BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Helen James graduated in 2013 and now runs her own business Gappy Gobs.

I have started a company called Gappy Gobs (because I have a gap in my gob!) and I am currently making ‘plushies’, which are a cross between a cushion and a stuffed toy. I started with pop figures like Amy Winehouse and Snoop Dog and I have also developed an animal range.  I also take orders for customised pieces so people can request a pop star I haven’t already done, or they can have one done of their family of friends or pets. There have been quite a few orders for pets for Christmas.

I officially launched three weeks ago, but I have been working on the project for several months. I have been slowly drip feeding work in progress through social media prior to the launch of the website and the Etsy site.

I have always felt that I had a strong vision. When I would go out shopping as a child, I would look for things that looked a specific way in my head, but I could never find them.  So I want to build a brand that expresses my strong vision and explore different areas of this, branch out into textiles, clutch bags, stationery.

I knew I wanted to develop a brand but I didn’t know how to get there. I did a course with Outset Bournemouth and they taught me the basics of how to set up and run a business. There I met lots people who had different ideas they wanted to work on. Every week we would meet up for sessions that were based on finance, marketing, motivation and other key aspects of business. I also do a lot of my own research as well. I think it’s really important to learn everyday so read a lot online and I have reached out to other small business owners who are where I want to be now. I am in regular contact with them online and have built up a good relationship with them. I went on a course run by one of them two weeks ago on ‘vision session’. It was a networking event really, we all talked about our goals and had a chat with each other and gave each other advice.

In the creative field, I have found that people are really friendly and helpful. By interacting with people online it’s not only developing my work, but also promoting their business.  I read a lot of blogs and comment and interact with people to build up these relationships.  Through these conversations I joined a closed Facebook group of where a lot of these small businesses that I am talking to are members of. It’s a space where you can ask questions or if you need a supplier for services like printing or whatever, people will share contacts and everyone helps each other out.

I work Monday to Thursday at Sound Storm Music Development Agency. I work in marketing there, so I design all the flyers and posters, leaflets etc for all the events, do the website and run social media. When I graduated I applied for loads of jobs and got loads of knock backs, then this internship turned up; it was around the corner and it is creative and allowed me to use all of my skills. I did a six month internship and then they offered me a job, so I have been there for a year and a half now. I spend Fridays working on my own work. At the moment I just work from my small living space, but I would really like to start renting a studio space. I think there is a really strong creative community in Bournemouth and I think it would be beneficial to tap into that. Plus I think it would be great just to be around other creatives, to bounce ideas around, get feedback and have that support. Sometime you just need someone’s advice.

I don’t see myself as just an illustrator. Although it’s based in that, I am doing a lot of design work. When you’re a small business you have so many hats. If I were to give myself advice as a student, it would be to utilize your time. When you have a full time job and you come home and walk the dog and make the dinner- time just slips away.  At university you have so many opportunities to do work experience, you can gain so much knowledge; you have so much time to work on things like setting up your own business, that you could start working on whilst still at uni.  You need to be determined and passionate about what you are doing and really make the most of your time.

Visit Gappy Gobs online.