Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
Hi, I’m Vicky and I run Tori Lo Designs, a handmade leather accessories company. Since a very young age I have loved creativity, it’s been a part of everything I do. I remember at the age of 13 deciding that I was going to be a fashion designer; I was never the cool kid or into the latest fashions, but I knew that was what I wanted, that I needed a creative outlet and I loved working with fabrics and textures. What I didn’t know was that I would end up going into leather goods, in fact, truth be told, I hated the smell. It never would have entered my wildest dreams. But 16 years on … here we are, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
‘Tori Lo’ started when I left my full time job although the plan was to go travelling, find myself, live every twenty somethings dream! Yet, on my first week day off in three years, I found myself drawn back to a small leather shop in the heart of Newcastle, a place that I spent a lot of time in when I was at university. I bought a hide of leather, and that was the beginning of the story. I was ready for something that was me, truly me. The name ‘Tori Lo’ came from an abbreviation of my name Vic’tori’a ‘Lo’rainne.
Tell us about your business
In creating Tori Lo Designs I wanted to cross boundaries within leather work, using fun and creative dying techniques, hand colouring every hide to create an individual and unique surface that the bags can then be moulded from.
Each product is hand made, from cutting to dying and finally sewing. I only use top-quality, vegetable-tanned leather, and ensure that each hand stitch is perfectly in place. The perfect unique present for any bag lover.
What are the most sparkly bits of what you do?
Running Tori Lo Designs I get to do what I love every day: creating, designing, being hands on. I am at my most sparkly when I have just created a new product and I instantly fall in love with it. Seeing something that has only ever existed in my head materialise into a physical product, something that I love and something that, ultimately, my customers can love and that can last a lifetime.
What are the biggest challenges you face running your business?
Running a business by yourself is challenging, you have to be a master of everything, not only do I design and make the products, but I market, build websites, sort finances etc. The most challenging for me at the moment is to learn to let go of aspects of my business, to accept help from others in order to expand and take Tori Lo forward.
What have been your biggest achievements and how have you celebrated them
The first moment I remember feeling like I had achieved something was when I was invited to London to trade at an Etsy event on the John Lewis rooftop; this happened in my first proper year of trading. I wasn’t at all ready for it and was so nervous, but it gave me the validation that I needed, that people liked what I was doing. I had a fantastic weekend in London and to me that event was the turning point when Tori Lo moved from hobby to business. I celebrated this by visiting all my favourite spots in London!
The second one was getting the keys to my studio. Moving from my home studio into a space that was just for business was hands down the best thing I have ever done for my business, and for myself.
What are your goals – for yourself and your business?
For me, my ultimate goal is a family. I want to build Tori Lo into a business that I can run around this, training people to make and, hopefully, being able to give creative people jobs in a friendly, artistic environment, whilst still having full creative control and not losing any of my ethos.
What is your favourite place in the North East and why?
Having been brought up by the coast, my special place will always be by the sea. The sounds, the smells and the tranquillity; it’s a place for clarity. My favourite beach would have be the Haven, in my home town between Tynemouth and North Shields, the old boats, the pier, just raw and natural nature, right on my doorstep.
Who puts a Sparkle in your eye?!
I am so lucky to have such a supportive network of people; my family, my partner and my lovely close-knit group of friends all leave me with a sparkle.
A final Sparkly thought – what tips would you give to busy, hard-working entrepreneurs?
Keep going, if you’re not sure about something then ask, and talk to people, the more conversations you have the more you learn about you and your business. But, most importantly enjoy yourself!
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