For women entrepreneurs, their personal journeys to setting up their businesses and realising their dreams are always unique - some are very focused on long-held identified goals, whilst others are almost accidental or organic in nature. South African-based textile designer, Sera Holland, falls into the latter category of an entrepreneur who never set out to be in business, but ended up discovering a love of textile printing and built the most amazing business around it.
Sera Holland is the founder of Handmade by Me. Lionesses of Africa's Cape Town City Reporter, Georgie Polkinghorne, spoke to Sera about her entrepreneurial journey whilst she was exhibiting her bespoke fabric designs and the wonderful, creative, handmade interior design products made from them, at the KAMERS 2015 Exhibition in Cape Town this month.
Tell us a little about your business and what it does.
I am a Cape Town, South Africa-based graphic and textile designer and I design and produce my own bespoke fabrics, which I then make into a variety of different products. The fabrics I use are all high quality, natural fibre textiles, which are either digitally printed with eco-friendly water-based inks, or screenprinted locally. I also offer a bespoke fabric design service where I can custom-make items or designs for my clients. If they have designs that they would like to see printed onto fabrics, I can help them. Oh, and I also have a wallpaper range. My designs are inspired by everything around me, and I love to create statement pieces that will get noticed.
"When you are a small business and still starting out, you have lots of feedback coming from lots of different people - and ultimately, people feel different things and have different reactions to your work. So one person might think your design is amazing, and someone else might think its not. You have got to acknowledge all the negative comments but not let them get to you."
How did your entrepreneurial journey start?
I hated my job and I did this on the side and originally I didn't think it would lead to anything. I went on a course where you make a tote bag and do sponge printing, and that was really fun. I wanted to make my designs better so I researched different ways of doing things, and I discovered textile printing. So then I did another course, and produced firstly one textile design, and then another design, and then before I knew it, I had a business. So it was never something that I had set plans about. It just happened – I fell into to it. I was doing this type of creative work in Dublin and then I moved to South Africa. I basically just took a decision to see if it would work or not if I did textile design full-time and today I am still doing it.
What have been the main challenges you have faced in starting and building your business?
There are a lot of challenges in starting and building a business. One of the hardest things is manufacturing in South Africa. It is difficult because I might finally source a particular fabric, and then the fabric runs out or the mill stops producing it, or someone makes a final product really badly. So it is quite difficult.
When you are a small business and still starting out, you have lots of feedback coming from lots of different people - and ultimately, people feel different things and have different reactions to your work. So one person might think your design is amazing, and someone else might think its not. You have got to acknowledge all the negative comments but not let them get to you.
"There are a lot of challenges in starting and building a business. One of the hardest things is manufacturing in South Africa. It is difficult because I might finally source a particular fabric, and then the fabric runs out or the mill stops producing it, or someone makes a final product really badly. So it is quite difficult."
What are the future aspirations for your business?
The business evolves as it goes along. I definitely want to make more products because I just love making things - things that I would want in my own home. I would like to take the business to the next level and open some kind of a shop. I am not really sure yet as the business has been evolving organically as it goes along.
"Everyone has a piece of advice to give you but trust your own instincts."
- Sera Holland, founder @handmadebymeSA
Do you have a piece of entrepreneurial advice that you would like to share with other women who may be looking to start their own business?
I think the thing is just to do it. You never really know and people always try to wait for the right moment for them to start their business, develop their idea, and I think you just need to start. Do it on the side. Do it in your own time. My advice is that if you have a full-time job as well, do as much as you can on the side until you actually physically need to do it on your own. You don't want to have to make decisions based on financial need. You want to be able to make decisions based on what’s best for the business or what you enjoy doing.
Everyone has a piece of advice to give you but trust your own instincts.
Contact or follow Handmade by Me:
Telephone: +27 82 751 9268
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love small creative businesses that start with one woman’s passion for what she does, and in this case, Sera Holland fell in love with textile design and printing, and built a business around that passion. Despite all the challenges and all the hurdles in setting up in business, Sera is a great example of a woman who is exploring her creative talents, continually learning new skills in the process, and creating a business around them. In terms of her design work, it is gloriously uplifting - at LoA, we fell in love with her Pink Flamingo, Pretty Proteas and Striking Strelizias fabric designs, which are so very South African in their inspiration, whilst being just so visually appealing too. In terms of her bespoke work, we love the fact that you can chat to Sera about getting your own design work printed onto fabrics for use in the home, office or interior design project, or simply have her interpret your ideas into a fabric design that is completely unique. Take a look at her website and see the wonderfully creative fabric Sera designed for her friends, based on photographs of their pets - just adorable! --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief