Grace With Style and Quality
Author: Mark Thompson
Grace with Style & Quality
Eduzine is keen to support young entrepreneurs and feature regular stories about them in our magazine and on our website. This is the heart-warming story of 20 year old Grace Billington, who had to overcome her social anxieties and re-think her career options, to establish a successful online jewellery business, whilst still a teenager.
Grace was born and brought up in Leicestershire. She says that both her parents are quite driven and have been extremely supportive. Her father is a mechanic, running his own business, so his experience together with encouragement from both parents has given Grace the confidence to become an entrepreneur.
Grace attended Holliers Walk Primary School, where she found an instant enjoyment of Art and English and got on very well with her English teachers. Even at this early age she remembers being known as the 'art girl' as she was always drawing. She also remembers making a life size model of a Chinese dragon which was able to fit three children in it! However, Grace struggled to make friends in her early years at school, as she was by her own admission, a very shy girl. She used to enjoy the escapism of Jacqueline Wilson novels and says that these books inspired and influenced her creativity. Grace then attended Mount Grace High School until the age of 13, after which she was home & hospital schooled until taking her GCSEs at 16, due to agoraphobia. Grace says, "It was a sad time for me having to give up attending school, as I had friends there who didn't care if I was a bit weird and nerdy. I had a lot of fun times with them and they helped my confidence."
Again, Grace found that she excelled in Art and English and 'hands on' activities such as woodwork. "For some reason I didn't get on with my Art teachers. They always wanted me to draw and paint in a certain way. They got used to me after the first year and let me get on with it! I may be quiet but I'm pretty stubborn when it comes to artwork, as I like to do my own thing. Reading about art techniques from a book was never my idea of what art should be." Regarding other subjects, Grace found that Maths and ICT were not her favourites, describing them as “too bland”! Although, she discovered that she was quite capable when she put her mind to them. "I remember an old couple who worked at Mount Grace, they were both teachers and were very kind to me. They were strict but made me realise that if you work hard enough at something, you will succeed." This was excellent advice which Grace took on board and says all young people should receive such advice from someone they respect and who respects them back.
Grace reflects that schooldays were not her favourite time. "To be honest I hated school, how everyone wore the same clothes and horrible PE kits and how we were made to run around in the rain. I remember being laughed at as I was so socially awkward and how scared I used to be of going there each morning. I was never bullied, but I remember longing be home with my books and my own company. I went to a hospital school in Leicester for my last year of secondary school because my social anxiety had become so bad. I pulled it together in the end with the help of my dad, who was there for me an awful lot around that time. He really looked after me and I gained 2 A's (English Literature and English Language), 3 B's and 3 C's in my GCSEs."
"I did go on to do some further education, but I lasted just one week at Art BTEC and quit after four months when attempting A-levels in English Literature, Sociology and Film Studies, as I didn't feel it was going anywhere for me. I then got onto a Health and Social Care Course as I really wanted to be a midwife. I completed the first year of the course with a distinction and the second with a pass. However, I realised in those two years that my social anxiety was just too great and it wouldn't be fair on the patients if I was more nervous than them!"
"I loved the freedom of college and being treated like an adult and being friends with lecturers as well as students; it was a very relaxed atmosphere. I did find the assignments very time consuming and I did struggle with the workplace placements but did enjoy talking to the patients when I managed to overcome my nerves. A lecturer named Beverley Munslow was very supportive at that time and encouraged me to do what I wanted, rather than just follow a path on to university or into social care."
It was at this point that Grace started on her entrepreneurial journey to establish Bows Jewellery. "I looked online and in the shops for jewellery that I liked, but became frustrated when I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I started to try to make it myself. I then thought maybe other people would like this too. I started on Etsy.com which is an online market for handmade items. It's a wonderful place to start and I just stayed up and did all-nighters, researching how to make jewellery, package it and present it and myself … and it all paid off. I got my first sale after about a month and the rush was amazing! Also the online community is so helpful and inspiring. I would chat to people around the world who ran their own shops and share their wisdom."
"My dad was once again very supportive when I set up the company. I sold off my old clothes on Ebay to buy my first bit of stock and set myself up. My dad taught me a lot about running a business and helped out a lot with the post! I chose to make jewellery as it's attractive and the possibilities are endless. It's usually one size fits all and I can follow the fashions. I got a lot of ideas of what people liked from Tumblr.com and I make things that I would like to wear. I find it difficult to create stuff that I wouldn't wear myself. I don't really know where my ideas come from, they just pop into my head and I run with them. I fill a book with scribbles and designs as it keeps me sane otherwise they're just floating around in my head!"
Grace has, so far, sold over1600 items and now has plans to expand. "I have re-opened my Etsy shop and named it Eevie Designs. I am also planning to turn my drawings and artwork into posters and prints and I am expanding Bows to include ear stretchers, charm bracelets, headbands and more accessories.” Grace likes to receive feedback from Facebook and email and says it has picked her up on the days when she is swamped. Her Facebook page has over 10,000 fans now which Grace says is “completely amazing."
"My website is quite a simple one as I'm not a techie, but I've tried to keep it 'cosy' looking rather than 'factory' looking. Most of my items are customisable which means that you can select options to get exactly what you want and make your item unique."
Grace enjoys the freedom of doing this on her own from designing to packaging, but at the same time she says that can also be the downside if she falls ill. She has plenty of people who she could ask for help but likes to do things in her own way. Although she accepts that in the future she may well have to take on some help!
We asked Grace about her artwork and design interests, she says, "My artwork is pretty scribbly! I am messy and I like it, art is very instinctive to me. I just go into my own world and let my hands do the rest of the work. I have been trying new techniques but it's hard to break old habits! My inspiration can be almost anything, an animal, person, tree or building. Some of my prints appear on necklaces and rings but I'm hoping to expand on that with Eevie Designs."
Grace's time is thoroughly taken up with Bows Jewellery and Eevie Designs at present but she hopes to start writing again in the future as well as having her own family, as she loves children. She cites her dad as being a role model for her as he has successfully brought up two teenage girls as a single parent. He was also instrumental in getting Grace to finish school and take her GCSEs which she is now glad he did, despite her dislike of school.
We also asked Grace how she likes to unwind and it seems that her family has to force her to unwind to prevent her getting too stressed! She will now take time out to watch TV or listen to music (favourites include Goldmund, Paolo Nutini, Lana Del Ray, Katy Perry and Newton Faulkner). Getting out of the house can still be an issue Grace admits, due to her agoraphobia, but she will go out and about with her boyfriend and also likes to go swimming.
Words of Encouragement
Grace adds the following word of encouragement to others; "Don't follow the crowd. Just because everyone else has that colour hair, or wants to go to that university, doesn't mean you should (unless you really want to, of course)! The moment I realised I was only applying to Uni because my friends were, I felt free. I just quit that plan and it was worth it. Do what you want to do and don't let people hold you back; work hard and achieve your dreams. You are awesome and you and your dreams matter." We certainly echo those words very loudly. Too often children and young adults are discouraged from taking their chosen path, when they should be encouraged as much as possible, with good advice and information about possible pitfalls. Eduzine believes negativity has no place when supporting young people, especially not in the entrepreneurial arena!
Grace finished talking to Eduzine by offering thanks to her dad, mum, sister Hayley, boyfriend Paul and best friend Laura for supporting her and putting up with her! In return, Eduzine would like to thank Grace for her candid interview and congratulate her on establishing a successful and impressive online jewellery business and for successfully managing her agoraphobia and social anxieties. Grace fully deserves recognition as a great Young Entrepreneurial Achiever!
If you would like to find out more about Grace’s fantastic jewellery and artwork please visit her websites at:
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Author: Mark Thompson
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