How creating vintage furniture gave Nina a new lease of life








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.”

Nina Cockton, the face behind Lady Griddlebone, introduces us to the company

I work as a part-time sole trader restoring and refurbishing pre-loved vintage furniture. Developing a creative business with sustainability at its core, has been very important to me. I sell nationally across the UK from my website, and on an Etsy UK Shop, as well as starting a recent collaboration to sell a selection of my work on a home interior retailer’s website (The Design Yard). I strive to create unique and eclectic designs to ensure that vintage furniture can be cherished in contemporary homes and reduce landfill wastage.

When did you set the company up and what was the thinking behind it?

Over the years, as my family grew up and we moved around between Victorian and modern houses, we had often struggled to find quality furniture with a bit of character, rather than ubiquitous flat-packs, which would stand up to the demands of family life but still sit well in any room setting.

I started up working from home in Scotland, as a “side-hustle” and creative outlet for my mental well-being in October 2020, selling refurbished furniture through local online outlets. I had no previous business experience, having worked as a career NHS professional, as well as being a carer to two adult children. My love of vintage, combined with a newly discovered passion for business in my fifties, led to the growth of Lady Griddlebone Vintage Originals. Promoting sustainable approaches to buying furniture through upcycling and environmentally-friendly materials continues to inspire my business.

What products do you produce?

I design and refurbish vintage furniture with eco-friendly paints, metal leafing and foils, and exquisite wallpapers and fabrics, to produce high quality bespoke pieces. I also offer a commission service for customers to request specific projects, including sourcing furniture if needed, or breathing new life into their much-loved family piece so it can be cherished for many more years to come.

What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?

The delight of having some control over decisions, even with the responsibility that brings, and being able to pursue new directions and explore opportunities at this point in my life. I also love the variety and flexible working that I have from home. Ultimately, it’s hugely satisfying to create something which matters to you and be able to connect with others, who appreciate your work, in an authentic way. Being my own boss has given me a new sense of belonging to my local community and links with other small independents. It matters to me to “give back” and I have been able to support local charities at their fund-raising events in a more personal way.

What advice would you give someone thinking about setting up their own business?

Do your research obviously but don’t feel that you need to have every little thing in place before you get can get started. Many small independents need to combine setting up their business with other roles early on. Only spend where you feel this adds value, for example, check on the return from any advertising. Learn as you go, set yourself realistic goals but be flexible to change track. Work out where your time and skills are best spent and pay for the rest if you can.

Connect and network with other business owners and business communities: this can really help with problem-solving around difficulties or barriers, and you can be a huge support for each other in these challenging times. It’s good to have people who can celebrate your successes with you too!

Finally, just be yourself and stand behind what you do: be clear about your values and what your business stands for, connect with others in a genuine way rather than aiming to sell at people. Say “yes” to opportunities, you can figure out the practicalities afterwards, and try to enjoy the journey!

What do you think about Small Business Saturday and how does it help you?

Connecting with Small Business Britain and Small Business Saturday is great in helping build confidence in myself as a novice business founder. I am grasping every opportunity this brings, developing skills in presenting my business to others, networking and learning from any supports available. I was delighted to be listed as one of the #ialso 100 F:Entrepreneurs in 2022, and I’m aiming to build further on this early positive start and make good use of Small Business Saturday to continue to support and enhance my business visibility, connections, and growth.

I would love to use Small Business Saturday as a big opportunity to promote the importance of sustainable business for all our futures and communities, in a friendly, realistic and approachable way. I was inspired recently by Ciaran Armstrong at Sustainable Pathways and feel excited about linking with and encouraging others to keep making small steps to minimise the negative environmental, ethical and social impacts of what we do, as businesses and consumers. I would also like to promote the benefits of creative business start-ups for mental health and well-being, at any age!

Sum up your business in three words

Stylish, soulful, sustainable