The Button Boutique was launched by textile artist, Gemma Longworth in early 2011. Gemma is a highly qualified textile artist, having completed many years of training. Aged 17 she attended the City of Liverpool College, where she completed her AVCE (Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education) in Art & Design, before continuing and completing her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.
Gemma credits the City of Liverpool College in helping her learn her craft, and decide which direction she wanted to take. The College has a large and varied range of courses, whether these are vocational, educational or apprenticeship based and it was the perfect place for Gemma to learn more about the art and design industry and become accomplished at many different skills.
‘I loved being at the Myrtle Street campus studying Art and Design. It was great, because I’d come straight from school but it was a completely different environment and a lot freer, where we were able to explore and discover the different disciplines and see which ones suited us the most.’
‘The teachers and tutors were all fantastic and you could go to them with any problems or issues that you had, whatever they were.’
It was here that Gemma realised that textiles was her favourite discipline and it was this that helped her decide to continue her education and training at University. Following on from the City of Liverpool College, she studied for her BA in Drawing and Applied Arts, in Bristol, and then completed her Masters in Textiles, in Manchester.
After completing all of this training and higher education, Gemma found it hard to find work in her field, even though she was a highly talented individual, there wasn’t the work out there for her, in the area that she wanted. It was during this time that she began to volunteer and at Alder Hey Hospital, running arts and crafts workshops twice a week.
As the interest in her workshops grew and she was working on a freelance basis, she began taking them outside of the hospital, to café’s in city, holding more and more classes. It became clear to Gemma then, that she needed a base. She chose the Baltic Creative to be this base, renting out two large sheds in their building, and running her workshops from there. She says, even at this time, it wasn’t clear to her that she was ‘starting’ her own business, she was just supplying the demand for her work and the nature of the business growth was organic.
By 2014, Gemma had outgrown her space in the Baltic Creative, and started to look around for larger properties, before finding a building on Brick Street which she describes as a ‘hidden gem’ The space took a lot of work to get it up to the beautiful standard that it is today, but Gemma says; ‘I’ve always been used to not having a lot of money, and having to work with what I’ve got, so I didn’t find it too difficult to work with the space’. The Button Boutique looks fantastic which Gemma says is down to, white emulsion, lots of fabric and a fair amount of skip diving!
The Button Boutique is doing incredibly well, and the business is growing steadily with every month. Gemma is quick to point out that it is a huge amount of work, and it can sometimes be a struggle to balance her work life with her home and social life.
‘Getting the balance right is very difficult. There are days when I go home, and say to myself that I won’t open my laptop, or check my emails but the temptation is always there. Because it’s ‘my baby’, there is always the pressure to be pushing the business forward and working all the time.’
‘There are good and bad aspects to running your own business and being your own boss. Of course there is more freedom, but at the same time, there is a pressure because you have to depend on yourself to bring an income in. Some days I do wish that I was going to work and being paid for being there, but at the same time, it is worthwhile in the end.’
‘If a friend of mine told me they wanted to start their own business, I would definitely tell them to seriously think about it. Make sure it is absolutely what you want because it’s a lot of hard work to begin with and you will have to put a lot into it. It takes up a lot of your time, and you will have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end. And if you need any support, I would recommend going to see the team at The Women’s Organisation’
Gemma also found a few difficulties in the business aspects of The Button Boutique. Like many individuals, the idea of understanding tax, registering as a company and working out pay rolls was a daunting one, and something that she found, and still does find difficult.
‘I don’t find that this side of the business gets any easier. In fact in gets harder as the business grows, because there is always something else to do, another form to fill out and something new to get my head around. But The Women’s Organisation helped enormously with this, and I would recommend any woman with their own business to seek advice and support from them.’
Gemma attended many of The Women’s Organisation’s free courses which helped her understand the technical side of running a business, and is also a member of our Business Club which she is a big fan of. Networking at The Women’s Organisation has been something that Gemma has enjoyed as well; ‘I’ve always hated the idea of ‘networking’, but at The Women’s Organisation it’s a lot more enjoyable because it’s informal and everyone there is in similar situations so it isn’t intimidating.’
Gemma has put the hard work, determination and effort into starting up her own business. After realising when she had finished her education and degree that the jobs she wanted were not out there, she has managed to create her own lifestyle and business which suits her and is a success. She says; ‘I am proud of myself, especially when I look back and think about everything that I have put into The Button Boutique, and how I have started it from literally nothing. I’m doing what I set out to do.’
If you would like help starting up your business, get in contact with us!
Phone: 0151 706 8111