Barbara is a Graphic designer that worked as an Art Director in Germany and London. Her little art projects with her children became so popular that she decided to move out from her living room and find suitable spaces in Fulham for her – sometimes messy – projects. Along with her weekly art classes, she organizes creative art parties for kids on weekends. Read Barbara story and find out what are her future plans.
How did Paperbirds start? How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been working with children since quite a long time and when my own children were little, I started doing art projects with them. When they had friends over to play, our little ‘art projects’ were so popular that I started inviting friends with children over to just make some art. I realised there is nothing quite like this in our area so I decided to move out of my living room and hire spaces to offer art to children of all ages here in Fulham.
Tell us more about your own background prior to this venture
I’ve studied Graphic Design and worked as an Art Director in Germany and London. I always loved art, going to museums and create things so now I am doing both, Art and Design.
What was your biggest challenge when you first started your own business?
Being on my own and starting a business in a country you aren’t familiar with all the paperwork needed was a bit of a challenge, but I had some great help. As I already knew quite a lot of children who wanted to come to my classes I then just needed to find suitable spaces for our – sometimes messy – projects.
Is London a good city for starting a business?
London is great to start a new business, the possibilities are endless, people a very open to try new classes and in an area like Fulham which is full of families, it’s even better.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
I think getting to where I am now with teaching several classes a week, organising parties at the weekend but still having enough time for my own family is just amazing. Of course, every time I see the children being so proud of what they’ve done or their parents telling me that their rooms are decorated with their artwork, my heart jumps as I think art is something so important for all children to express themselves or calm down after a stressful and long day at school. If I manage to get even the most active and unsettled children to sit and calm down, and just concentrate on the art, I know that I’m doing the right thing. And well, I’ve done some pretty fun events too.
Who is your target audience?
My audience is primary school children but I also teach mummy and me classes for children as young as 2.
How do you maintain your work/life balance?
As I’ve just had another baby (my 3rd) I naturally had to step back a little. But I love what I do so I think a healthy balance is what makes me happy. I always try to spend as much time with the kids, picking them up from school or – and this is the great thing about this job – taking them to my classes. And I also have some great support from my husband and friends in case I need babysitting.
What has been your most successful marketing technique?
When I started my art classes I already knew a couple of parents who were interested in sending their kids and then it almost took off on its own. On top of that, I’ve done some free events and workshops at the beginning to get out there and to make my business known in the area. I have my own website where people can find information about myself and Paperbirds, and where they can contact me which is important. I use free advertising on websites like netmums, and have recently joined ParentVille. And as I work at a local school I have the best audience, and some children come to classes both inside and outside the school. I also do classes in various places such as My Kid Atelier or Whole Foods, where lots of families come by, and of course, I asked my friends to spread the word. And not to forget social media – regular posting on Facebook and Instagram is important as people want to see what you do too.
What are your favorite weekend activities?
I absolutely love museums and luckily my family loves coming with me. Apart from the V&A, Royal Academy or the Tate, I also love to just walk through London’s wonderful places such as Southbank and Hyde Park as well as Richmond Park to escape the city and get some space to run around/ride a bike with the kids. And I’m a Kings Road lover when I have a day for myself.
What are your future plans?
At the moment I just want to continue to do as many classes and parties as possible to encourage kids to be creative and show them what they are capable of. But my biggest dream is opening my own art studio here in Fulham to be able to get more kids involved and create an environment for children to experiment, express themselves or just having fun and create. It’s not something I’ve already planned through but I am a firm believer that you can make dreams happen.
“Barbara organised a Pirate Art Party for my son’s 6th birthday recently. All the children had a fantastic time making their treasure maps and treasure chests which they got to take home with them as keepsakes. I would highly recommend her. The kids were focused for a good hour or so making their creations and were so proud of themselves at the end!” – Narelle M (London)