As we're celebrating small enterprise this Enterprise Week, we asked 8 small business owners to tell us their personal stories about how they founded and run their SMEs

This week, maake celebrates small enterprise. As founders of maake, we have run this London-based small business for 15 years, with the focus on textile printing. We are fully knowledgeable in all 8 types of digital fabric printing and have had extensive experience in the industry. Over the years we have worked with over 10,000 brands including Dior, Alexander McQueen and Asos.

We have come into contact with many a small company and numerous SMEs who have flourished and grown, businesses whose names constantly appear in VogueHouse and Garden and Harper’s Bazaar. Some of these enterprises also appear on the runway at Fashion Week and others have made their creative mark in interior design.

When this business started out, it was evident that many UK designers who chose the entrepreneurial path weren’t making their mark in the industry. We focus on giving ordinary people the opportunity to bring their extraordinary visions to life. 

To this end, we’ve created a simple, uncomplicated ordering process. As we’re locally based, UK customers don’t have to stress about long lead times from overseas. 

With maake, size doesn’t count. We don’t request large orders. We print exactly what our customers need, which keeps us all sustainable and saves everyone on finance and insurance. And we strive to protect the environment in everything that we do. Which means no waste, less energy and water when we print.

Now we are shaking up the textile industry. We’ve created Enterprise Week to celebrate every small enterprise like ourselves.

We give your small enterprise the edge

We chatted to a total of 8 very different maake customers; those running a small enterprise like we do and some running SMEs. Here they tell us how they started out in their businesses, and what keeps them motivated. Read what they have to say to get some idea about the fascinating industry we work in and the people who work in it with us. 

Celebrate Enterprise Week with maake, honouring other small businesses who are doing their utmost to succeed and grow. 

Levelling the playing field for small enterprise

Everybody has a story to tell, and during Enterprise Week, we’re giving a total of 8 of our regular customers the opportunity to tell their personal stories about their businesses. We hope these stories inspire you.

Hedgehogs and other endangered species: SME Tahlia Paige

A hedgehog in her garden was the inspiration for Tahlia Davis’ small business, Tahlia Paige which specialises in gifts and accessories. “That hedgehog was the inspiration for my initial hedgehog design,” she explains. “I then began putting food out and made a shelter and the hedgehog kept coming back.

"I realised the importance of endangered species and helping them, so I launched my nature collection, a medium which celebrates these endangered species and how to help them. The species include hedgehogs, red squirrels and hares, and have most recently included giant pandas, snow leopards and Asian elephants. The latter are all included in my latest collection.”

When Tahlia started her business, she advertised on Social Media, “and honestly, it felt like a lot of the right people found me!” She also started selling her products at markets and craft fairs. “They have been a great way to meet people,” she says.

“You wouldn’t believe how many hedgehog rescue owners I’ve met. I also find the company is receiving orders from people in the UK and EU who work with endangered species, nature or wildlife, or selling items as gifts for them.”

Tahlia loves working with UK suppliers: “It helps my business’ carbon footprint for a start, and makes it easier for me to communicate with maake about issues and advice. The whole process, from ordering to receiving, usually takes less than a few days!”

Quirky chairs and a love of digital printing: SME Nape Textiles

Kay Muir started her textile business Nape Textiles, as an insurance for retirement. “I started by creating designs that I had digitally printed onto silk to make scarves. Someone asked me to design fabric for a chair - something I had not considered. That request led me to change direction and start creating fabric for interiors. I now work directly with customers to design fabric for them for quirky chairs.

"I make fabric to suit the scale of the chair – and I love it. Designing the fabric for others to create a finished product allows me to concentrate on the illustration part, which is my strength.” 

Kay enjoys speaking to customers from around the world and sells her original designs on fabric on a small scale. Her company products range from footstool cubes to colourful tub chairs and canvas deckchairs as well as a decorative 1920s cocktail cabinet.

Kay uses maake to print her business’ designs on fabric, which she says, is of a very high quality. Digital printing is the perfect medium. It allows me to see my design with movement and texture in a wide range of fabric bases. I tend to work in large scale and enjoy being free to work digitally which gives me time to alter size and colour. I love repeating patterns to suit a large size product; it’s exciting and I can’t wait to see the end results.”

Lady with lamps and made-to-order cushions: SME Margaret Cowell

It took designing a cushion pattern for a friend for Margaret Cowell to build her home interiors and accessories business, Margaret Clavell. “Once I had started designing patterns I couldn't stop! After I’d created about 100 designs in total, I decided to get them printed and made into a product. I settled on home accessories and decided on Etsy as my main selling medium.”

Margaret initially ordered fabrics from us regularly. “I needed the printed fabric to make up my lampshades,” she explains. “I had to make up the same size lampshade in every fabric in order to photograph them for my Etsy shop. Recently, I have added made-to-order cushions to my products, which maake produces for me. Made-to-order is a much better model for my business.”

The target audience for this business is mainly female, Margaret says. “Women are often the driving force behind decorating and accessorising their homes.” 

Margaret chose maake because of the business’s sustainability. “I am conscious of the carbon footprint of my business. It was always important for the annual turnover that I wasn't getting products from abroad and having them travel thousands of miles to get to me. Also, I want to support the work force in this country. It is a big part of the ethos of my business, even though it costs more.”

Love at first sniff: SME Hiro + Wolf

“Our pet products business Hiro + Wolf came about because of our two dogs, Hiro a Shiba Inu and Wolf, a little rescue terrier. The two met on a tiny patch of green in East London 12 years ago and it was love at first sniff.

"We saw a gap in the market for cool pet products in unique patterned fabrics and innovative designs that make life about town with your cat and dog easy and fun,” says Amy Fleuriot-Reade.

The business started out with a market stall at Broadway Market, then Amy opened a store on Columbia Road Flower Market. “We've also been really fortunate to have received publicity in publications such as GQ MagazineElle Decor and Time Out.

“As Hiro + Wolf is all about colour, digital printing is the perfect medium. It allows us to work in a rainbow of hues. Our designs are all hand-drawn then coloured on the computer, so we know exactly how the finished fabric will look.

“All of our pet accessories are handmade in the UK. We are passionate about supporting British craft and reducing our air miles, so it makes sense that our fabric is printed here, too! We wished we'd known about maake sooner; the business could have been designing all of its own prints from the start!”

Focus on patterns: SME Heidi Vilkman Designs

Many of maake's customers are small size businesses in the UK involved in branding, illustrations and pattern design. Heidi Vilkman, of Heidi Vilkman Designs, is one of them.

Asked if she’d change anything about the way she started her small business, Heidi says: “I’m not sure I would change anything as every part of the process is vital for one's learning. Even mistakes are important, because they teach us a lot about ourselves and our business. I guess the only thing I would do differently is believe in myself more.”

Heidi trained as a surface pattern designer at the start of Covid pandemic. “But I wanted to diversify and use my talent as a designer, to make patterns which tell stories and bring joy into people's lives.” 

She loves digital printing. “This medium gives me the freedom and energy to experiment and test new designs; it is an affordable way to make your ideas physical,” she says.

Why use maake? “The quality of printing and choice of fabrics is great – and, of course, it’s UK based.”

Fashion forward: SME BECCI

Becki Ball began her small size enterprise, BECCIduring the Covid pandemic. She’d completed her studies at university and had been applying for one job after another. “I was rejected each time, so I decided to follow my dream,” she said. And so her business BECCI was born.

“I always loved fashion when I was younger and after studying fashion design at university I knew I wanted to make a career out of that medium,” she says. 

Becki started advertising her business products on social media. “I used the colours of my brand – pinks, blues and bright feminine shades. My customers love clothes that are very feminine, with bold silhouettes and shapes.”

Becki sells her garments online through her website; she also works with a designer incubator scheme called Shein X.

She feels very strongly about selling garments that are made and sourced in the UK. She also believes in sustainable business, which is why she chose maake. “I love that there is a supply of so many different fabrics to choose from. It’s great to use the online website for ordering printed fabric,” she says.

Extraordinary objects: SME Glad Rags Custom Cloths

There’s something special about purchasing a one-of-a-kind handmade item. And that’s what prompted Samantha Ross to begin her small business, Glad Rags Custom Cloths, which makes unique personalised handkerchiefs, reusable face masks, exclusive iPad cases, table napkins and various other home accessories.

She started the business after buying a gift. “I looked at it thinking, ‘I could improve this’. I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands and it just kind of went from there…”

Her initial audience were online groups on Social Media platforms like Facebook. People also heard about her products via friends and family. “I get a lot of repeat customers and people tagging me in online photographs,” she says.

Samantha uses maake as her suppliers for digital printing on fabrics. “I love to design patterns and prints for my own fabrics. With this medium, I can offer my customers a true custom product.”

Is there anything she’d change about starting her small business if she could do it over again? “ To believe in myself more – and to have the energy to fight for my space in the market,” she says emphatically.

Something for the kids: SME The Sewing Nanna

Norma Weetman started her business, The Sewing Nannawhich covers kids clothes and accessories, by making most of her 3 daughters' clothes. "Then when my grandchildren came along I started again. And then I started on Instagram!"

Despite her self-confesed addiction to fabrics, she really likes to create her own designs. "It’s lovely having your own designs come to life in actual printed fabric. It makes me feel very proud."

Norma uses maake as her digital print fabrics supplier as "The colour on my first fabric was amazing. The fact that the fabric is safe for children’s wear is another big plus. I’m extremely happy. I’ve used other printers overseas, but supporting UK businesses is by far the best."

Norma has just started smocking on dresses, so big things are in the pipeline.

Businesses uniting with their love of creativity

Like your small business, maake celebrates colour and pattern. Work with us to express your personal style and power your entrepreneurial spirit. Customise your business with unique designs and fabrics that speak to you.

The definition of micro, small and medium-sized businesses

For the purposes of this blog, we have used the following definitions of the different sizes and stages to explain a commercial business in the private sector. We include various size businesses including a micro, a small and a medium-sized enterprise.

We do this by discussing finance – the annual turnover or balance sheet total (always in million) – and the number of employees. And we explain the definition of an SME. This explains its turnover and its number of employees. 

  • Micro businesses: 1 - 10 employees and a turnover of less than £2 million per year. Often, a lot of this is cash turnover for micro businesses.
  • Small businesses: Less than 50 employees and an annual turnover of less than £43 million per year.
  • Medium-sized businesses: 100-999 employees and an annual turnover of less than £50 million.
  • SME: A small to medium-sized enterprise is defined as a micro, small or medium enterprise with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than £2 million per year.

It's time for your small enterprise to get inspired

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