How did Thrift Don’t Throw come about?
My partner – Will Hughes – and I both hate unnecessary waste and don’t like to throw anything away. At home we’d even set ourselves the challenge of completely building our kitchen from recycled materials. We thought bottles are nice pieces of glass, what can we usefully do with them rather than throw them away?
So with an empty bottle of gin, a hot glue gun, a tin of spray paint and some lyrics from a Stone Roses song – ‘Until Sally, I was never happy’ – we experimented and our first ‘product’ was born. From then on we spent every minute doodling and working at ways we could get our favourite music lyrics on to bottles or jars.
We now work with any material that can be reused to create original designs from recycled and natural materials such as making badges from bottle tops, with the aim of having minimal or no impact on the environment.
How did you go about generating interest in what you make?
We don’t even have a website at present – we’ve been too busy. I had no social media experience when we started out a year ago but I set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account. From those we started to get lots of emails and commissions and now sell all over the country with enquiries even coming in from the US and Canada. The feedback from people has been amazing. They seem to love the idea that we start off with just a piece of glass and we’ve had lots of commissions such as producing decorative candle jars for a wedding for example.
The more feedback we put up on social media, the more interest we get.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
We knew it was never going to be easy and we’ve made loads of mistakes along the way. If what we make isn’t right we start again. We always start with a song lyric for inspiration but we are our own worse critics and everything has to be perfect. But we’re confident in longer term success and I’m giving up my career [transcribing brail for the blind] to do this full time, although people question my sanity when I say I’m giving up work to paint bottle tops.
Why did you set the business up as a community interest company?
We didn’t know what a community interest business was but took advice from a friend who is an adviser to co-ops and community enterprises, and has helped set up a wide range of community interest companies.
She asked us about our ambitions for the business and we explained that we would like to work with young adults who have special educational needs, which suits my background and also reflects the lack of opportunities for that sector.
Setting up as a community interest company means that we will have a better chance of accessing funding that could allow us to set up workshops for young adults around the UK which is our longer term ambition for the business – perhaps in five years’ time.
For the moment though we work from a workshop in the house while the old Victorian outdoor toilet at the bottom of the garden has been converted as our paint spray booth. It has the advantage of being very well ventilated.
Do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur?
No, I’m just a working class girl who likes gin and spray paint.
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