New business success from retro furniture - Business Works
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New business success from retro furniture

Turning vintage furniture from the 1950s to the 1970s into something new and exciting is the work of Amy Dolan, a Graduate in sculpture from the Glasgow School of Art. Amy tells us why she set up her company, Ziggy Sawdust, and what drives her passion.

I have a real affinity with old objects that have a past and tell a story and I donít like seeing so much lovely old furniture end up in skips, junk yards and landfill. I could see their potential, but didnít have room to house it all, so the idea of creating a business model out of the trend for upcycling started to evolve. My passion lies in bringing out the best in a piece that is on its last legs and transforming it into something with real retro charm, style and quality.

There are ten million pieces of old furniture being thrown out each year and around a third of them could be re-used. I like to think of Ziggy Sawdust as an escapism from the recent trend of generic, flat-packed furniture. Most furniture today just isn't built to last, but the pieces that I source have already stood the test of time and, with some TLC, are transformed into pieces which will shine for years to come!

I tend find the pieces by scouring auctions, charity shops and the internet. I am inspired by just looking at the piece and like to visualise how it was origninally made and how the functionality was created. That helps me see how I can use colour to bring out the beauty and intricacy of its origninal shape and the craftsmanship that went into producing it. I name each piece after a retro actor or film star as it helps me to use them as a muse and give each piece a persona of its own.

I launched the business in May 2012 following support and a £1250 start-up loan from The Prince's Trust Youth Business Scotland. It was very encouraging to see others believe in my idea and think it was worthy of funding. I was originally worried that I wouldn't be taken seriously wanting to start my own business at such a young age.

It wasn't so much of a decision to become an entrepreneur, but more a decision to be proactive with kick-starting a creative career for myself. There wasn't any obvious career path for me to follow after graduiating and, rather than go to London to do unpaid internships, I decided to pursue my passion and create the perfect job for myself.

The business has evolved from displaying some of my items at local vintage fairs as an attempt to spread the word and get the name out there to redesigning suites of furniture and interiors concepts for both commercial and private clients.

The biggest challenge has been keeping up momentum in those quiet periods when the phone isn't ringing! There will be weeks of nothing followed by weeks of craziness, so knowing how to juggle everything and ride the peaks and troughs of self-employment has been a bit of a challenge at times.

I was delighted to have been awarded with BT Scotland's Young Entrepreneur Award in February 2014 for the 'Most Environmentally Responsible Business'. I am now looking to expand the business to create furniture packages and concepts for cafés, small restaurants, B&Bs and Boutiques that are looking for a fresh and quirky interior to match their branding.

To find out more about Ziggy Sawdust, please visit:

Entrepreneurs like Amy with Ziggy Sawdust are being supported and encouraged by Virgin Startup

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