The Designers' Advisor Asks: Alice Charrington

Alice Charrington

Founded by Alice Charrington, Alice Verenna Interior Design focuses on both design consultancy and the design, manufacture and installation of handsewn curtains and window treatments. Sourcing and supplying fabrics, paint, furniture, lighting and art, the design consultancy expertly draws these elements together to create beautiful bespoke palettes for clients across England. Regularly featured in House & Garden Magazine, Alice Verenna curtains and blinds are handsewn and finished in Dorset.

Is there a 'best time of year' to start a business?

A good time to launch is when there is a hive of activity in the interior design world, like during Design Week in the spring or in September. You will be out and about then meeting lots of people, so it’s a good time to project into the universe what you are all about. While there are many new products and designs being launched, it’s still a good time to get noticed as everyone is looking. While it’s great if you can time your launch with big design events, ultimately the best time to launch is when you feel ready.

How do I ensure I stay inspired, and don't burn out?

I stay inspired by keeping my eyes open, taking in events and exhibitions, as well as watching the seasons change and being close to nature. Whether in the city or country, a walk is great time to pause, breathe, think, reflect and evaluate. Getting outside, away from screens and the office environment, helps to clear the head.

How do I get my first client?

Stay social – both in person and online. Keep meeting new people, both within the industry and outside it. Talk about what you’ve been doing and what you’d like to do – your network can become your best advertiser. Getting your first client is all about projecting what you do and what you want to do to everyone you know. All my work is through either meeting someone personally or through word-of-mouth referrals. If people like you as a person, they will be more inclined to work with you. Be positive, be honest, be kind, be nice.

Are there any particular pieces of technology I need before launching my design start-up?

EstiMac has been such a useful investment, technology-wise, for my business. It consolidates, estimates, orders and invoices all in one place, without the need to constantly replicate information with each new document. It has saved me so much time and, therefore, so much money. You can instantly see outstanding orders, what is due for delivery, what invoices haven’t been paid, and much more. It is probably the best piece of technology I have invested in. 

Is there a right and wrong way to source suppliers?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to source suppliers. There are so many suppliers out there who want your business, so if you find something you like, that will work, try and negotiate suitable trade terms and build a good working relationship. Always pay on time – particularly when you are paying for services like upholsterers or curtain makers. Their labour is their wage and if they don’t get paid for a month, that can be quite tough on them. Don’t expect to have a good and efficient service or something turned around quickly, if you haven’t paid up front or are slow to pay afterwards. Money talks.

Many thanks to Alice Charrington http://www.aliceverenna.co.uk/

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