Name: Rachel Gaw

Job title: Designer/maker

Employer: Go Your Own Way apparel


Where are you from? Workington, however I moved away for university in 2001 to Staffordshire to complete an BA Hons in Design and Crafts and then on to Carlisle in 2008 where I completed a PGCE in Primary Education.

Where do you live now? Seaton

Where do you work? I currently work full time at a local secondary school, however my evenings and weekends are spent in my Go Your Own Way studio at my dad’s house or in my shed if it’s warm enough!

How long have you done this job? I have been making and designing since graduating from university in 2005. Inspiration has taken me in different directions, however my current range echoes my original love for the great outdoors and my home in the Lake District.

I have previously delivered workshops, after-school clubs and artists in residency. I love working and collaborating with other artists and makers – there’s nothing better than sharing a cuppa with like-minded creatives, the only problem is the coffee ends up cold as we all end up chatting so much and sharing so many ideas!

I’m currently part of the team behind Etsy Made in Cumbria, a consortium of makers who exhibit and promote our work at seasonal fairs and events.

Take us through a typical day: I’m definitely a night owl, not an early bird! So I tend to spend the first hour or so going through notifications and orders that have come in overnight to get my day kick-started.

Usually I work on orders during the day when I’m on a break at school, then sort admin, website maintenance and other behind-the-scenes tasks in the evenings. Trying to juggle this with a full-time job is a challenge but I’m naturally quite organised and love a to-do list which is really handy! I’m also fortunate to have a fantastic support network, with my dad or my partner always happy to help me out.

What do you like most about the job? Working through an idea from a doodle to a finished item is such a fantastic feeling. You get a buzz from seeing an item through to the end, and it’s even better when someone buys it and enjoys it!

I’ve designed so many different things now, from Christmas baubles and keyrings to personalised travel bags, T-shirts and mugs, but the excitement of creating something new never gets old.

I also love selling at events – it’s one of my favourite things about being a small business owner. As a sole trader with an online shop, you don’t tend to meet the people who buy your products unless they are local or want to discuss a commission. Shows and fairs are great places to sell your wares and meet your customers, and I really love that face-to-face connection.

I have a few local shows coming up around the Lake District with Christmas on the horizon if you’d like to come and see me: November 23 and 24, Lowther Christmas Fair @ Lowther Castle; November 30 and December 1, Etsy Made in Cumbria @ Tullie House, Carlisle.

What do you like least? I’m a typical creative and find doing my accounts the part of my business I put off most often! I’m trying to give just as much love to this kind of task as I do the creative side of things.

Why did you want to do this job? It’s my passion, I just adore making things. I’d love to combine my two joys, teaching and making, to work with disadvantaged children and young people on an arts therapy basis, I really feel creativity and imagination can help so many people.

I’ve always loved the Lake District, but when I met my partner, Peter, who is a total outdoors type, he opened my eyes to even more beauty on my doorstep, and you’ll find this inspiration running through everything I create at Go Your Own Way. I decided I wanted to do more making and decided to make it happen!

What jobs have you done previously? I’ve had a few different roles, from working for a car rental business to being deputy head of the sixth form in a local secondary school, which I loved, but nothing fulfils me quite like designing and making. I’m absolutely living my dream right now.

What qualifications or experience do you need? I loved every minute of my course at university. It wasn’t a nine-hour a week job, we were in all day every day.

I’d suggest taking art at GCSE and A-level, however try and include a business course as that will stand you in good stead in the future. If you want to succeed as a sole trader you really do need a mixture of both creativity and business acumen, it’s the most important thing you need to master to set yourself up for success.

I took part in Cumbria Chamber of Commence Business Growth course, a free three-day course for people who want to develop and start their own business. It’s great as you get to work with industry professionals on many different areas, from accounts to social media and marketing to planning.

Upon completing this course I worked with a business advisor, Gail Gravett, who guided me through a number of sessions around how to grow the business in certain areas. Investing in the business side of Go Your Own Way is just as important to me as being creative and finding design inspiration.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your profession? Go for it! Be inspired, get making and experimenting. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something you love and network with as many people as you can. Attend local makers fairs and events, use social media to reach out to others.

Grab every opportunity that comes your way.