Small Business Monday: An Interview With Jan Tillett


Today's feature is all about growing a business from passion.

I strongly believe that you need lots of passion for what you do to make your craft business work. More importantly that passion should guide you when you move into new areas that make both you and your business successful and happy.

Let me introduce Jan Tillett, who changed tact to build something that did just that.

Image by Jan Tillett

Image by Jan Tillett

What inspired you to start your business and how did you make it happen?

I left my teaching job for a change direction and enrolled on a part time spatial design course. I had always stitched for pleasure, and was able to incorporate those skills into the course work. I started to sell some of my embroidered cushions at craft fairs, and was often asked how they were made. I approached the local college to teach evening classes  but there were not enough participants to run the course. I was offered a room in a restaurant to run the evening classes privately and the creative textile workshops have grown from there. There was no overall plan, it grew from those first workshops. I exhibited at a local National Trust property and continued to attend craft fairs. Demonstrating at the retail craft events such as Craft4Crafters also helped to profile my workshops locally, and as a tutor who travels to groups and guilds. 


What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in running your business so far?

Keep up to date with the paperwork! Also, in order to promote my workshops meeting people in person is the best way to do this. . I have advertised in local newspapers but found I had no response.  I use  twitter and facebook to show my work and share workshop information. Also be very organised when teaching a workshop or attending a show - preparation is vital.


What has been your biggest shining moment so far?

Over the years I have met a lovely group of people who come to my workshops regularly. The social sewing days I run  are also very popular. I run my own workshops in Tiverton and Ivybridge so I have two groups of regulars and I feel very privileged that they keep supporting my workshops and events. 

I also felt very proud when two of my embroidered dresses were shown on the catwalk at the Festival of Quilts alongside so many amazing works of wearable textile art.


Work and image by Jan Tillett

Work and image by Jan Tillett

What would be your number one tip to someone wishing to start their own business?

Do it. Evaluate what is working for you and what is maybe not so successful. If you need to prioritise because of other pressures on your time, do the things which bring in an income.


What is your next business goal?

I have let my website get a bit out of date so that is a priority  to get it updated this year. I do the local retail shows to promote the workshops and to sell creative textile supplies so I need to explore ways of selling online. I am hoping to spend a bit more time doing some of my own creative work in the next few months and going on some workshops myself to update some of my skills. As time permits, I may look to have an exhibition to sell my work, or to do a few craft fairs again.

I have been self employed now for over 10 years and hope to continue for a few more.

Thank you to Jan for being so generous with her time and let’s wish her continued success with the business. Don’t forget you can find Jan at Jan Tillett.