We’ve been loving Pauline Hagan’s colourful, quirky jewellery label, Benu Made, for some time now – so much so, we asked her to design issue 56’s fruity brooch free gift. Pauline recently quit her full-time job and moved out to Prague to concentrate on her craft business, and we were intrigued to find out what made her take the leap and how she’s found it.
What made you decide to take the jump and work on Benu full time?
I’d been working on Benu Made for almost two years and it had started to get to the stage where I found it difficult to juggle my full time job in project management and my craft business. This coincided with my boyfriend receiving a job offer in his home town, Prague, and although I wasn’t quite ready to leave my job, I decided to make the leap.
I reasoned that going full time would be a lot easier in Prague, where the cost of living is cheap in comparison to London. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of months of travelling in Central and South America between the two – which helped ease the transition considerably!
What has been the biggest challenge?
I’ve been working in companies for six years, so the biggest difficulty for me was learning how to manage my own time, be disciplined and efficient, whilst working alone from my home studio.
To help with this I write lists, give myself deadlines, split my day into mini-chunks of work, and try to maintain a good life-work balance, keeping my evenings and weekends free.
Why did you decide to move to Prague?
I’ve always thought that one of the richest experiences is leaving your comfort zone (literally) and trying to make a home for yourself in another country and culture.
The quality of life here is excellent – Praguers live and work at a slower pace, life is cheaper and easier, and it’s also super simple to escape to the countryside. I’m learning Czech, which I think is essential if I want to make a home for myself here.
What are the best and worst things about running your own craft business?
There are so many amazing things about running your own business. I love being able to make all of my own decisions and decide where to steer my business, and I find the riskiness of it all quite exciting. The flexibility of being able to work when and where you please is wonderful.
For me, the most rewarding part overall is dealing with so many different aspects of running a business and developing skills in so many different areas. So far, the great bits have really outweighed the bad parts, but at a push I’d say that the negative things are that it’s tough, a lot of responsibility and can be stressful.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started out?
I was quite rigorous right at the beginning and spent eight months experimenting with naming, designing my launch collection and meticulously researching everything before I took the plunge and launched. I would have liked to be a bit braver and more confident at the beginning and just had the guts to just go for it, without worrying so much.
What key advice would you give to other makers keen to turn their craft businesses full time?
Find the situation or compromise that works well for you – mine was quitting my career and moving to another country, which at one point did feel like a slight compromise, but actually turned out wonderfully. And finally, find your niche, make sure it’s special and unique, and most importantly, make sure you love and believe in whatever it is!