Since graduating from the Wimbledon College of Art, Deirdre Dyson has worked as a freelance artist and illustrator, a life class teacher and a graphic designer. It was a chance encounter and a need for a rug led Dyson to carpets, when a store owner on London’s King’s Road asked Deirdre to design a collection. Her thrill and passion for this new challenge was the start of a new career, and she went on to take over the helm of the store.
Her business has since flourished and, in 2020, she took the bold step of opening her own gallery in Paris. Then, the pandemic hit. Here, Dyson shares her advice for navigating your business throw un-chartered waters and expanding your presence overseas.
Find your USP
"If you are growing your business, one of the first things you have to know is what you bring to the table that other businesses may not. For us, it has been that blending of fine art with craftsmanship and designing my rugs in collections, each based on a theme every season. I haven't seen many places do what we do."
Expand where it makes sense
"For me, Paris was a natural fit. I was already spending so much time there, and I have exhibited many times before, at Maison & Objet. I knew I had a customer base there and that the designs were being well received. When thinking of expanding, you should only go where you know there is a market for you."
Build the best team on the ground
"Before employing someone there to be there all the time. I thought it might take years for people to come through the door and I would just be sitting there waiting! I knew I needed to actually build up a bit more of a reputation and a bit of interest in having a physical presence in Paris and I also knew I couldn't be there all the time. So I found this lovely person who is a trained designer and who understands colour and Paris and is bilingual and she agreed to actually be there to answer emails and take people around and introduce them. And at the same time my end, I found a marvellous PR company with a presence in Paris and they were great at laying the groundwork. The best thing you can do is build a solid team based on site."
Have confidence in your product
"Expanding a business - even starting one- is a huge risk, but you have to have confidence in what you are doing if you want to do well. I do have a degree of confidence. But at the same time, I have a balance, I also have a lack of confidence. And I think that that's true of every creative person. You know, you can do it, and you've done it, and you've produced it, but no one knows what's around the corner. There might be someone's better than you. I think everyone should remember that there's always going to be competition, you just have to be brave enough to face competition.
I think it's good to have a mix of self confidence and self doubt because they sort of feed into each other. The self doubt kind of keeps you on your toes and the confidence keeps you going."
Working internationally is easier than ever
"When the pandemic hit, I initially felt very cut off from what was happening in Paris but soon everyone became accustomed to zooms and slack chats and video calls. It is now so ingrained into the way we work that it doesn't feel strange at all. So much of the way we work has changed over the last 18 months that it is now easier than ever to work internationally."
Keep a loyal team alongside you
"When I set out, I had no idea how to run the company, I just kind of built it from week one how I wanted it to be and kept a small team around me. Now, all these years later, every member of my team is invaluable. Building a loyal, hardworking team is so essential. I always encouraged them to come up with ideas, to push the business forward and any improvements we can make. They find this whole little adventure really exciting. It's a real team effort and they feel so much a part of every success. They are like a second family. I feel very lucky."
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