As the Small Business Saturday campaign prepares to mark its ten-year anniversary on December 3, SME Magazine is profiling some of the 100 small businesses in this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up. As Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK, says: “The fantastic small businesses featured in this year’s SmallBiz100 sum up the extraordinary contribution that small firms make to our economy and local areas.”
Lauren Terry introduces us to Lauren’s Cows, the contemporary art business she runs with her mother Jude
Lauren, tell us about your business?
The business started by accident when I was living in London and working as an actress, and I painted a picture of a cow for my flat and got it framed. The framer liked it and asked to be introduced. He said if I painted 15 more cows, he would stage an exhibition for me, which was very exciting! The exhibition went well, so I set up a very basic website with my mum, and the business was born.
What do you produce now?
I only paint portraits of actual cows, who I have usually met in person! I aim to capture the personality of each individual animal, then introduce a lot of colour. For me it’s all about the personality. Cows have such a curious personality and inquisitive nature that I just love. As well as the original artwork we also sell fine art prints, greetings cards and a range of homeware, all featuring these colourful, characterful cows.
How have you scaled the business?
Mum and I now both work full time at Lauren’s Cows, my studio is in York and mum works in Westmorland in Cumbria. Since that first single painting in 2012 the business has grown and grown, with our contemporary cow art prints and paintings hanging on walls worldwide. Currently we sell mainly on-line through our website and Etsy, but have an increasing number of trade customers, mostly independent gift shops, and I also work to commission.
We are also part of the Shop Small initiative run by American Express, which is also the principal supporter of Small Business Saturday campaign. This helps to bring us business and puts us literally(!) on the map. We are so impressed by the way in which a global organisation takes so much time and trouble to support small businesses.
What role do you play in your community?
We are both avid supporters of fellow small businesses, and only work with carefully chosen British manufacturers. Most of our suppliers are also small businesses, and all in the UK. Our prints are produced by three different businesses, all of which are one-man bands, and most of our shipping boxes are made by a chap in a village 30 minutes away.”
As well as supplying to trade customers, most of which are independent shops, we also loan artwork to local establishments, which enhances their premises and gives the artwork more exposure. Currently, some of my ‘Cows’ are enjoying life at two independently owned pubs, a deli in Appleby and a conference centre for disadvantaged people in Carlisle.
We also donate redundant art materials to the local primary school, support the Cash for Kids charity in both Cumbria and York by donating both goods and money to their various appeals, and have an ongoing tree planting policy in the local area.
What does Small Business Saturday mean to you?
Small business Saturday is a hugely exciting thing to be a part of. As a small business you can find yourself feeling lost in the crowd struggling to get your voice heard. It’s easy to lose out to bigger companies so having an event like this that champions smaller businesses and gets them seen really helps our exposure.