The wonderful Solii over at BeFab Be Creative took an hour out of her busy day to sit down with Kimberley of the STLA, and have a chat about her business.
First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
We are Solii and Zoe, we’re sisters and we run BeFab Be Creative Digital Fabric Print Studio.
We’re both very creative although in different ways, my background is originally in design, having worked for Habitat in both training and management capacities. Zoe has a science background, she chose the more sensible career option of Business Analysis and project management, within the banking sector. So we cover a good skill set between us, whilst sharing some pretty important key values of wanting to provide a great service whatever it is we do.
At BeFab we print for small to medium size designer makers, specialising in runs from 1-5m, working with reactive dyes onto natural fabrics like silk, cotton and linen, with two linen options. We’re proud to say are woven here in Scotland.
What made you want to get into the industry?
Honestly, it was a bit of an accident! I was made redundant whilst Zoe had just had her daughter Izzy and we were both trying to work out what we wanted to do when we ‘grew up’.
I was trying to get some of my own designs printed on to fabric and it seemed a bit of a horrendous and complicated process. The main problem seemed to be the requirement to print on far longer print runs than any small designer would want to work with. So after a little research, and some gentle persuasion of Zoe on my part, to look over the numbers; we got started. Having worked together before, we knew it was something that we could do again and with what some might say is a reckless attitude we believe that there isn’t much between us we can’t learn. We decided with an obvious gap in the market that we could surely make this a much more enjoyable and simple process for new and up and coming designers looking for high-end short run printing. So that was us, after a whole lot more research meetings and conversations round the kitchen table (like with all good businesses start-ups)! Nine months later Bertha (our printer) arrived and we got to work finding out quite how hard the world of Digital Fabric printing really was, and haven’t looked back since!
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
We could say some really amazing designer, successful business person or philosopher but really, the people who inspire us the most are the people around us; especially the designers we print for, their work is incredible. Also, the technical support we have in all different guises: friends and family, to the creative community in general. There are so many inspiring, hard working, passionate people working in Scotland and beyond.
We absolutely love Fi and the MakeWorks recourse, and the guys behind Creative Edinburgh; oh and its members are superstars. Put simply, it’s the little people just like us who work late, strive to do good things and help those around them to do the same, who we are really inspired by.
What exciting projects does Be Fab Be Creative have in the pipeline for the near future?
We’re really excited by Printed and Co which we launched earlier this year. Printed and Co is a curated collection of some of the very best designers we’ve worked with at BeFab. We wanted to create a home where new and emerging talented could sell their designs on a range of different fabrics options without any initial outlay themselves; so with Printed and Co we’ve created that home. So we’re looking forward to working more on this and seeing it grow from strength to strength in the next few months.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The people – our client’s reaction when they receive their orders! It’s a bit like being Santa, they seem to forget they paid and just act like we’ve sent them lovely gifts. It’s pretty awesome knowing you’ve made someone’s day.
We also love promoting and hearing about our designer’s successes, it’s great to see that we’ve had a small part in them making their business successful. That’s what is so nice about working at this end of the market: we get to know the people we work with very well, even though more often than not we’ve never met them.
What advice would you give to up and coming designers / makers / manufacturers in your field?
If you’re looking to print fabric – sample. In fact if you’re looking to have anything made, always sample if you can, it may take a little longer in the short term but this usually pays off in time and money in the long run.
If you’re starting out in anything, do your research, then however much research you’ve done accept you will still probably not know half as much as you’d like to, but you’ll learn, and most importantly that’s OK, it’s par for the course!
Make sure you have a good support net work around you, tap into a relevant networking organisation too, no one likes to network but it is invaluable and say yes to opportunities but trust your gut when something’s not right for you or the direction you want to go.
If you do nothing else, ‘work hard and be nice to people’, those two things go a long way no matter what you’re doing in life but starting out even more so.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
Training and funding opportunities are always good to hear about, it’s hard to find the time to work through all the different organisations to find what opportunities are available to you, so something that made that simpler would be amazing. We are always looking for quality seamstresses that we can add to our existing offering; it seems to be a dying art in Scotland (and the UK in general) and this desperately needs to be addressed before it’s too late!
Any final thoughts?
We’re really proud to be able to say we manufacture in Scotland, though our clients are all over the world. To see the designers we work with be able to add a ‘Made in Scotland’ label is such an important thing to us and we’re really optimistic about the growth of the Scottish Textile sector with so much talent still to tap into.
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