10 Years and Counting!
Ten whole entire years have flown by since I started Dupenny in the attic bedroom of my parent's house. The name (one of my mother's nicknames) was a temporary choice that stuck. My plan was simple; I would make the world smile, one wall at a time. I sat in my quiet loft space doodling vintage pinups, burlesque dancers, zombies, vampires and the like... People laughed and told me no-one would buy my designs. Some even thought I should be "ashamed" of myself. One day around that time I discovered my favourite ever quote:
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” - Cecil Beaton.
Everyone said it wouldn't work, but I knew better than to listen to those who lacked imagination. I had zero business training and no clue what I was doing, but I did have a vision and a drive to be reckoned with. I knew how to have fun and get attention. Somehow I just knew I could make it work... whatever it was.
In those days the internet was like the Wild West, still waiting to be discovered. My first website was literally a static page - it was beyond awful! My folks would help me cut up HUGE reels of wallpaper on the floor of their hallway. I'd spend my nights screen-printing lengths of wallpaper by hand at Print Club London because it was the only time the shared studio was empty enough to print my wallpapers!
I spent most of my first year preparing my stand for 100% Design, where I officially unleashed Dupenny into the big wide world. I applied for one of 5 newcomer bursary grants towards show costs and was told by the organisers I had no chance. Amazingly, I won the grant, had the press booths smothered in my wallpapers and was nominated for an Elle Decoration British Design Award - it was a lot to take in! I've been so fortunate that running Dupenny has been my full-time job since those crazy 5 days.
The past 10 years have been non-stop. I won't sugar-coat it, it's been pretty stressful at times. I've made every mistake in the book and more. I was severely naive to the constant bullsh*t that comes with the day-to-day running of my own little business; what ghastly monster of a horror show have I created?! I'm sure most small creative business owners can relate! I tell you, it's no joke, and if it wasn't for the good stuff I would have given up long ago.
Some of my favourite highlights include my wallpapers exhibiting alongside famous works by masters of controversy, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Damien Hirst, and my '50s Housewives' and 'Call Girls' designs being added to the V&A Museum Archives. I've created my very own Dupenny Boudoir at Brighton's infamous Hotel Pelirocco, collaborated on my own retro fashion range with ModCloth, been slammed by the Daily Mail on more than one occasion, and the '50s Housewives' have even starred alongside Hollywood royalty, Richard Gere!!! Yes, you heard it the first time.
To celebrate a decade of business I've revamped my iconic 'Burlesque' Wallpaper to include scarlet red lips. We've printed a limited number of rolls, which are already proving super popular, so if you like what you see, you know what to do!
One thing that's always astonished me on this journey is just how willing small, creative businesses are to support each other and offer advice. I get asked a lot of questions and I've made every possible mistake over the years, so I thought I'd put together a list of 10 valuable lessons my journey has taught me so far. I hope this advice can help other small creatives who want to carve a similar career for themselves...
10 business lessons for creatives:
And the biggest lesson? Always stay humble and appreciate your customers. It's not difficult to treat people with respect and appreciation, especially if they pay the bills. Without happy customers you don't stand a chance, so treat them with the royal service they rightly deserve!