Founder of Prior, Beck has worked her way from being a solo maker/fabricator renting a small studio space, to an award winning business leader with six employees, two city centre high street shops and a thriving online business selling the wares of 150 different sustainable designers and makers.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’ve been a product designer/maker on the indie scene in Bristol for over a decade; a familiar face at Bristol markets. Through this, I have developed a supportive and collaborative network of other independent businesses.
My business, Prior, is a young, ambitious and socially conscious, consisting of two Bristol City centre shops and an online retail website. An anomaly within an area of corporate shopping, we elbow the work of local, sustainable and ethical makers and artists on to the high street amongst huge chains. We stock the work of 150 local designer/makers including ceramicists, jewellers and fashion designers.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I started making eco-conscious products using sustainable materials as ‘Priormade’ in 2011. I used my surname ‘Prior’ to celebrate materials with a previous existence. Back then many sustainable products shared an overt ‘green’ or recycled aesthetic. I saw a gap in the market to challenge this, and began creating high quality, long lasting homeware products that would fit on the shelves of any luxury store. In 2019 I moved into 58 West Street, a charming but run down retail unit, perfect as both a workshop but also with space for a shop in which I could stock the work of other makers – PRIOR was born. It’s grown from there. In 2021, I took the plunge and opened a second HUGE shop right in the heart of Bristol City Centre amongst well known high street chains. This grew the number of makers I was able to work with and showcase from 30 to 150.
How did you achieve awareness?
It has ranged hugely – from painting our shop windows and A-boards (luckily my husband is a sign writer!), to working relentlessly to build a 10K Instagram following. I regularly share content online on topics such as sustainability in design, behind the scenes at the shop and profiles of the makers we work with. I work hard on securing press coverage – we pitch to local and national press every week and promote the products made by our wonderful makers as well as the shop. In collaboration with other independent business, I’ve also organised Bristol wide poster campaigns that directed local people to online directories of indie shops. I wanted to encourage local people to shop locally, even when shopping online. I’ve been on the radio, written blogs, been interviewed in magazines – I’m so proud of what Prior has achieved, it’s a really treat to be able to share our journey.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
A friend suggested crowdfunding – I thought about it and decided to give it a go. I didn’t want to just ask for donations, somehow that didn’t feel right for me. I know it works for other businesses, but I wanted to do it slightly differently, so I sold my products at discounted prices. I was delighted when I raised £10k which allowed me to buy the machines, set up the workshop and the first shop. The benefit of something like that was that people are buying into your dream. They want you to succeed, so they share the story and gradually more people joined in to support me. Many of those are now my long-term customers.
What are the key successes?
Opening the huge shop has been the stand out success. Only three months in we were awarded the Holly Tucker Independent High Street Shop Award. This was an absolute highpoint of the journey – to be voted for by so many people and to receive comments and feedback from industry insiders and heroes such as Mark Constantine OBE, co-founder of Lush and Holly was just amazing.
What are your plans now/for the future?
To continue to explore a new shopping experience that brings people closer to the brands that make sustainable products.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Go for it. Write a business plan and speak to businesses that are at different stages of their growth. Expect to always be learning. Try not to be at the front of the rollercoaster. Watch with your feat grounded and expect there will be ups and downs.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Choose a good team, be open and share. Join business clubs, support groups and mentoring organisations. You can’t do it alone. The relationship with your business is the most emotional relationship you will ever be in and you need a support network around you of people that understand the highs and lows. Always follow the big idea. Nothing is a bad idea. Take criticism and do not isolate yourself. Work alongside businesses ad form commutes. Community over competition!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Joh from ‘That Thing’ – They’ve been a maker and shop owner for 15 years.
Nicki from Pedddle – They tirelessly help the community of makers.
Lydia from Made My Wardrobe – I love her ethos, energy and supportive nature.
Ange from Ange B Designs – I adore her ethos, style.
Ellen From It’s All Pretty Wild – For her STYLE!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson
‘Community over competition.’
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