Interview with Katie Heeks Purell, founder of Ship Street Studio

Ship Street Studio is laser cut travel inspired gifts and artwork

Tell us about Ship Street Studio
I began Ship Street Studio just over two months ago, I already spent most of my free time
drawing out potential designs and my friends and family encouraged me to start making and selling again here in Hong Kong. I began working from our modest apartment in Wan Chai, giving me my company name. Since then I work mostly from The Makers Hive in Kennedy Town, they have a workshop area with a laser cutter, which is what I primarily use to make my work.

A lot of my design ideas come from my love of travel and varitations on things that I would like in my house. Thats how I began designing my World Map cork boards I wanted a way to record and display mine and my husbands travels, so I would say that is one of my favourite pieces. I also love when I get special requests for custom pieces like when I was asked to create a personalised map as a wedding present. The couple were set to travel to many different countries as part of their honeymoon and the response I got from the customer nearly made me cry! Its so rewarding to help and be involved in special moments like that.

Katie Heeks Purell

What’s your background?
I grew up in the U.K where I studied 3D Design and began a business straight out of university. After a few years my yearn to travel led me to become an english teacher so I could work and travel overseas. I worked in China for a year before eventually landing in HK where I have lived with my husband for nearly 3 years. Since we have been settled here I have been able to spend more time on my passion, designing and making again. Ever since I was a child I have always loved anything artsy and creative and since becoming a teacher my english classes crafts have been the envy of the school!

What’s your biggest challenge?
I would say the biggest challenge is time, balancing my day job while nurturing my small start-up. Working out the business side of things all the while trying to stay creative. I think most designers have this problem and its just a case of taking a deep breath and working as hard as you can, knowing your doing your best and being happy with that.

I feel like I am still pretty new to the idea of self-promotion on social media – it’s not something I did a lot of in my last business as it just wasn’t as imporant back then. I think having a space to regularly be in touch with your customers though is important. With things like Instagram its great to kind of build a story, kind of behind the scenes type stuff and again the feedback is always nice. I think i still have a lot to learn on this front but it’s definitely been useful to build of profile of my customer base.

Tell us about your experience selling on Etsy
Etsy has also been very useful on this front, the stats that the website collates for you is fantastic. It was super easy to set up my shop and having used it to purchase gifts etc. I knew that it was a great way to speak to designers and makers, especially if you were looking for a custom piece or something a little more unusual. Although I feel sometimes its hard to get noticed as there is so many people now selling this way, its a great way to get started. There is also alot of information about how to set your shop apart and its been a massive learning curve for me. The positives though is that is it puts your small little business potentially infront of a worldwide audience if you learn to manage your shop correctly. The growing numbers of orders I have recieved from all over the world and getting such positive feeback has been super encouraging and really motivates you to keep going.

Can you offer advice to someone starting a creative business in Hong Kong
My advice to anyone starting a creative business in HK would be to be prepared to work hard, very hard, all of the time! Take on board positive feedback – you earned it! But remember to learn from criticisms. Stay passionate, love what you do! Thats what makes the hard work worth it!

What do you think of Hong Kong’s creative scene?
HK is so diverse and so full of people wanting to connect its a great place to begin a start-up. Through social media, events and pop ups its really easy to find people doing something similar and the creative communty in general, I think is amazingly supportive. I think its because working for yourself, especially in a creative specialism, can be quite lonely at times so finding co-working spaces such as the Hive are great to communiate with other like minded people, discuss ideas, get feedback and new perspectives.

So what’s next for Ship Street Studio?
I have just set up my website, www.shipstreetstudio.com to offer a new outlet for selling and I have a stand at the Discovery Bay sunday market on the 11th Sept. I have applied for a stand at Clockenflap as they have a craft market that runs the whole weekend in Novemeber. In the run up to Christmas I think its important to be getting out and meeting potantial customers.

I am also looking at co-working spaces and rentable workspaces in cities all over Asia, my husband has to move for work I want to find a sustainable way to continue my creative business while I fulfill my desire to see the world picking up inspiration along the way. When I left the UK I felt I gave up on my creative aspirations and I dont want to do that again. The world is becoming a smaller place and more and more people are changing the rules of how we work, sell and do business.

The aim is to just keep going, continue to balance my time and keep pushing to get my work seen.

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