Co-founder of The Soho Lighting Company, Lee Lovett’s passion for interiors and lighting stems from years of working in interior design, and renovating properties in Soho and around London.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I bought my first antique Bergère chair at the age of 25, my love affair with period furniture and lighting began. After many years of renovating period properties, I struggled to find exactly what I was looking for in terms of high-quality lighting, switches, and sockets at the right price point. Lighting has the power to make or break a well-designed interior.
So, we began making lighting for ourselves. When friends and clients started requesting our products, we knew we had a business. In 2017, The Soho Lighting Company was born.
We are London based in terms of design, but the centre of our company is in Cornwall. There is a wealth of artisan talent and a passion for sustainable creativity in the Southwest. Together with our London design roots we strive to bring the very best of British talent and craftsmanship to lighting.
Today we hand craft exquisite lighting, switches and sockets through a blend of traditional and modern methods. Seeking out new sources of eco-friendly materials and injecting exciting new technology to give us a functionality that has never before been available.
We are proud to be a member of ‘Made in Britain’.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
While renovating and dressing period properties in London,I was frequently frustrated at not being able to source the perfect lights, switches and sockets. The details and finish in a property are so important, and our company journey began by accident really, with the humble switch and socket.
We had an incredibly talented, young electrician in our renovation team, so we pooled our talents and started making lighting for ourselves. That talented young electrician is now our technical director.
How did you achieve awareness?
When I started, I had no experience in marketing. I was fortunate to have talented people around me. I listened to what they said, used a quarter of the budget they recommended, as we didn’t have the funds and invested all our profits back into stock, growing our team and spreading the word.
We invested classified adverts in the back of interiors magazines, in google and our website, and began engaging with customers on social medial. Our reviews reflected our service ,and the quality of our products and word of mouth grew.
Passionate about our environment, we started looking for ways to create lighting from recycled materials. Our Ocean Collection is made from disused fishing nets and recycled plastics. Selfridges picked this up as part of their ‘Lets change campaign’ and our visibility grew from there.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We haven’t received funding yet, however, are in the process of sourcing some for our expansion in British manufacturing.
We funded ourselves by starting very slowly, keeping our offering small and finding out what sold and what didn’t. We initially used all profits from renovating properties to invest in growing our stock and within a year we reached profitability. We continued to reinvest profits into stock, our people and marketing. Our warehouse can hold no more, so it’s a pivotal investment point for us. To grow further we must increase our stock and storage capacity, this is where funding would be invaluable.
What are the key successes?
Our story is a balance of successes, challenges, and a lot of hard work.
Our success and growth is undoubtedly having the right team of talented people and building a culture that values and appreciates the talent of others. We have seen many individuals change career path within our company. Supporting the succession paths and keeping hold of our people is incredibly important to us.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The pandemic lock down period was incredibly challenging for us but not in the way we expected. As a new company, just building our brand and reputation, we thought we’d need to shelf the business for a while. Surprisingly, exactly the opposite happened.
We suddenly needed to grow, materials became hard to purchase so we roped in friends and family who were incredible and developed a loyal and talented team. We drove our deliveries and orders around the country ourselves, courier services were not reliable. We are proud we didn’t let our customers down.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Our plans are to keep sustainably evolving, bring new designs, materials and technologies to the market. Our ambition to become carbon neutral is something we are working very hard on.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Believe in yourself and trust your gut instincts.
If there is a gap in the market or you feel you can create something more desirable at a better price point, then do your research, find out your cost base and strive after it
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
I firmly believe people are the key to every successful business. Surround yourself with people more talented with you. As a leader and entrepreneur, holding the vision, communicating it and bringing people with you is critical but there is no room for ego. Nurture and celebrate talent in others.
Engage your people in the strategy and success of your business to enable them to own it with you.
Listen and communicate to your people and your customers. It drives successful thoughts, behaviours, and actions.
Treat your people well- they are the key to any success you will enjoy – and enjoy it together.
Most importantly, have fun. Hold on to the essence of your passion and what inspires you. It is incredible what positive outcomes occur when you share and engage in that passion with your teams and your customers.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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