A conversation with Cabyn
This month is #ShopSmallSeptember and so we wanted to shine a light on some of our favourite small businesses that are killing it at the moment. We’ve long been admirers of Cabyn - a home and lifestyle store specialising in handcrafted, British made sofas, chairs and beds - and were lucky to have the chance to catch up with founder Emma.
1. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START CABYN HOME?
I had worked as a wedding photographer for ten years, and although I loved my job, having twin babies made the long hours at weekends away from home really tricky. A change of career was needed and as I had always loved interiors I felt that this was the direction I wanted to go in. Having made a couple of trips down to London to buy furniture for our own home I felt that there was a real gap in the market in our local area for quality, stylish, affordable furniture. I really enjoyed some of the shopping environments I had experienced in London, in industrial style buildings where you can sit and have a cappuccino or a beer and take your time trying out furniture without any pushy sales people. I felt that would work really well in the Midlands and so Cabyn was born!
2. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED SINCE STARTING CABYN? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU KNEW THEN THAT YOU KNOW NOW?
After we formed the company I wanted everything to be perfect before I did any marketing. So I waited until we had our first showroom set up and had developed our first range of sofas before I shared anything on social media. In hindsight I wish I had shared the journey of our set up and the development of our business on social media during these early days as we perhaps missed out on growing our Instagram and Facebook accounts from day one.
I also didn’t realise quite how hard it would be! Even though I had been self employed for a good while, the business was on a much smaller scale with so much focus on the creative side.
At Cabyn (up until very recently) I’ve been spinning all the business plates myself, everything from accounts to photography, stock management, sales and customer service, administration, sorting deliveries and insurance plans, marketing, networking, cleaning, and the list could go on. Then you throw a pandemic into the mix and have to homeschool your children - it’s certainly been an interesting journey. I do now have a wonderful freelance marketing consultant and I wished I had learned to ‘let go’ and get this help sooner. She has made a huge difference to my work life balance that’s for sure!
3. YOU'RE ALSO A MAMA TO TWO BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND FAMILY LIFE?
The perfect balance is something I’m still searching for! Some weeks are better than others and I bet a lot of women can relate to this. One of the good things that has come out of the pandemic for me is changing our showroom from having set open hours to instead being ‘by appointment’. It has given me personally more time at home at the weekend, as outside of appointments I am at home with the family. I underestimated the impact that a retail business would have on family life and so I make a real effort to try and keep my personal time uninterrupted by emails and the pinging of my phone. It’s still hard to resist the urge to check and I’m constantly feeling like I should be spending more time on Instagram and social media generally but I also realise my children are only young once and time with them is precious.
4. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE ROOM AT HOME AND WHY?
I absolutely love our kitchen. It really is the heart of our home. It’s part of an open-plan space we created by knocking three rooms into one around 7 years ago. My husband designed the kitchen and we had it made by a local joiner, Marston Interiors and I still love the design of it 7 years on. A close second is our en-suite. The renovation of our house has taken over 10 years and this was the last thing we did, so I waited a long time for it! I knew I wanted something different and I searched for a while for the perfect little table to hold the wash basin. I found it at an antiques fair and spent a good while stripping, bleaching and varnishing it. I love the warmth it adds to an otherwise fairly stark colour scheme.
5. ANY TOP TIPS FOR CREATING A COSY LIVING SPACE?
To me a cosy home is one that you can relax in, and my main tip for creating a relaxing, cosy atmosphere is to only have things around you that you love. It doesn’t matter if monkey lamps are the biggest thing to hit Instagram since sliced bread, if they’re not your bag then don’t get one! It’s so easy to be influenced by our feeds, and feel that we need to have the latest trend, or the colour of the year, or products that you see your favourite influencers gushing over. Chasing these things will only lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction with your own home. Instead take your time when creating your living space. If you see a lovely piece of art whilst on holiday, or a chipped antique vase in a charity shop window that you fall in love with then go for it! Collect these little treasures as you go through life and they’ll bring a warm and cosy feeling to your home that is unique to you.
6. WHAT'S THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED, PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL?
“Don’t try to be all things to all people”. This is kind of related to my answer above. In the early days of Cabyn I felt that we had to show our furniture in all colours of the rainbow, and have homeware products to suit every taste, from bright, bold and maximalist through to Boho and Scandi. This approach doesn’t work for a small business. Instead you end up with a mix-match of styles that don’t sit well together, customers have to search through your content for an aesthetic they can relate to and your brand will suffer as a result.
Instead “Do one thing and do it well’. Once I had accepted that we didn’t need to tick every interior genre box and my confidence in my own aesthetic grew, then everything else seemed to fall into place in terms of the brand and our content. Our images now have a more consistent, harmonious feel and we find customers will now shop the whole look and ask for interior advice and design work. We love a modern classic vibe, with neutral, muted colours, lots of wood and natural materials, pared-back and elegant. The odd pop of colour and splashes of vintage too!
7. DO YOU HAVE A DAILY RITUAL YOU SWEAR BY?
I wish I had mastered a great routine but on the contrary just about the only thing I manage to do consistently is moisturise every morning and night. Oh and a cup of tea first thing. Yorkshire Tea. That is essential.
8. WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT AT THE MOMENT?
- Antipodes Joyous Protein Rich Night Replenish Serum - I love Antipodes products generally, having searched for many years for skincare that didn’t irritate my sensitive skin I find their natural, plant-powered formulations really work for me.
- Yorkshire Tea (see above)
- Olivia Pillows (available from Cabyn) - these oversized cushions are the best. We have two on our bed. They’re a gorgeous relaxed linen and they’re perfect for propping you up in bed on a lazy Sunday morning with said cup of tea.
- Bedfolk Bedding - also loving our bed linen from Bedfolk. We have the Relaxed Cotton in Snow, along with a Cotton Quilt in Clay. It’s all super soft and light. I bought my parents a set each too for Christmas, I love it that much!
- Avocados - on everything, with everything.
9. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SMALL BUSINESSES YOU THINK OTHER PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?
Canopy - this is a small, family run, independent mens and womens clothing and lifestyle store. Based in the Cathedral Quarter of Derby, they established in 1992 and have weathered many a storm, from recession to pandemic, offering an inspiring place to shop both established and emerging fashion brands for almost 30 years!
Bedfolk - it has been amazing to watch the growth of this small business over the last few years. Not only are they super lovely people, they’ve created a brand you can’t help but love too. I’m always more than happy when one of their emails lands in my inbox, where they interview and champion some of their Bedfolk friends in a series called The Wind Down, it’s always a lovely read.
Martin & Cox Living Gifts - founder Jemma is as bright and as beautiful as the houseplants she nurtures and sells. I met Jemma at an event we both attended a couple of years ago, we chatted on the train home and her passion for her business was so evident. I loved the concept of sending an attentively grown botanical beauty and have purchased these wonderful gifts for friends and family from Martin & Cox several times. The joy they bring to the recipient is amazing.
Jord - we’ve collaborated with Jord Home several times now and it’s always fun! Our products sit so well together and we love the ethos behind this brand who carefully source hides and hand woven rugs by makers who use only natural materials and craft their collections responsibly with care for the environment.
HEF Home - I adore the vibe and ethos of HEF Home. Vintage textiles turned into small batch products that can be layered effortlessly, what is not to love? We can’t wait to see this lovely brand grow.
10. WHAT'S NEXT FOR CABYN?
We’re currently working on some expansion ideas so we can bring Cabyn to other parts of the UK. It may involve taking Cabyn on tour by way of pop-up shops! It’s work in progress, watch this space!