On being an international entrepreneur – Julie Dodsworth

Posted: 29th December 2015

By: WiRE Team

Thanks to Helen Reynolds from Ink Gardener for sharing her thoughts…

This week I was lucky enough to attend the Women in Rural Enterprise conference, as part of York Business Week. One of the speakers was Julie Dodsworth, a homeware designer. With her countryside-inspired designs appearing on everything from umbrellas to bed linen, she is Yorkshire’s answer to Cath Kidston. Her UK-made ranges are stocked in 20 countries and she has even designed the lining for a collection of Barbour coats.

Julie Dodsworth at WiRE Conference York Nov 2015Her warmth, humour and frankly delusional belief that she is ‘just ordinary’ makes her a charming speaker. As I jotted down her many tips for entrepreneurs, I thought her next enterprise should be a business book.

She generously agreed to my sharing her words with you here. I also sprinkled her quotes across the Twitter #WiREHour I was guest-hosting that night (Tuesdays 7-8pm) for rural business women. Thank you Julie for a fantastic talk.

Go with the flow

Julie trained in floristry but always loved to paint. Her business often took her to London. To save on accommodation costs, she and her husband bought a canal boat called ‘Calamity Jane’. She became interested in folk art and started painting watering cans and churns. Her daughter suggested that the designs were good enough to be sold commercially.

Don’t know? Find out!

Julie said she knew nothing about homeware. So she went to a garden centre, bought some products, looked at who manufactured them and started phoning them. The trick? Ask to be put through to sales rather than be told ‘no’ by reception.

She travelled to Northern Ireland for a five minute meeting taking a hand-painted jug as an example. They asked for formats Julie had never heard of. But she asked friends and family for help and produced the artwork.

Don’t take rejection personally

Julie said how rude some of the rejections could be. “Some people don’t know how to give a warm no.” But after a walk with her dogs, she would always decide it was their problem, not hers, and try again.

Be flexible

“They thought I’d sent in a design. I’d just sent in a colour chart painted as hearts.”

This is now the Sweetheart design:

Sweetheart design plate - copyright Julie Dodsworth

Accept you can’t be in fashion all the time

Julie pointed out that you can never predict trends. But she reminded us how things often go in a cycle and can be re-launched years later, such as ‘The Diary of An Edwardian Country Lady’.

Everyone has something they’re not good at

For Julie her literal bête noire is hedgehogs! She confessed she would far rather paint flowers.

Tips for entrepreneurs – the gems

  • “Your business has to sell. If not, it’s a hobby making a loss.”
  • “Don’t see it as selling, see it as explaining.”
  • “Ask the person ‘I need your help, I need your advice.’ “
  • “I know it’s your baby, but it is just business.”
  • “Just keep going.”

For the creatives

  • “The secret is to set the trend. That’s when you know you’ve made it.” – Julie believes she’s still striving to do this.
  • “Trust that an idea will come.”

One of Julie’s favourite quotes

Julie included this in her presentation. She calls it her golden motto:

If you don't ask the answer is always no saying

Follow Julie

If you’re stuck for Christmas presents, you’ll find inspiration at:

Need help with your words?

I’m in awe of artists like Julie as I can’t paint for toffee. But I can write. If you would like to make your business messages blossom in Google-friendly web content, social media, leaflets or blogs, then please get in touch.