Be Inspired Series
Out with the new, in with the ‘auld’! Entrepreneurial flair and a desire to create beautiful furnishing from ‘auld tat’, is what spurred on Ballymoney-woman, Corinna Armstrong, to start her own business – Auld Tat - at the start of 2012. After just 11 months’ trading, Corinna has just opened her new, expanded showroom at the Acorn Business Centre in Ballymoney. Corinna worked in a variety of roles before rediscovering her creative talents and focusing on furnishings and crafts. Following sourcing and creating the interiors for a friend’s quirky coffee shop, and the subsequent customer feedback, Corinna sold her beloved motorbike to follow her passion and fund her new interiors and craft business, Auld Tat.
DAY IN THE LIFE
I'm a night owl really and often work late so when the alarm goes at 7am, it always seems too early but as soon as I'm up and showered, I'm ready for the day ahead.
By this stage, I'm raring to go and thinking about the commissions and restorations that I'll be working on today. Weekly, I visit the local paint shop and builders' merchants to stock up on supplies for the rest of the week.
In my new premises, I have a much larger workshop. This has afforded me greater storage space and I can now ensure I have everything to hand for customer commissions for the week ahead.
I have a short commute to Auld Tat, which is located in unit 28, Acorn Business Centre, in Ballymoney. On arrival, I often have a quick chat to the other business owners. There's a real vibrancy surrounding the business centre with new tenants attracting a new customer base to the centre, and with the more established tenants often providing invaluable advice. Even though I have only been in Acorn for 11 months, I already feel that I'm a part of the business community here and their help, and that of the team at Acorn, has been crucial in helping my business to grow.
I start painting. This could be an item of sentimental value for a customer, and one which they would like painted to the style of their home décor or it could be a piece of furniture that I have sourced, such as a dressing room table or chaise longue, that I'm restoring for our showroom.
I try to ensure I have a good hearty breakfast everyday as you never know when / if there'll be chance for lunch. So, I turn on the radio in the showroom, catch up on the news and sit down to a sausage bap. Then it's back to work before the store opens at 10am.
During the morning, I alternate between serving customers and working on commissions. With the showroom and workshop housed in the same space, it's a great way to ensure no time is wasted and that I get through as much work as possible.
From the launch of our new showroom on 1st November, we're been inundated with good wishes from current customers, as well as meeting a whole host of new customers who are arriving at our doors to view our shabby chic and vintage showroom.
Auld Tat is home to furniture that I have sourced and lovingly restored, and to a beautiful range of gifts and homewares from local craft workers and also international brands. I also manufacture grandfather clocks of my own design, which I finish to a customer's requirements, making each piece unique. And then there's the host of customer commissions. From restoring loved items to their former glory, to giving a piece of furniture a new lease of life, this is one of the most sought after services as people often don't want to discard items of sentimental value.
This variety of services has really enabled my business to grow and in fact, this is the third unit which I have moved to since starting Auld Tat due to the business expanding.
Time for a quick lunch if possible and a flick through some interiors magazines. I also take this time to review pieces of furniture that I have discovered and note down ideas for up-styling, whether it be the finish, colour or choosing the perfect fabric to use.
Back to work. I could be distressing furniture or serving and chatting to customers. We have a regular clientele that travel from across the Province to Auld Tat, some of which I now know very well. These relationships also enable me to source furniture that I know would be perfectly suited to clients' homes.
I will also be taking delivery of stock, such as the Biggie Best range which we sell, or rearranging the showroom, to make way for new items. My mother also helps me in the business and her specialism is upholstery so I will help Mum to finalise commissions.
Auld Tat closes its doors to customers for another day. I finish off any projects that I have been working on, take photos of finished pieces and tidy the showroom.
I have dinner with my mother and catch up with my sister Barbara, as she's a great source of advice and support for my business. I also check emails for any orders or queries from the website and upload new photos and news to our facebook.
Regularly I travel to auctions in the evenings. This is where you can find some really great items and superior craftsmanship. With some vision and hard work, I select pieces which I'm confident that I can restore to their former glory. In addition, I may have a specific piece in mind that a customer has enquired about so will be keeping an eye out for pieces of furniture that will fit the bill. Often the auctions run until late in the evening, and dependent on the quality of the stock, I could be returning home anytime from 9pm - 12pm.
If I happen to be home early, I spend some time with my beloved wee dog, Dixie. I also use this time to order items that I may need for bespoke commissions. Before I head to bed, I always make a list of pressing actions for the next day.
On an early night, bedtime is at 11pm with a catch up on some of my favourite TV shows before lights out.
Auld Tat is located at Unit 28, Phase 1, Acorn Business Centre, 2 Riada Avenue, Ballymoney. Log on to www.auldtat.co.uk or telephone 07725 197432 for further information.