The Scotland-based designer shares everything she wish she knew as a young creative
Six years after graduating from Central Saint Martins, Anna Hepburn registered her craft business. “Though it wasn’t as straight-forward as writing that makes it sound,” she tells me.
Between university and selling her work full time, Hepburn has lived in Mongolia, England and finally Scotland; working in a myriad of sectors from menswear fashion to admin. “But every single bit of it has built the business in one way or another,” says Hepburn, “I’ve learned a lot about business on my own without even realising.”
Hepburn is now firmly rooted in Glasgow, a city she feels truly backs creatives. “I think that’s the difference with art and craft,” she says, “because the art world is still very much London-centric. But craft, Scotland is renowned, not only for the top products being produced but also the financial and physical business support.” There’s also a strong sense of community in the city. “Unlike London,” Hepburn tells me, “ full of people willing to share skills and knowledge without criticism or judgement. I can without doubt say I wouldn’t have been able to build what I have without my community here.”
As our collective level of eco-anxiety soars, sustainability is becoming less of a buzzword and more of a default way of being. Hepburn, who feels “super passionate” towards recycling, says a low waste lifestyle “naturally feeds into work.” The idea for one of her signature pieces, a felt crown party hat, sprung from the desire to make special occasions more eco-friendly. “After seeing how much Christmas waste there was a few years ago from crackers,” she tells me, “I thought it a fun idea at parties to have a special reusable birthday crown.”
Throughout Hepburn’s work, there’s a keen appreciation of practicality: from sustainable crowns to woven necklaces that are both machine-washable and baby-proof. The pandemic has proved to be another opportunity for Hepburn to create with use in mind. “I never thought I’d be making masks!” She tells me, “Our second batch of masks will be released mid July.”
When asked for any advice about starting a business, Hepburn muses that she’s currently helping her younger sister set up a homeware business, and so the guidance flows freely:
“1. Don’t rush. Take your time. Rushing only means you’ll look back and realise what you’ve put out wasn’t to the standard you hoped for. Even if at the time it feels like you’ve hit gold.
Eat up all the resources you can and take advantage of ALL the business help even if some overlap. It takes time to find the people or person that you gel with. The Princes Trust was so helpful for me, but a lot of banks now have business mentorships. Visit your local big library for guidance too, they’ll know some of what you can access and might even have a business centre.
Research brands you like and identify what you like about them and why. Then feed this into your own business. Rushing into the fun bits of designing and creating for yourself is all very well but if the business doesn’t have a heart full of knowledge and intention then it will show to your audience.”