I could move into part of his unit (he does metal fabrication work). It took a few months to sort it, section off an “office” area for me, paint it, clean it, empty it, but we got it sorted and I officially moved TFD in over Christmas 2018. There is still a few tweaks to do but I’m pretty happy. I have space which is key and our lounge is now back to a lounge and actually looks empty!
Who are the clients/what are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
I love working with return customers. Those that have bought maybe one item not knowing what to make of TFD and have then fallen in love with my work and come back for more, time and time again. Mostly these return customers are fellow small business owners so knowing that I’ve been a part of them marketing their business gives me a huge sense of achievement.
Tell me about a time that you messed up. How did you fix it?
I am the first to put my hands up and admit when I make a mistake or mess up and quite often I’ll beat myself up over it. Mostly, if it’s something silly, I catch it before it’s too late. Like cutting something wrong, spelling mistakes etc. As long as I’ve not closed the press those things are easy fixes. Unless of course I run out of materials!
There has been a few times when I’m trying to be savvy and press multiple parts of a design at once and not realised that part of the heat transfer vinyl is sat on top of the carrier sheet of a different part of the design rather than on the item… this then sticks partly to the carrier sheet and partly to the item meaning whilst it’s still scorching hot (160 degrees) I need to remove it (literally pick at it and peel it off) and just hope that it comes off cleanly. That doesn’t always work though. If it doesn’t, I have to start from scratch and order a new item to be printed on to. So far I’ve been quite lucky.
How do you market your business?
At the moment I don’t do much. I have a website, which is still a work in progress, but most customers are directed there from Facebook. Of course I wear my branding on clothing/bags so that when I’m out and about people might spot it. But otherwise, nothing. I really should though. I need to if I want to grow!
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Hopefully I’ll be running TFD completely full time, no day job for security. I’d love to incorporate some larger print items like banners, which need huge printers, which cost huge pennies.. It would also mean I could offer full colour image printing on clothing if I was able to invest in a big print and cut eco-solvent machine.
Have you ever turned down a client?
Sadly, yes. More than one in fact. I have had several people come to me asking me to put copyrighted images onto items (Disney, Marvel etc), or to copy something they’ve seen somewhere else but didn’t want to pay their price/shipping if it’s from the US etc… This isn’t something I will do so have to politely turn them down. Mostly they’re understanding about it. Unfortunately too many small businesses/hobbyists out there do a lot of copyright stuff so it makes people think it’s okay to do.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Stick at it. If you really want to do this then give it your all and don’t give up at the first hurdle.