One to watch: Jessica Russel Flint
Illustrator Jessica launched her eponymous lifestyle label from her Dalston flat in 2014, busily applying her playful designs of pineapples, lobsters, galloping horses and more to wash bags, cushions, table linens and most recently fabrics and wallpapers. Her products are now sold through The Conran Shop, Harrods, House of Fraser and in more than 40 boutiques worldwide. Fast becoming a Pulse regular, Jessica talks us through the highs and lows of setting up your own brand.
What's your background?
‘It's a bit of a random mix! I went to Exeter University to study geography and then when I returned to London I wangled my way on to an advertising graduate scheme. I worked at a top agency for five years before going freelance. I was always drawing in my spare time so I saved up and went to Central St Martins to study illustration as well as Camden Working Men's College to do graphic design. It was during this period that I started blogging my illustrations, which gained quite a lot of interest, and the brand grew organically from there.'
How did you start out?
‘Initially, by selling work to friends and family through Facebook. I officially launched in January 2014 and worked from my home in London's Dalston to save on overheads. I started with limited-edition prints and then produced a range of napkins featuring the Lobster Plate, Galloping Horses and Aztec Owls, which proved popular. We now we have a studio just down the road and would love to do even more products, but it's important to be realistic and grow the business in a sensible way – which is so frustrating!'
What is your best-selling product?
‘The giant wash bags. My personal favourite is the Jungle Jungle design. They seem to be a bit of a collectors' item – people buy a new one each time a fresh design comes out, which is fantastic.'
Where do you find your inspiration?
‘Eyes. Wildlife. Colour. Pinterest. All over I guess! I love pattern.'
You offer a bespoke service – what does that involve?
‘Currently, the wallpaper and fabric is made to order, but we're also offering customers the possibility of choosing a limited-edition print or design and having it made up into a cushion or a set of curtains. It's all about giving people a bit more scope to be creative.'
When did you first exhibit at Pulse?
‘I first did Pulse in May 2014, and 2016 will be my third year. It's my last time in the Launchpad area with the new designers and then I will be out in the main halls in 2017.'
How has exhibiting at Pulse helped your business?
‘I love Pulse. I get such a high when the show is on. There's loads of support and being able to chat to all the other designers is fun and so helpful. We're all at different stages in the business lifecycle: there's exhibitors who have just launched and others who've been trading for more than 20 years, but we all share tips, ideas and suggestions. It's also been the place where I've met the majority of my best retail buyers.'
What has been the hardest part of setting up your own business?
‘Cash flow, of course! Working solo for the first year was lonely at times, too, and it can be tricky trying to find work-life balance.'
What has been the best part of setting up your own business?
‘Being in control of my own destiny. It's so different to being an employee and no day is ever the same. After all the hard work, it's rewarding when people want to buy the products that you've designed.'
What advice would you give to other people starting out?
‘Be patient. Nothing happens overnight, especially with little or no funding!'
‘Ahhhh, too much! 2016 is going to be mental.'