Inspiring stories: Lucy of Nothing New

Last year, I had the pleasure of working at the Watusi Festival, and by chance met Lucy Pratt who was selling her own range of up-cycled products. Since then, I have kept up to date with Lucy’s exciting progress in Birmingham as she set up her own ethical fashion label, Nothing New. Today I talk with Lucy about charity shopping, quitting your day job, and finding inspiration.

Lucy wearing nothing new

Lucy wearing nothing new

Three years ago, your boyfriend challenged you to change your shopping habits and buy nothing new for six months. Tell us about this transition from high street shopping to second-hand.

At first I found it pretty constricting and I decided the best thing to was avoid temptation and not go shopping at all. I then discovered the charity shops in different areas of the city (I was living in Stoke-on-Trent at the time) and as there were so many I began to feel more determined, and would venture into areas I would never have thought to go normally. I can be pretty quick in a charity shop, when you’re looking for something specific and you need it that day, there’s no time to waste! I would have normally just popped into H&M if I needed a black top for example, but now I might need to visit two, three, or four charity shops to find what I want. So it’s very much get in, find the right section, flick through the rail and move on to the next. I have to be quite organised if I’m looking for something special: I might find the perfect dress for a wedding, but it’s a size 16 and needs altering, so I also learnt to factor this in. During those first six months I went to Bestival, where the theme was ‘Fantasy’. I knew I wanted to dress up as an Elf so I had to be really organised in getting all those bits together in time – I ended up making a hooded cape from some curtains, it is probably one of my favourite up-cycled pieces to date.

Lucy's Bestival Cape

Lucy’s Bestival Cape

What is your criteria when shopping second-hand? Are you always on the hunt for particular items or brands?

I generally go second-hand shopping with a purpose – it is normally for something I need or a present for someone. So that is my only criteria really! It is pretty thrilling when you stumble upon a designer item at a tiny price, but at the end of the day, the main question is ‘do I REALLY need that?’. Shopping second-hand is guilt free, so there are no brands to avoid or boycott, but I always try and buy quality items as they last longer. Oh, leggings! I’m always looking for black leggings as they are really hard to come by in good condition!

Following the success of the challenge you set up your own label ‘Nothing New’, and last year took the ultimate plunge of quitting your day job. Was this a difficult choice?

No, not at all. I think I had been waiting for inspiration to hit for a year or so. My job at the time was very much a time and bank account filler, not something I wanted to do long term. I feel very lucky to be so sure of what I want to do.

You now have a studio at the Custard Factory in Birmingham and have teamed up with Laura Loves to offer up-cycling workshops under the brand ‘Rethink, Remake, Relove’. How do you keep motivated?

All the bad stuff that happens in the fashion and textile industry keeps me motivated to make a difference. Whether it’s by teaching people the skills to up-cycle for themselves, offering services to increase the life of treasured items instead of it ending up in landfill, creating bespoke items from eco or vintage fabrics where I know that a fair wage was paid to all….It’s a passion and it keeps me motivated.

Nothing New workshop

Nothing New workshop

When you’re feeling discouraged, where do you go for a fresh injection of inspiration? 

I don’t think I have a go-to thing, but my best ideas normally come to me when I’m super relaxed, like just before you to go to sleep…so I try and stay as relaxed as possible, and always make time for chilling out.

From your experiences over the last year, what advice would you offer someone looking to quit their day job and start their own business?

As my experience is within a creative business, I would say be different. If your aesthetic looks the same as your competitors how are people going to recognise you? It’s about your ideas being fresh and new and that coming through in all you produce. Also, do not be discouraged or threatened by copy-cats: be the best at what you do, others cannot fake your skills! I don’t know if I’m the best example of starting up a business, I am not a fan of the boring stuff and am still learning so much!

Nothing New

Nothing New

Finally, can you share with us any exciting new projects you have in the pipeline?

I am currently revamping my website (www.iamnothingnew.com) and will be launching a couple of new services when it is unveiled in November: GreenSeam is an ethical dressmaking mail-order service, offering limited styles in stunning eco fabrics at a fixed price. And I will be taking on students for one-to-one sewing tuition by the hour. Both of these services will be available to purchase as gift vouchers in time for Christmas!

Thanks for your time Lucy! To find out more, visit Nothing New’s website and be sure to keep up to date with Lucy’s latest news on Facebook.  Images courtesy of Lucy Pratt at Nothing New.

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Inspiring stories: Caz of Pedal Cafe

Having met at university several years ago, I have followed Caz and her pedal-powered venture, Pedal Cafe with awe and intrigue for some time. From pedal-powered bingo to entertaining school workshops teaching and demonstrating sustainable living, Caz is a prominent figure on both the bicycle and environmental scenes in Cardiff. Today we catch up and discuss junkaholism, procrastination, and bicycle mayhem.

It’s a well-known fact that many entrepreneurs start their businesses in garden sheds. What inspired you to set up the Pedal Cafe and where does your passion for pedal power originate?

My first ever experience of pedal power in action was in Scotland during the G8 protests back in July 2005. I stumbled upon the most amazing pedal powered generator called the Rink Dink. It was a colourful, mechanical contraption of about 5 or 6 bikes welded together that was powering a sound system. It was a great creative tool for protest and inspired me to try and make one and use it to promote sustainability and renewable energy a bit closer to home.

The Rinky Dink

The Rinky Dink – Caz’s inspiration

Having known you a long time, is it fair to say that you are a bit of a junkaholic?

Yes! I can’t go past a skip without wanting to rummage through it! I love finding the potential in things that are thrown away and discarded – even if it sits in my flat for a few years before finally getting used!

Last year, you broke away from the monotony of nine-to-five, quit your job, and went full time with the Pedal Cafe. What spurred you to do this?

I felt like I had reached a point where it could sustain itself as a business. I had built up a few years of contacts after working with a variety of community groups and local charities, and was ready to branch out and push it further. I had been really lucky after university to find jobs with small businesses that were really supportive and flexible with working hours which helped a lot, and I was able to slowly make the transition. I felt like my time between 9-5 was usually spent daydreaming and scheming about new projects anyway, so it felt like the right thing to do!

Pedal Cafe school workshop

Pedal Cafe school workshop

When you’re working from home it’s easy to get distracted. What do you find yourself doing when you have a bout of procrastination?

It’s very easy to get distracted! The internet is always a bit of a nightmare – very easy to get distracted and I end up watching something random like DIY SOS on BBC iPlayer for no apparent reason! Aside from those times, it’s quite hard to be in the flat without thinking about bikes, as they are literally everywhere you look. It’s more a case of doing all of the fun things relating to Pedal Cafe and putting off all of the important things that really need doing! But I’m working on it! My other main distraction is in the form of a nice veggie fry-up down the local cafe and a dig around the charity shops which usually leads to more hoarding!

The Pedal Cafe Facebook page is a paradise for any bicycle enthusiast as it’s loaded with images of weird and wonderful bicycles from around the world. Where do you find inspiration on-line?

I’ll usually just type a range of weird bike-related words into a search engine until it leads me off on a crazy tangent of bizarre bikes. There are so many interesting sites out there documenting cycle culture and creative recycling ideas that the content for the page happens quite naturally.

Caz and the pedal-powered disco trike

Caz and the pedal-powered disco trike

You currently offer an array of pedal-powered activities, including blenders, bingo, bubbles, busking and a cycle cinema. What’s next?

I have just won a multi-wheeled bike on eBay for 1p which is going to be the next major project. I think I fell in love with it because it’s got similarities to my first pedal-powered love, the Rinky Dink. It’s four bikes that have been welded together with a seat on the front. It needs a lot of restoration work, but the potential for fun with it is huge! I’m not completely sure what direction it’s heading in, but that’s half the fun.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Hopefully with a garage or a workshop so I’m not living with 20 bikes in a one bed flat! I guess I’m just hoping that it keeps growing at a steady rate, ideas keep getting developed and realised, and we keep working creatively with other groups and meeting great people. There’s no set plan, I think it’s just going to be a case of riding the wave.

Pedal-powered bingo

Pedal-powered bingo

Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to quit their day job and set up their own business?

Research it, make sure there is a market for it, build up your contacts, test it out on local groups, and get a good online presence! If you’re in doubt, try building it up slowly alongside part-time work so there is still that financial security. Then when the time is right, just go for it! It’s probably fair to say Pedal Cafe has become a bit of an obsession for me, but the more energy that goes into it, the more opportunities arise!

Thanks for sharing your story, Caz! If you’re now intrigued, be sure to visit Pedal Cafe’s website to see Caz’s pedal-powered inventions in action. You can follow Pedal Cafe on Facebook too for the latest news and bicycle inspiration.