Modern Style & Lasting Meaning for Miniature Homes with Lucy Bissett
Conversation with Lucy Bissett, Founder, One Wee House
Modern Style & Lasting Meaning for Miniature Homes
April 10, 2019
1. What is your business?
One Wee House is a bespoke modern dollhouse interior design service. Once upon a time, dollhouses were heirloom toys that would be handed down for generations. Dollhouses are still popular now, but they have become disposable with much less significance than they once had. I want to bring back that meaning by creating something that people want to keep and treasure. I create a dollhouse version of anything from a single item, which could be a miniature version of a favorite teddy bear, up to a full dollhouse which is designed to reflect the clients’ own home, their style, belongings, interests and even the way they play.
I make the majority of the pieces myself by hand, but some designs require specialist items that I source and customize for my clients. My goal is to create something that my clients are emotionally invested in, is rich with lasting meaning and sparks memories and stories in the future.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
I used to work in marketing in the museums sector in Scotland. Whilst I was on maternity leave with my second child, I realized I wanted to take a career break to spend more time with my family. Even though I was delighted to be able to spend more time with my kids, I needed a creative outlet for my interests.
I have always been creative, and I went to art college after school, but then life took over and my love of designing, making and creating things took a back seat. When my daughter was about 2 years old, I decided that I wanted to get her a dollhouse for Christmas. I envisioned a modern dollhouse, and I thought it would be lovely if it reflected our own home. I found some beautiful modern makers online who sold individual pieces, but I didn’t find anyone who offered a complete house design. So I ended up making most of the pieces myself and customizing a few things that I bought. I spent hours and hours on it. This is what really reignited my creativity and was the spark that led to One Wee House.
3. Was there one moment that gave you the confidence that this was a good idea?
The first proper house interior that I designed under the ‘One Wee House’ name was for a family run, modern children’s wear and lifestyle shop in Edinburgh called Bon Tot. Before that, I had created a few houses for friends and family, but this was my first professional endeavor.
We’d been regular customers of the store for some time, and I’d gotten to know the owner, Kristina Currie. So when I found out that they were going to be stocking a dollhouse I offered to design the interior of a display one for them.
Thankfully Kris took a leap of faith and allowed me to do it. I hadn’t told her the full concept behind One Wee House, mainly because I was nervous about sharing it but also because I love surprises.
I created a design that incorporated features from Kris’s own home, and I also included a section for Bon Tot too. As Kris watched me set it up in store, she started to recognize the pieces and realized that she was looking at a miniature version of their home and business. She burst into tears.
It was the most amazing reaction. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, I was practically in tears myself. Kris works with some of the best small brands around the world focusing on design-led children wear and toys, so her opinion was hugely important to me. Her reaction gave me confidence in my vision for One Wee House.
4. Were your family and friends helpful or obstacles in launching your business?
My husband has been hugely supportive. He’s more pragmatic than I am and is definitely more financially-minded. Having him there to question me and ask how certain aspects will work has been really useful, even if it is a little frustrating at times. We’re lucky to have supportive, hands-on extended family close by. I rely a lot on the time they spend with the kids, as it gives me time to dedicate to One Wee House.
My daughter is very interested in what I am doing, and she always wants to help me design different things which is really sweet. It makes me proud that she sees me working hard for something I love, and she’s also quite creative, so I hope it’s fostering that passion within her too.
Friends have been equally supportive and have helped with many aspects of the business. From helping me choose a name to design my beautiful logo, they’re always there when I need them.
5. What are some of your current challenges?
I am a one-woman team. When I started One Wee House, I thought I’d have a flexible schedule, time for my work, time for life and time for my little ones. But it doesn’t happen like that.
It can be incredibly hard to find time for work. I have one guaranteed three-hour block once a week and, apart from that, I’m just snatching time when I can in the evenings and at weekends. Typically, the challenge with work-life balance is finding enough time for life among a full-time working schedule, but my challenge is the opposite.
6. What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
When it comes to my actual designs, my clients are my inspiration, as I’m attempting to capture as much of their life as I can.
On the business side, there are quite a few entrepreneurial women that I have discovered through Instagram who I find really inspiring. I particularly like Gemma from Muthahood and Laura from The Modern Nursery. Laura’s just started a new Instagram account which covers a whole host of issues that new businesses face including the struggle between juggling motherhood and running a business.
Bite-sized nuggets of info are perfect for me right now as I can process them quickly. I remember listening to Laura talk about her first Christmas with the business and how hard she pushed herself to get through it, knowing that the following year she’d have more experience and would be able to improve how she managed it. I could relate to that advice.
In the run-up to last Christmas, I was fortunate enough to receive more orders than I’d anticipated which resulted in numerous late nights to ensure I was able to make everything in time. It’s a learning process, but I’m already planning how I can manage it better this year.
7. What are some of the biggest positive or negative surprises in your business?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the ease in which I’ve been able to utilize social media channels to connect with other makers and designers. I’ve found some wonderfully talented people who I can connect with. That has been invaluable.
For example, one of my clients, Honey & Toast, a company that designs handmade leather goods, hired me to create miniature versions of their satchels to use for marketing purposes. These types of projects have really opened my eyes to the fact that there are more possibilities out there for miniatures.
8. Do you use social media for marketing your business?
Social media is really important for me. I do use Facebook a bit, but I mainly focus my time on Instagram since the visual aspect works perfectly for showcasing miniatures. It’s my main tool of promotion right now, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to grow my following organically. I try to focus more on having followers who are genuinely interested and engaged rather than just trying to get the numbers up quickly.
9. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?
This year my primary focus is on getting my website up and running. We’re just about to move house, so setting up a new studio space is also a top priority. I want to isolate more time in the week to dedicate to One Wee House.
At the moment I work with ready-made dollhouses, but further down the line, I’d like to start designing the actual houses themselves. There are so few modern styles to choose from, so I’d love to design a few contemporary models.
I’m also keen to show that boys enjoy dollhouses just as much as girls do so I’ll be working on that aspect too.
Conversation Date: January 30, 2019