From grandma’s stuffy cupboard to statement designer piece. Meet Roc.

Mid-century modern furniture is often so beautiful and timeless, that it needs very little more than a clean and a polish. Sleek lines, minimalist looks and striking features, even after so many decades, those Scandinavian style sideboards, coffee tables and armchairs from the 1950s and 60s still look gorgeous. But some pieces become even better when someone with a good eye gets their hands on them. Caroline George of Roc Studio in Edinburgh, is one of those people. Her signature style includes strong geometric patterns to enhance the shape of the furniture. Today I am interviewing Caroline to find out more about her creative business.

Caroline, tell us more about yourself! What is your business and what do you offer?

I am the founder of Roc Studio and I bring unloved pieces of furniture back to life with my surface pattern designs. I source furniture myself, often mid-century classics like G-plan or Ercol, or customers can bring in their own pieces for a contemporary update. My business is in Edinburgh, which is also my home, where I live with my husband and two children.

What made you want to start this type of business?

I started my own business upcycling furniture already 11 years ago. First it was called Trash furniture, but it has since evolved into Roc. My degree is originally in fashion and textiles, but after working fashion for a bit I fell into interiors. I worked as a visual merchandiser at Habitat which fuelled my love for all things decor. After that I worked in property, staging and designing show homes for an upmarket developer. In 2009, I decided to turn my passion for vintage furniture into a business and I still love it. I am passionate about using what we have, being sustainable and creating an eclectic home and this is very much in the spirit of Roc as well.

What do you love most about your work?

The freedom of working for yourself is great, I kind of make it up as I go along, but it means I can pick my kids up from school and be there for them. It is not always easy juggling everything, but I wouldn’t change it.

How do you choose pieces and what is your creative process with them?

Most of the pieces I work on are a bit battered and in need of some TLC. A client might come to me with a piece of furniture or sometimes I already have a piece in my workshop, which needs an update. I don’t like to overdo the furniture and am quite minimalist in a way. I tend to work with the lines of the furniture, so if it has round handles for instance, then the design might feature circles. I always try and use colours for my designs that really bring out the beautiful warm tones in the Mid-century teak wood. Often, the client will also have an idea of the designs they like, a colour scheme in the room it sits in, or sometimes it’s just a piece of art work that they like that I can take some inspiration from.

It is quite a process from start to finish and can take many weeks. It’s not just a lick of paint and a few new drawer knobs. Usually I strip the piece of all the old varnish and if anything needs fixed then that gets done too. The doors might come off for painting, or the drawers stripped for new felt. There is always more work than you think, but the end result always makes me happy and my customers, which is the most important thing.

How has the 2020 lockdown affected your business?

At first, it was all such a shock for everyone. But I tried to keep going and then suspected I had the virus, which put me out of action for a couple of months, as I was very ill. I recovered though and still had a couple of commissions to do, so I have just continued working. Luckily my clients keep asking for furniture, so I am still surviving! I just need to keep my fingers crossed that it continues into 2021, but I stay positive.

upcycling business uk

How do customers find you, and what are your business challenges?

During lockdown, I built my new website, and I was really proud of myself that I got it done. I have an online shop on there now too, which is a new thing for me, and something I would like to build on next year. I am on all the usual social media channels, and I am trying to get better at PR and putting myself out there! Time is also always an issue. There’s never enough of it to fit everything in, so that is definitely an ongoing challenge for me. And knowing my value. Creatives are notorious for undercharging and over delivering!

What is the next step for Roc?

My goal is a bigger workshop next year with space to make my life easier. I would also like to take a holiday, haha! And I have been saying it for a long time now, but I would love to design some new products that are not quite as big as the furniture. And although most of my clients are in the UK, and especially in Edinburgh and London, I recently shipped furniture to the Netherlands, and I am now looking into shipping to Italy.

You may spot some Roc pieces where you are soon. If you are interested in seeing more of Caroline’s designs, have a look at the Roc website.


Aligning your values and business to find the ideal client

Running a business is great but sometimes you find yourself wondering where to take it next. You are doing what you have always been doing, which may work fine. If that is still giving you joy and it pays the bills, then keep going! Or maybe you have drifted away from your original concept over the months or even years. Maybe you wanted to try out different things, offer more services or just changed things to earn more money. And then you suddenly ask yourself:”Hold on, what is it that I am actually offering and to whom?” You may even find yourself feeling a little bit lost. How do you get your business back on track, or even on a different, much better track? It is all about aligning your own core values with those of your business and finding your ideal client.

Find the ideal client for your business

Separate identities

For years I felt I had two separate work identities. Sometimes they overlapped, but mostly they existed parallel. On one hand I worked as a marketing and communications manager for arts organisations, writing, editing and creating all their promotional material. On the other, I started my blog and business Nina’s Apartment, first as a hobby, then also as a shop. This work was all about vintage furniture and interior design. Sure, I used my arts and marketing knowledge to promote Nina’s Apartment. But they were two totally different jobs.

Adapting and changing

Right now, after a period of moves and changes, growing a little older and developing different interests, my blog is changing. I no longer want to only write about vintage, I want to write about life and the things that matter to me. That still includes vintage and design (because I love it), but it also includes everything else that adds to a ‘soulful life’: being mindful, being creative, eating healthily, conscious buying, caring for the planet and each other.

Selling to the wrong client

At the same time I have started a new life abroad as a freelance copy and content writer, mainly with online clients. I needed the work, so I first just accepted every job I was offered and found myself writing web pages for commercial outfits selling things I was not even interested in. I got myself onto freelancer platform Fiverr, but I constantly got haggled down or sent enquiries and then nothing. Clients were not valuing my expertise and clearly just needed “to get a job done” by any copywriter who could do it for the lowest price and as quickly as possible. It felt like you got handed a wet napkin after all the time and effort you put into the work. Do you know that feeling?

Bridging the gap between your values and your work

Then recently, I was speaking to an online business coach who held up a mirror. “Your whole face lights up when you talk about a certain client”, she said. “It looks like that is the sort of person you want to work for”. She was right. I enjoy writing for passionate people who have heart centered businesses, such as creative practitioners, life coaches, mindfulness and yoga teachers, eco friendly businesses and others who just love making the world more beautiful and help others.

I realised that I needed to bridge the gap between my two business identities. The gap also between my personal values and the work I do. Become one. Align everything. My soulful living blog can become my soulful writing business. No more identity crisis.

finding the ideal client and aligning your values

So how do you make everything flow better?

Define your values

Once everything is aligned, a business can flow much more easily, attracting better clients. But in order to get there, you need to define your values first. Secondly you need to decide who your ‘ideal client’ is, so you can create a niche, fine tune your message and attract this person.

Values can be anything from ‘friendly’, ‘hard working’, ‘efficient’, to ‘high quality’, ‘exclusive’ and ‘approachable’. Whatever defines you as a person and your business. Values are the things that we find important and are a basis for our behaviour, our principals and influence of character. It is best to choose a maximum of six values to focus on in your business.

The ideal client

Once you know what your values are, it’s time to have a good think about who your ideal client is. If you could choose the perfect client, who would you want to work for? What does he or she look like? If you say, I work for “small businesses”, or “anyone interested in art”, you are keeping it way too general. You make it much harder for yourself to attract customers this way. After all, you’ll have a lot of competition if you don’t make yourself stand out a bit more. It is scary to let go and make yourself only focus on one or two types of client, but it will pay off.

What is your message and who are you speaking to? Come up with one or two imaginary clients who you ideally want to work for and write down everything about them you can possibly think of. What they look like, where they live, what work they do, their family situation, their lifestyle, where they hang out online. If you have a clear picture in your mind of your ideal client, it is so much easier to promote yourself effectively to them with the right message – in the right location.

finding the ideal client by creating a niche

Creating a niche: what problem are you solving?

Your ideal client has a problem (a need) and you can solve it for them. This is your niche. Don’t solve a hundred different problems for a hundred different clients. Zoom in on one or two things you do really well, which your ideal client will be looking for. What is it that your ideal client needs and how do you solve this problem? This will be your key message in all of your marketing.


Example 1: health coach

If you are a health coach who offers coaching help with diet and lifestyle, your ideal client may be someone dealing with weight issues or health problems. Your values could be ‘health’, ‘motivation’, ‘achievement’, ‘commitment’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘life changing’. You will be helping them solve their problem by offering expert advice on diet and lifestyle, so their health – and life – improves, long term.

Example 2: A designer

Another example can be a designer creating unique, personalised wedding invitations. Your values could be ‘unique’, ‘creative’, ‘high quality’, ‘fast working’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘good communication’. The ideal client will be young couples who are engaged and value a creative take on traditional invites. And they need them on time to be able to invite their guests. The ‘problem’ you are solving for your ideal client is to offer beautiful personalised wedding invitations that arrive on time.

It may feel a little scary to let go of certain clients and not aim at a broad audience anymore. I feel it too! But the more you fine-tune your values, your niche, your services and your ideal client…the easier everything gets. Your marketing message writes itself, as you will know exactly what you do and for who. You will be able to write your web copy much more easily, because you have already defined so well what you’re about. And as you now know who your ideal client is, it will be much easier to find them – and sell to them.

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