How to be a successful Mumpreneur – with Kura Perkins, CEO of Art Hide

3/03/2017 06:30:00 am HELEN STILES 0 Comments

Starting your own business is like being plunged into an entirely different world. You have so much to learn and so many plates to spin that you wonder how anyone ever manages to do it successfully! Which is why I’ve become fascinated by other entrepreneur’s stories, and particularly stories of other working mums. So I am delighted to be sharing today my conversation with a brilliant entrepreneur (and mum) – Kura Perkins, CEO of Art Hide.  I just wanted to add that this post is in no way sponsored, it's just one entrepreneur giving a 'digital high-five' to another. (And picking up a few tips along the way!)

Kura started Art Hide with her sister, Bree, to produce beautiful and incredibly stylish interior accessories made from cowhide. Their cowhide rugs come in a rainbow of classic and contemporary designs and colours, and they also produce beautiful (and practical) cowhide cushions, pouffes, bags and a range of accessories. Not only are the products to die for, but the brand itself is fabulous too: committed to natural, unique and sustainable products, whilst at the same time having a great eye for trends. If cowhide conjures up images of old-school 'mid-western cowboy' style, then I can assure you that Art Hide's laser-cut and patchwork cowhide rugs are about as far from that as it is possible to get, with amazing and innovative designs, colourways and patterns. (You know I love a good cowhide!)

So how did they do it? 

As someone said to me yesterday, running your own business is a bit like having children. You can’t talk to your child-free friends about the reality of life with kids, because however genuinely interested and caring they are, they are just not in that boat (and frankly, you might not want to put them off!) Well, it’s the same with having your own business. It’s only other entrepreneurs that really understand the stresses, motivations, anxieties and complexities that go with giving birth to, and feeding, your business ‘baby'! So it is with great pleasure that I share this real-life start-up story with you...

I first met Kura at a trade show 3 years ago, when I was just setting out on my own journey as an entrepreneur. She is Co-director of Art Hide & Amigos de Hoy, a businesswoman, PR person, designer, innovator and mum, who has built up a phenomenally stylish business (well, she is from Australia, which seems to be having something of a design moment).  I was lucky enough to catch up with Kura about her journey so far – the good, the bad and the ugly! 

The background

Art Hide was born out of a spirit of adventure, a love of people and a vision for what brings beauty to an environment. The company was formed by Australian sisters, Kura Perkins and Bree Hay-Hendry in 2009. Entrepreneur and former PR executive Kura’s travels in South America inspired the Art Hide vision and Bree’s skills as a textile and fashion designer brought the concept to life.

Kura, how would you describe your business brand?

Kura: Classic yet original; traditional yet progressive. We create originally designed and ethically sourced leather products of an heirloom quality. Our extensive range includes floor rugs, cushions, furniture and accessories.

Where did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

Kura: Since University, I have always worked for myself. I had a fantastic PR career in both Australia and the UK and in 2009 I left London on a high after heading up communications for the Olympic Village for several years. We travelled around the world, first stop Argentina, and there I fell in love with the natural beauty of cowhide. I saw great design potential in the product and from there, Art Hide was born!

The duo’s expertise, combined with the traditional skills of their meticulous leather-craft team and an array of cutting edge technologies, have created timeless everyday masterpieces for hundreds of clients. Over time, Art Hide has grown tremendously, and in terms of project portfolio, about 50% of Art Hide's portfolio globally is custom work that spans over residential, hospitality and commercial projects.

Who are Art Hide’s customers? 

Kura: People come to Art Hide because they're looking for something long lasting, natural, and tactile that always looks great. The remainder is made up of a growing and loyal following of customers that love the wow factor and beauty of Art Hide.” I understand that some people are skeptical abou the ethics behind cowhide. But Art Hide’s premium quality cowhide is sourced as a by-product of the meat industry – from regulated, non-pollutant tanneries, where methods involved in tanning and dyeing are always safe for workers.

We're (Bree and I) proud to work with the most talented leather craftspeople and the most reputable suppliers. Everything we do is vetted for quality, safety and sustainability. It was especially important to us to source a material that was sustainable, but also of the highest quality in both aesthetic and longevity. Art Hide also employs Indonesian Artists, to create some of the signature styles, such as the hand-etched designs on the Antika Cascara goat hides. Such opportunities provide these artisans with a platform to showcase their skills while enabling them to support their families by providing employment.

Where do you find the inspiration to create your unique designs? 

Kura: My very talented sister Bree is our designer. She and I work together closely on our collections and, coming from a beautiful country like Australia, we love nature and are constantly inspired by the natural colours! It is hugely important to us and we're always developing new tones; many are showcased in our recent designs – like the luscious Emerald Green Trilogia rug – which received a phenomenal response. Apart from this, we are constantly travelling, which is also a huge source of inspiration for us.

How have your past experiences influenced your current pursuits? 

Kura: I am a firm believer that no time is ever wasted in one's career and that every experience, no matter large or small, always serves as helpful in one's future career. I have always worked with people, be it media, design professionals or local communities and this experience still benefits me today. 

Which 3 things do you wish you’d known when you started?

Kura: The 3 things are pretty basic, but these are things you need to keep in mind at all times,  not just when you start off,  to ensure smooth functioning on a work and personal level.

1). It is extremely important to set a clear vision and strong values for the company, as these form a firm foundation for everything else.
2). You need to work out what works for you and your business – the road is long and varied, full of many opportunities and also pitfalls!
3). And as Al Pacino says, 'never underestimate another man's greed'...when you find great people to work with, enjoy it, as not everyone is like that, sadly.

How do  you maintain a balance between business and personal life? Is it harder for women? 

Kura: It is always harder for women, right? Perseverance is key. Don’t give up! Sometimes business is just about keeping on doing what you’re doing, even when things get tough. I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder – it helps free up more time in the business, which in turn will give you more time with your families. Also, you can’t expect too much from the business in the early years, so no matter what, try to enjoy the ride! (Noted Kura, I’m trying!!) 

What do you always make time for? 

Kura: Exercise, my friends and my kids. In fact, my resolution this year is to prioritise my health and fitness and spend time relaxing with my family and friends.

And finally, what do you have planned for the year ahead?

Like I mentioned, we will be focusing on colours this year by releasing new shades in some of our best-selling rug and cushion collections. Accessories-wise we will be looking at using our laser burnt hide technique on new key shapes for the season. That’s all I can give away right now, stay tuned for more!

Thanks so much to Kura for her time. I hope some of you find it inspiring! Whether you have just the seed of an idea for a business, or have been working for yourself for many years, it is always fascinating to hear how others have made it work for them. And whether you like the term ‘mumpreneur’ or not, the rise of the self-employed mum is a growing phenomenon – and one I think should be celebrated. Kura and Bree are proof that you can create something truly unique, rewarding and successful from a simple idea (plus a lot of hard-work and dedication!)

I, for one, am inspired. I'd love to hear from any other 'mumpreneurs' out there. I'm also thinking of turning this into a regular slot, speaking to entrepreneurs about their business journeys. Do let me know in the comments who you'd like to hear from and about what. Oh, and happy Friday everyone!