Jilly Sims, 46, fell in love with painting furniture six years ago. It started as a hobby which was quickly noticed by her friends who couldn’t get enough of her up-cycled furniture.
Now it’s led to Jilly Tilly and Boo a gorgeous family run vintage furniture and home ware shop in Wellington, Somerset.
Jilly juggles her business and her three boys Nathaniel, 16, Joshua, 15 and Anthony, 13. Not to mention her husband David and a menagerie of animals including “Boo” a 7 year old deaf parsons Jack Russell, and “Tilly” one of three ferrets.
How did you get into up-cycling?
Before setting up the shop I was working full time at a special needs school. I painted furniture in my spare time, which I have to say was pretty limited because of my family. But I just find it so relaxing. It sounds strange but it’s a real confidence booster to see how a piece of tired old furniture can be transformed into something someone really wants in their home. I tend to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint because you don’t need to spend time sanding or priming, you can just paint it straight on. It’s so quick, which is great if you have a family to fit your hobby around.
How did your hobby turn into a shop?
My friends loved my furniture so I started taking on a few commissions. In 2009 I lost my dad and in 2010 my mum lost her battle with cancer too. I’d been caring for her and it was such a hard time in my life. Up-cycling was the light at the end of my tunnel. In 2011 more and more commissions were coming in, so I decided to start a website to sell my furniture and also vintage china and cutlery, which I love rescuing too. I took stalls at local markets to spread the word and in August 2012 I decided to open Jilly Tilly and Boo.
Tell us more about the shop?
We sell painted furniture obviously, a lot of which gets painted in the shop so customers can see how it’s done. Then there’s vintage china and cutlery and handmade bunting, cushions and other home wares made by a lovely local lady. We can also make curtains and blinds to order to help our customers get the look they’re really going for. I love teaching people so we also offer Annie Sloan painting classes. I find it really exciting to inspire people to create beautiful things.
What does your typical day look like - (if there is such a thing)?
It’s a big juggling act. The dogs need walking, the ferrets need wrangling and the boys have to get to school and college. Once everyone is in the right place I head to the shop where I’m generally helping and chatting to customers all day and maybe painting a bit in between. I often have to be sent home from the shop because I love being there so much. But back at home there’s a dinner to cook and homework to encourage and then it’s paper work for the shop (which I find so hard) before I fall into bed. It’s busy but I really enjoy it. Being my own boss is great. I’m surprised at how much I love making all the decisions. I’m definitely a creative person and I feel like I’ve finally found what I’m meant to do.
How do you market your business?
We use Facebook lots and lots, and we’re using Twitter and Pinterest more and more. I think having a website is important and I try to blog too, it’s a great way to tell people about what you’re doing.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to turn their hobby into a business?
Starting up a business is always risky and in the current climate many people thought that I was mildly mad when I announced that I was opening up a shop. But I was so passionate about my business and fortunately it’s going from strength to strength. Be positive and believe in what you’re doing. And if you’re opening a shop really think about the location of it – it’s so important to be somewhere central and busy.
What do you plan to do next?
I want to expand our range of workshops to include lampshade covering, decoupage and upholstery. I dream about the shop to becoming a local hub of like minded creative people – so watch this space. I’m truly proud of what we’ve achieved so far and my family have been so supportive.
And finally I’ve got to ask – what are your top up-cycling tips?
Firstly find the right piece – look at its shape and not at its colour or material. Hunt for nice legs, mouldings or other features, if its quite a plain item but has style you can always add mouldings, a stencil or a unique transfer to add that certain something extra.
Secondly use Chalk Paint™ Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan. Then usually the only preparation you need to do wash your piece down with a little sugar soap to ensure that there is no fat/grease or build up of any other substances surface. Don’t forget that you can mix different Chalk Paint colours to get the perfect shade and tone. Then you can just paint it on.