The Painted Teapot – entrepreneur combats illness with pottery
Twenty three year old Lucy Arnold was diagnosed with M.E. two years ago. Since then she has started a business offering children’s services and now owns The Painted Teapot, a pottery painting and decopatch studio in Dronfield.
Although she is talkative and cheerful, Lucy has suffered from depression and chronic pain. She believes that having something to focus her passion and mind on everyday makes a big difference.
“I walk in the shop in the morning and even if I am in a low mood, I look around and I think, ‘Wow I’m not doing badly for a 23 year old.’ It does give me that boost and that is what I need, even though I am exhausted doing it, I can either sit down and feel sorry for myself and the pains I feel in my body or I can just do something about it and make something of myself.”
From nanny to running a business in a year
Lucy, who now lives in Sheffield, grew up in Dronfield and at seventeen moved to London to study fashion retail. When she returned home after her studies Lucy got ‘itchy feet’ and decided to go to Paris where she worked as a nanny for over two years. When Lucy returned from Paris she began working for the Sheffield Council’s Kids Can Do project, offering arts and craft and drama workshops throughout Sheffield.
During this time Lucy was diagnosed with M.E. and she said ‘she could not see her way out of it, so she started to think about what she could do to distract her from it’. As the funding for Kids Can Do began to disappear Lucy decided to set up her own business, offering workshops and activities for children based on her experience with the project.
In March 2012 Lucy and a friend launched Rascals HQ offering arts and crafts workshops, parties, babysitting and wedding crèche’s.
“People knew my name because of the schools I had worked in with Kids Can Do in Sheffield, so the business took off very quickly. We were doing workshops every week and were out doing face painting at music festivals, wedding creche’s and summer holiday workshops. That is when I met Lynzie Houston, who owned The Painted Teapot, where I was doing arts and crafts workshops.”
Lucy and Lynzie became very good friends and one day, in October 2012, Lynzie made a proposition to Lucy. She was going to put the business up for sale and she was going to give Lucy first refusal.
“At the time I was so surprised, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it. So my partner came and had a look around and I spoke to my parents, then we put some figures together and I went to the bank.”
Lucy struggled to get a business loan because of her age, however she persevered and wrote a forty-page business plan, which she took to three different banks.
“At the third bank the man told me that he wouldn’t normally help someone my age to get a loan but that he had never seen someone so passionate about something, so he persuaded his bosses to give me a loan. The Painted Teapot became mine on the 14th October 2012.
“I knew nothing about ceramics, I just took the business on and learnt everything in two weeks, it is amazing how much I know now and how I knew nothing then. I just knew it was a business that had so much potential and that I could make it work.”
Lucy said that she was motivated by her illness to get the business going.
“While I am having a good patch, I want to build something up so that if I have a bad patch I can let it run itself. I have only had one bad bout of M.E. this year that lasted a few weeks and I was in hospital quite recently, but I really need to throw myself into something otherwise I can’t see myself out of a black hole. In ten or fifteen years I may not be as able bodied as I am now, but at least I can look back and know I have done something worthwhile.”
Lucy said that in ten months, with the help of her parents and partner, she had completely turned the business around.
“I bought a ready-made business really, the kiln had already been installed, the outside toilet had been newly built, but I changed the concept of it.
“Lynzie had struggled with the business; the shop was only open four days a week and she didn’t seem to have the time to commit to it. Nobody really knew what The Painted Teapot was then, but now everyone does.
“We have changed the way everything looks, we’ve added colour to the walls, tables and chairs, and we have decorated it and made it more creative and a more friendly and welcoming environment. We get so many compliments on the way the shop looks now.”
Lucy describes The Painted Teapot as a pottery painting and decopatch studio suitable for all ages, where the youngest baby’s footprints were done at four days and the oldest painter has been 98 years old.
“It’s fun for all ages, it is a perfect day out or activity for hen parties, birthday parties and baby showers. It is something unique, you don’t have to be creative to do it and I love to see people’s satisfaction when they realise they have produced a piece of art.”
She said they are hoping to get another kiln so that they can do clay imprints, glass fusing and silver jewellery. They are also offering workshops with local artist Luke Prest, who designed their logo, starting in September.
Lucy admits she has done well at such a young age and she believes none of this would have been possible without the support network around her.
“I’ve not done too bad to be honest, I’m know I’m still a baby, but I needed something to be passionate about and to focus on, otherwise I was going to disappear and travel again. I get itchy feet, but I needed to ground myself at the same time and find something to throw all my attention into. If something is worth doing it is 120% or nothing with me, that is the way I am.”
Her mother Julie gave up her job as a carer to work for Lucy as a second manger of the shop and Lucy said she draws a lot of support from her step-dad and her partner.
“My mum is amazing, she is an absolute inspiration and I don’t know what I would do without her, I wouldn’t be able to do this without her. My mum is the creative person, I am more of a business person, but this is her dream come true.”
Find out more about The Painted Teapot and their future events here.