At the beginning of 2020, Charlotte Brett was happily employed at an interior design firm. However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she was made redundant and made the decision to start her own interior design business.
With the help of a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp, she launched Rooted Interiors, together with her partner Prince Banin-Plockey. And now, eight months into her entrepreneurial journey, we caught up with her for the This Is What A Founder Looks Like Series.
Why did you start Rooted?
I studied interior design at university. I've always loved design and have always been creative. I knew that I wanted to step into that world from a young age. And I've worked in the commercial industry for about six years now. And I've moved around, I've done a bit of hospitality, a bit of retail design. When the pandemic hit, a lot of things happened and I was unfortunately made redundant.
It had always been in the back of my mind that I could do this for myself, I could start a business. My partner Prince is an actor so when the theatres were closed and he was unable to work too, we found ourselves thinking that it was our chance to do something for ourselves. We jumped into it and went for it. We just said it's now or never. It was the right time for us.
Eight months down the line we're actually doing quite well. It's not surprising because I knew it would work but it's actually allowed us to help other people, to be creative, to work for ourselves, and be on our own time.
Was it daunting making that decision in the middle of a pandemic?
Absolutely! Even now I find myself wondering if we're doing the right thing, or if we should just go and find jobs. I do find it stressful, but the rewards are better than anything I could have imagined.
Was becoming an entrepreneur ever part of the plan?
When I first started in a design company it was a really small company and it was amazing and I loved it. I aspire to be like them one day. I knew that I wanted to move out of my old company, but when you get comfortable it's difficult. I'd only been there two years so I wanted to build a bit more and get more experience. And it was all going well until COVID hit. But it just gave me a kick in the right direction I guess, sooner rather than later.
What have been the challenges and benefits of launching a business in the middle of a pandemic?
It hasn't necessarily been a huge issue for us because we can work remotely. Obviously, the hospitality industry has been shut for a long time, so there were a lot of people not moving, not doing anything. But we have had a few clients that were ready to go, even hospitality clients.
I think there have definitely been benefits too. I used to work in a really big interior design company and they would take really big clients and I guess now, companies and smaller companies are looking a bit further afield and maybe considering smaller design firms. I think there's a better playing field, people are looking for smaller design companies to help with their cafes or restaurants, rather than going to these big established businesses, to get them ready for when customers can return. I think we can offer a more personalised service than some of these big businesses.
How has your work-life balance changed from working for a big company to working for yourself?
I used to work 9am to 5.30pm every day, Prince would work in the evenings at the theatre so we would barely see each other. Now I spend all my time working next to him. We spend all day every day working from home. We're also able to be a bit more flexible - we had a couple of days off for my birthday recently, it's really nice to be able to set your own working hours and not have to rely on managers approving time off requests.
I think that flexibility is amazing. I love it and I couldn't see myself going back to working 9-5 in an office for somebody else.
How has it been starting a business with your partner?
I think it's been really helpful to have somebody else involved in the start-up. Prince isn't an interior designer but he's brought loads of experience that he's learnt from working for other people. That, together with my skills as a designer, works really well. It's been amazing having someone to bounce ideas off, I couldn't imagine doing it by myself.
Our relationship has definitely changed through starting the business together - it's gone from strength to strength. It's been really good to have someone there to talk about ideas with. Prince has taken on a lot of the marketing, which I had no idea about.
We now spend 100% of our time together. We've never done that before. Sometimes he does type too loud. So sometimes we have to find our own space and cool off a bit. But it's all a learning curve and I couldn't imagine starting this business with anyone else.
This article originally appeared on Virgin.com.