By Kate Marsden
An online marketplace with a difference for you this week as we meet Debbie Inge from Look Lane. Debbie tells us why she launched the site and how Just A Card is important both to Look Lane and her work as a designer/maker.
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I'm Debbie, Creative director at Looklane.com and designer/maker at Duck & Duffel. I'm a fashion graduate who worked in media and marketing for 12 years before having my daughter and then setting up my design brand Duck & Duffel. In February this year, after 3 years of planning, I launched Look Lane! I was frustrated by identikit platforms that didn’t allow any creativity or individuality and wanted to launch a shopping platform that met the needs of both buyers and creators.
All the Look Lane team love shopping in cool markets, browsing beautiful things in incredible stores like Liberty’s or mooching through the lanes in Brighton where you can shop across brands and discover amazing new products without ever really knowing what you are looking for. What we wanted to do with Look Lane is to replicate that shopping experience as you browse and discover shops and products. A place where beautiful must have items are glimpsed through the windows of shop fronts as unique as their creators. We wanted to make a world for all things authentic and hand-made.
What does a typical day involve?
I have a 6 year old so first thing is getting her ready for school (while trying to catch up on social media!). Once she is at school I make myself another cup of tea and settle at my laptop in my office (the dining room at the moment!), check emails and update the site, post on social media and deal with any accounts. My dog Betty usually starts pestering me for a walk around mid morning so a trip to the post office or local park is a great way to clear my mind ready to get back to the computer! I tend to eat lunch at my desk whilst catching up on You Tube fashion hauls! Then a couple of hours more work before school pick up. Once homework is done, dinner is made and little one in bed I make dinner and then get straight back to it for a couple of hours...unless I get distracted by whatever series I'm binge watching (at the moment it's Rick & Morty!)
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
As Look Lane is a web-based shopping platform I currently work from home. We only launched Look Lane in February of this year but I would love to have a real office with studio space! When I'm not working I love drawing, going to craft fairs, walking my dog (@looklanebetty - you can follow her on IG!) and I absolutely love going to see live music; we have a great local music venue in Aldershot called The West End Centre which promotes local talent and artists.
What do you conside to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
I think the main challenges are competing with generic high street stores, and educating people on why they should spend money on handmade/independent design instead of mass produced cheap items from chain stores; the result of which would be promoting sustainability and ethically produced products and making people think about where products come from, how they have been made and who made them.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
To increase sales for our amazing vendors, to build a team in a lovely office/studio space somewhere inspiring...and do a pop-up shop!
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Get out to as many craft fairs as you can and talk to people, it's such an amazing community of fellow makers who are really supportive and love to champion each other! Craft fairs are a really great way of engaging with customers and creating a fan base for your work.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
Yes absolutely, and I make sure that I always purchase something from independent shops and galleries I visit even if it is 'Just a card' – let’s face it there is always a birthday coming up and a unique card from a designer-maker is far more individual than a standard off-the-self card from a chain store!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Incredibly important. Our aims are to promote designer-makers and their amazing work and create sales for them to support their business. As a designer-maker myself I know how every sale counts!
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
I heard about it from Mollie Makes and have been following the campaign ever since. My favourite social media platform has to be Instagram! I'm a very visual person and I love browsing for amazing art and design, outfit inspiration and, quite simply, I love pretty pictures! Pinterest is also a great tool and I would love to do more with You Tube; we have two videos currently on our You Tube channel but would love to do some video craft tutorials in the future.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
Remember that every sale counts for independent business! To keep a choice of shops on our high streets we need to support small business otherwise we are going to end up with generic malls, empty shops and ghost towns. At Look Lane we are all about championing small business so we will keep promoting our makers and spreading the message that 'small/ independent is best'!