Warwick student Molly Lambourn has recently founded a design business named Sophie Stokes. We sat down with her to find out all about it.
So, let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you study at Warwick? And where did you first get the idea for this design business?
So, I am from Canterbury Kent and before Warwick I had won a few awards for my art, and featured in the Turner Contemporary Gallery. I went to Warwick to study History, and was also a Lloyds Scholar. Despite continuing to do art and be creative, I found myself working on two internships at the Bank and becoming part of a world very far from what I loved. I became a bit disillusioned at how hard I was working for a company that was not personal to me, and realised that I would probably work even harder and be happier doing something for myself.
So at the end of second year I decided that I would be a fine artist and that to realistically build myself up as one, I would also need an affordable art brand to get a small income in while I established myself. Thus, I came up with Sophie Stokes; a pseudonym based upon my middle name and my mother’s maiden name Stokes. I wanted to contrast my fine art, which can be critical and dark, with the positive things in life, for me being retro/vintage culture, feminism and nature. I spent a year tapping in and out of ideas and ways to start up as a business until I was lucky enough to receive funding from the Warwick Enterprise Team, who have fully funded my launch! It’s now up to me to make a success of the business and use it to help me support future creative endeavours.
On the front page of your website you advertise your work as being “Quirky, beautiful and original, just like you”. How exactly do you produce your designs? Does someone come to you with an idea and then you work from there or do you have a selection of design templates for them to pick from?
I illustrate all my designs by hand, and I come up with the ideas myself. I will be separately launching as a fine artist through which people can request bespoke commissions. ‘Quirky, beautiful and original’ represents the positivity of my brand and the best of me. It’s positive, vibrant and different – my fine art which has featured in galleries has often been more critical of society and myself. I currently have three designs with the launch collection, but from September I will be releasing one new design every month, with some limited-edition designs and products.
What are the challenges with starting your own business?
I tend to find that a lot of people love what I do and support the ‘brave’ decision to become self-employed, however they do not necessarily support me financially with buying products – which is of course the core of continuing what I want to do. There’s also the confidence issue, I’m someone who doesn’t enjoy using social media, but as an artist, business owner and designer I must learn quickly to get over the embarrassment of showing people my passion and what I do. I’m quite a private person so I think that has been the hardest obstacle so far.
Where do you plan on going from here? What other ideas have you got, behind the scenes?
Sophie Stokes is just the start; this business is here to provide a small income for my career as a fine artist. From September I will be completing a Master’s in fine art at UCA, the University which has hosted Tracey Emin and Karen Millen. I’m excited to be joining a prestigious institution and meeting like-minded individuals. I would like to see my new brand featured in gift shops and eventually retailers like John Lewis. The Warwick Enterprise Team has been helpful in showing me ways to market the brand and expand it further.