19 March 2014

A Day in the Life of Guthrie and Ghani

It brings me great pleasure to introduce the next interviewee for A Day in the Life - a woman whose ambition and drive I admire greatly, and who I am grateful to call a good friend - Lauren Guthrie. Lauren and her husband Ayaz have invested a crazy amount of work into turning a derelict building into their beautiful Birmingham-based haberdashery, Guthrie and Ghani. If you've been lucky enough to visit, you'll know what a special place it is, full of sewing and knitting delights, with a beautiful space upstairs for workshops. Let's hear from Lauren what a typical day is like managing the business...


"Hello Tilly and the Buttons readers! It’s so great to be here and sharing my day with you, so thanks a million for inviting me, Tilly!

The alarm usually goes off at about 7.30am, I wake myself up then have breakfast at home while catching up on BBC news. It’s easy to so caught up in things and forget about the outside world sometimes so I try to tune in when I can. I always have a bowl of muesli and honey and a coffee. It keeps me going for hours as I don’t usually have lunch till later in the day. Pretty much every day I’m wearing at least one thing I’ve made, but I’m one of those peeps who are always cold, so I usually layer up.

I head over to my shop about 8.45am to get there for 9am where I meet Lucy, my assistant. At the moment we are building a house behind the shop so eventually my commute will be even shorter! We have half an hour to set the shop up, warm the coffee machine, turn on the lights, tidy up and sort out the to-do lists for the day. At 9.30am we open up the shop. We’ve got such a huge big bay window at the front of the shop and the light just floods in, even on a dull day.

The first jobs for the day are to pick and pack the online orders and get them sent out. We also have to log the workshop bookings placed online in the diary too. I then try to get on top of my emails while Lucy makes sure the shop is looking lovely and well stocked. Every day is different, sometimes I might work on blog posts which is great fun. Other days I’m planning or teaching workshops. Other days it's more organisational things like liaising with different tutors or designing some of my own workshops that I teach. Some days I have to just knuckle down and deal with the paperwork side of the business like paying bills, figuring out stock levels and placing orders. Working out what to buy and order for the shop and, most importantly, how much to order is a constant learning process for me. When I first opened the shop I found the choice of goods to stock a bit overwhelming so I had to just go with my gut and order what I liked myself. I found it gets easier with time as I learn what my customers like and what is more popular.

Some days I’ll work in the studio above the shop where we hold all the workshops. It’s a really big spacious room and the light floods in there as well. I’ve now got my own little book shelf there with all my books and fabric stash so it feels like part of my home really. I’ve always got a least one sewing project on the go, but I do try and finish one thing before getting really stuck into the next.

If there is no evening workshop, I usually leave the shop around 6pm and head home. I might go out for a run or go to a class at the gym, or just try and chill out while doing a bit of knitting. My new rules are to try and switch off from the business in the evenings, but it’s easier said than done, so I might check a few more emails or work on a blog post. The evening workshops usually finish between 9.30 - 10pm so quite often I leave the place a bomb-site to clear up in the morning to head home and crash out.

I used to be a physiotherapist in the NHS, working regular during the week hours so my routine is completely different now. Its easy to loose track of what day it is and you lose that end of the week ‘Friday feeling’ a bit but on the other hand, I don’t ever get that Sunday night feeling either! I’ve always had a passion for being creative, not just in sewing but lots of different crafts, and although my initial career path didn’t take me down that route I always dreamed of doing something creative full time. At first I didn’t really know what it would be. A few years ago now, I joined the online e-course called Do What You Love. Over 6 weeks the course took you through a series of daily tasks or activities aimed at helping you figure out what was important in your life, what you dreamed of, what you were scared of…. all the soul searching stuff and it really put things into perspective for me. It made me realise that working for myself and being creative in my job was so important to me that I would have to change career completely.

Still not really knowing what to do, Ayaz (my husband) and I had another situation going on with a building that we owned. It’s a long story but the building was pretty much derelict and we didn’t really know what to do with it. That’s when we had the idea to turn it into a shop and creative studio, solving two problems at once. I would get my career change and the building would be saved. And so the rest is history! After almost 2 years of planning and renovating, we opened the shop and launched the website and online shop in April 2013.

As if we weren’t busy enough, during that planning phase I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee. I made so many lovely new friends, learned so much about how I could push myself and challenge myself and by complete coincidence, honestly, the timing of the show coincided perfectly with the shop opening.

Lauren and Tilly on launch day
So really there is no set routine anymore, everything is changing, every day is different. Sometimes its scary, sometimes its stressful, sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and have to figure it out as I go along, but most of the time it’s lots of fun and that makes up for everything else. Owning your own business means that work will never end, the to do list is never finished, there will always be something to sort out or deal with, no-one else to take up the slack or pick up the pieces. You really need to try and get over that feeling that you’re not skipping school when you have a day or afternoon off.

In terms of what’s coming up, I’m really looking forward to the next year! Now that the business is up on its feet and I’ve got more of a handle of looking after it, it will be easier to branch out and be involved in some other projects. I’m hoping to be part of some of the sewing and crafts shows, and in September I’ve got the launch of my first book. I really can’t wait for it to come out! I’ve been working really hard on that over the past 6 months and not been able to share the details so it will be a really exciting time!

There is no doubt that running your own business takes more work, energy, time, motivation, drive, determination, bravery and risk-taking that you can ever realise before you start. People will tell you it’s challenging, but really you don’t understand until you are in the situation. That said, there is something about working for yourself, on something that you are passionate about that is totally different from any job that’s working for someone else. So as long as you have that passion and drive and confidence you just have to go for it, there is no one to stop you!"


Very well said - keep up the good work, Lauren and Ayaz! Readers, if you liked this, you might like to read more A Day in the Life interviews...