Inspiring women are go-getters. They make things happen. They live life with no regrets. They are learning about themselves and reaching their full potential. They are not afraid to take risks and just go for it. I talked to Faith and Hannah from Layer, which is a a curated online marketplace, connecting buyers and sellers of preloved furniture, lighting, mirrors and art from across the ages. They started out as storytellers, collecting the histories of iconic designers and chronicling their encounters with professional furniture sellers, which led them to building up a platform that showcases beautiful timeless pieces.
1. What was your biggest challenge when setting up your business?
Faith: In retrospect, before launching the marketplace we massively underestimated the time and manpower involved in getting over 30 traders and their hundreds of products live. Late nights, coffee and a lot of favours were the only reasons we managed to launch on the day and at the time we said we would. I learnt my lesson and now I over plan and factor in every possible obstacle!
Hannah: As an online business, a challenge I’m always aware of is how to recreate the personalised experience of buying furniture – of being able to feel it, see it up close and fall in love with it in person. So much excitement can come from finding that vintage gem you’ve desperately wanted and, with thousands of pieces available to buy through Layer, we’re constantly having to work at giving each piece the exposure it deserves.
2. How did you overcome the fear of failure and any insecurities you had?
Hannah: For me, the DevelopHER mentoring scheme has been a great influence in terms of confidence building. Over the last few months, I’ve been given invaluable opportunities to work with inspiring industry leaders, entrepreneurs and investors from the likes of Google, TechStars, Spotify, Amazon etc. Being mentored by someone who has achieved what you’re setting out to do is so reassuring and I really wouldn’t have had the confidence to pursue my dreams so unashamedly without these sessions.
Faith: When I quit my previous job (and said goodbye to the comfort of a steady pay cheque), I remember feeling petrified of failing. Since then, I’ve tried to readjust my approach to failures as a positive – if you mess up, you learn quickly. It helps that we’ve been lucky enough to build a solid network of industry supporters and I’ve found that so much can be learnt from fellow founders in the design industry. We’re also branching out into design events so I always feel totally inspired after a panel event – it reminds me that everyone feels the fear but sometimes you just have to take the leap and believe you can do it!
3. What has been your biggest business lesson so far?
Faith: Always consider the bigger picture. Hannah is constantly saying to me ‘how would we scale this?’ which sometimes drives me mad! But that has definitely taught me that even if it doesn’t seem relevant, you need to get all your processes in place so that when you grow, you’re ready.
Hannah: Someone once said to me that you’re only as good as your team and that couldn’t be truer for us. We have found a way to work with amazing people who are specialists in their own fields and that has really freed up our time to think about the bigger picture and make leaps and bounds in the business. It can be tough to let go of some parts of the business – but ultimately it’s better to hand over things you’re really not passionate about at so you can play to your strengths.
4. Where do you see your business going?
Hannah: We hope to add thousands more products across a range of styles to our catalogue. In particular, we’re looking to attract more individual sellers who are looking for an alternative to eBay in selling their quality preloved furniture.
Faith: We’re delivering pieces all over the UK but we’d like to branch out to Europe and beyond. Buying furniture should be fun and entirely stress-free so the bigger picture is that we want to build Layer into the very best and most exciting destination online for lovers of home design.
5. What was the biggest business advice you received?
Faith: In the early days, one of our first customers said to me ‘don’t ever become a faceless brand’. I always go back to this when discussing how we can reach fellow design lovers and market the brand. People connect with people, not robots. So whilst we’ll always be an online business in a digital age, I think it’s so important to continue to pick up the phone and build relationships with our customers.
Hannah: When you’re starting a business, it feels natural to seek out successful entrepreneurs and ask for their advice. It’s comforting but can also be overwhelming! You’ll hear a lot of opinions about how you should run your business, but the thing that has really stuck with me is that no one will ever know your business as well as you do. You are ultimately the one responsible at the end of the day, and no amount of other people’s opinions can replace your own intuition or understanding of your business.
Please support Faith and Hannah and visit their website to find our more about the beautiful products they offer.