Debbie Shrimpton Illustrates | The Buzz Hub Co.

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Meet the Member: Debbie Shrimpton Illustrates

Debbie with artwork set up at a market

In this guest blog, Debbie Shrimpton tells her inspiring story of how she started her business and shares her tips for anyone embarking on the journey of setting up their own venture…

For over 20 years I had worked as a Fashion Designer creating collections of Children’s Fashion for large retailers and Independent labels.  After more than a decade designing for M&S, I became freelance and was comfortably set in a career working with retailers all over the world.

When Covid-19 hit everything changed as retailers stopped using Freelance Designers.  I found myself with no income and locked in, homeschooling my 2 children.  I had to find a way to diversify and generate an income fast.

Debbie Shrimpton and daughters at Wigginton-Sunflowers

With my friend’s birthday approaching and no gift shops open, I decided to draw her house and pop it in a frame that I found at home.  I apologetically left it outside her house saying “happy birthday, this was the best I could come up with”.  My friend was so delighted with the framed house portrait that she encouraged me to advertise on local Facebook groups.  My first Facebook advert in June 2020 quickly revealed a market for locally drawn home portraits.  In a moment when the country was so focused on ‘local and home’ it was the right product at the right time.  Within two weeks of sharing the advert I had received 18 commissions. This gave me the confidence that I had created something people (other than my friends!) actually wanted to buy!  

Originally, full of self doubt, I didn’t think people would want to buy my illustrations, so my advice to like minded small businesses would be “don’t be afraid to advertise and share your creativity on social media.  If people aren’t interested they don’t need to engage with you.  Be brave and don’t underestimate your potential.”

The social media interest in my house portraits led to me receiving a brief from Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries to illustrate all 64 of their franchise buildings. My business immediately started to gain momentum. 

I quickly realised I could only sell the house portraits to one customer so I started to build a portfolio of Loved Local Landmarks of all my favourite locations in and around my hometown of Berkhamsted.  The Local Landmark illustrations became very popular. My best sellers being The Sunflower Fields at Wigginton and The Bluebell Woods at Ashridge. 

I continue to update my local portfolio regularly but now also illustrate venues and locations from all around the world – the opportunities are endless.  I have now illustrated over 300 homes, 50 wedding venues and pubs, over 100 businesses, multiple classic cars, campervans, aeroplanes, boats.

The positive response I have had for my new business has been overwhelming.  The support from my local community in Berkhamsted to promote and commission me has been incredible.  But the biggest surprise has been how grateful and complimentary my customers are.  After so many years working in the fast paced world of fashion, I am used to working under pressure, to tight deadlines, generating multiple ranges of Childrenswear for large retailers without seeing the joy on the customers’ faces when they purchase.  Meeting my customers in person at various markets and events, or when they collect artwork from my home studio, has been fantastically rewarding and motivating.  The feedback I get is heartwarming; people often comment that my illustrations are very happy and joyful.  Some of my illustrations of treasured places and homes have even brought tears to the eyes of the recipient.

My tips and advice from this small business journey would be…

  • Don’t be afraid of change
  • Believe in yourself and don’t underestimate your potential
  • Don’t be afraid to show people your product – this gives constructive feedback and also boosts self belief what you can offer
  • Don’t try and do everything at once, keep your business goals focused and achievable

Recently Hertfordshire Life Magazine approached me to ask if I would be their Cover Artist for their Coronation Issue. This has been a huge honor and quite an humbling moment when I consider how my business began in quite dark and desperate times during the pandemic.  There are so many inspiring tales from Lockdown where so many of us were forced to stop, rethink and diversify.  I feel very lucky to have become one of the happy stories to have been born of this time.

Please take a look at my website; you can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook.