My name is Robyn Parker, I’m 28 years old – I live in Brixton and I have a background working in social care.
This is one of the reasons that I started. I was working as a mental health support worker and wanted to do something creative, but didn’t want to totally leave behind doing social care so decided to merge the two. The plan is to turn my business into a social enterprise at some point, or just involve a social element. They are my two main passions, design and social care.
When I was working in mental health, I saw that there was a need for – I’d worked with loads of people, particularly women who’d had really successful careers in creative industries and then life happened and now they didn’t have the self-esteem to practice these things. There were quite a few services out there that’d do workshops and that sort of stuff, but I couldn’t find much that actually provided employment at the same time, and obviously working in sort of any sector of the community you see the devastating effects of unemployment. So I wanted to do something, set something up really local that can reach out to people, and that’d give them a chance to work and be creative in a really patient sort of way. So I went back to college to do a foundation in fashion, not knowing what sort of creative thing I wanted to do, because I don’t have an art GCSE or anything like that. I never studied art or design at all, thinking I was going to do something a bit more constructed like jewellery or something, and then totally fell in love with making pretty patterns on the computer!
So, my business is Archie Mac London and I create kaleidoscopic textiles that all have a little surprise hidden away in them and it’s for those who laugh in the face of beige. At the moment I make home and fashion accessories and the plan is to start doing bigger stuff, so doing bespoke one off pieces of furniture, lamp shades that type of thing.
The brand name comes from my great granddad – I just started wearing a locket I have again, and I was at home looking for family photos and came across this writing album and it turns out it was my great granny’s from the 1900’s. No one knew it existed and it was filled with all these beautiful illustrations and poems and lots of them were by my great granddad Archie MacMillan so I stole his name and his monogram to make my logo. And I just started wearing this locket again, and it’s got there pictures in it – so I literally like days before just dug this out and started to wear it again then found this book and was like … it was amazing!
In 5 years time I’d like to have a workspace and a show room and maybe even a showroom in like central London as well in like Kensington or somewhere, maybe not Kensington, maybe like east London somewhere so I’d be employing local people that face barriers to employment and training them and running a fully bespoke service. Bespoke in the sense of being able to do one off pieces of furniture and also telling people’s personal stories through design, so doing totally bespoke design work for people. And doing really cool collaborations with UK designers!
What is the best thing about starting your own business?
The autonomy I think. Just being able to do what you want, just having total control over what you want to do and how you spend your time. I can’t bare the thought of having to go somewhere every single day, for the same hours every single day – that’d just, I think that’d be a bit boring now. And getting to wear your Pyjamas all day, that’s also another good part of running your own business!
What are some of the struggles you’ve faced?
Selling stuff. Actually getting people to buy my stuff, that’s been really, really hard. Basically I had no idea quite how difficult it was to get people to be aware of my stuff really, I sort of think – I’ve made it, I’ve put it online, why isn’t anyone buying it! Because obviously that’s the two most minor bits of it – so sales’ has been the hardest thing really. And not having the time to do everything.
If you could have any enterprise related super power what would it be?
Turbo sales! That everyone I meet, I can make them buy my stuff. That’d be really good, or every time I spend money it immidiatley gets inputted into a spreadsheet. Or to be able to really confidently sell stuff, because when I do open houses I don’t know what to say to people I’m really good at having a chat, like I’ll talk to someone about stuff and be like what do you like about them and ask loads of questions but then I don’t know how to get it to the point of “Do you think this will fit with your shop” I mean that’s all you’ve got to say really and I feel really awkward. I feel like if they like it and they want to buy it then they’ll buy it. So that would be quite a nice thing to do.