All new businesses start with a good idea – but what comes after that? To launch our brand new business shower templates (the perfect way to start and celebrate a new business, we think, though we are a bit biased) we’re doing a series of interviews with brilliant entrepeneurial women, finding out more about how their journeys began. You’ll have no doubt seen a Birkim Bag on your social media feed or, if you’ve been lucky enough, in a friend’s house in a fleeting visit in-between lockdown periods perhaps – and today we’re talking to the brilliant brain behind the cult ceramics, Kim Williamson, about how it began!
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Kimberley Williamson, I’m a ceramicist and the founder of Birkim Bags. I design and make ceramics styled around plastic bags and tote bags. I occasionally throw in other bags to mix it up.
Tell us about the start of your business journey!
My business started as air dry products. I came up with my name and doodled my logo pretty early on. I would work out of a tiny space in our bedroom as it was the only place I had. It was a friend (shoutout to Nicola Fernandes) that saw my bags at home and asked where I got them. She very quickly told me to start a business with it. I’d flirted with several side hustles, waiting for a solid idea, so this felt like it was falling into place. I released in small batches so that it would work around my own schedule and other jobs that I had at the time.
What do you wish you’d known when you started out?
I wish I’d known more about the financial side of things. Stuff like getting a business account, what support is out there. Setting up the tax side of the business and keeping records of everything. I managed to get a BBL just before the deadlines thanks to the advice of a friend, I wouldn’t have had a clue otherwise.
What’s the one (physical) thing you wish you’d had when you started out?
A good worktop. My desk is great but the main thing I use as the studio I’m currently part of, is a huge wooden worktop. It’s great to have the space but also something that’s made well and supports the work I do. I still use the same basic materials that I used with air dry clay, that I do with my earthstone clay. A sewing needle, a cuticle pusher and a rubber tipped paint brush thing.
What’s the one thing you wished you’d asked for help with?
I could’ve asked for help earlier with production. It’s always hard to let someone into your world, especially when you’ve been doing it alone for a few years. It’s a huge trust factor and it can be really hard to find good help. Fortunately, I’ve a wonderful woman named TJ from our studio that is currently my personal hero. She just gets me, which makes it a million times easier. It blows my mind with how much easier it’s been and it’s only been a few shifts so far!
What’s helped you run a successful business? What’s hindered you?
I’ve been hugely supported with my business, especially from other businesses and it’s a big part of its success. The creative community is a wonderful world to be a part of as everyone tends to lift each other up and also offer advice. I try to pay it forward and help when other small businesses approach me.
I’m mainly hindered by myself. Whether it’s the inability to schedule myself properly, putting myself out there and getting slapped in the face by imposter syndrome. It’s a constant effort but totally rewarding, I just need to get out of my own way. I also need to get better at asking for help with the technical side of things, such as my website and merging my email systems.
What’s your next business milestone coming up and how will you be celebrating?
I’ve had a couple of things recently that have been great and I need to set aside time to celebrate and appreciate that they happened. One was being selected and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy. I’ve also had some great collaborations happen which I need to take a moment with.
My next milestone that’s upcoming will be my first big business investment, my own kiln. It’s a big deal and I’m getting two for my new home studio that I’m setting up when we move in the next 6 weeks.
If you’d like to grab your own BirKim, then head to Kim’s website here. Make sure you’re following her on instagram @birkimbags too, where she updates her launch dates. And if you fancy making a new business shower patchwork, you can either start with our new ceramics business template especially inspired by Kim, one of our other templates – or create your own from scratch here!