This week, we are getting to know Mhairi McKenzie, Blingleader of award winning fashion and accessories brand, Bonnie Bling.
Starting life as a graphic designer, Ms Bling launched the brand in 2002, specialising in her very own brand of fun, tongue in cheek acrylic accessories. Proudly made in Scotland - from lasers no less(!) Bonnie Bling has been worn by many a famous face from Lana Del Rey to Usain Bolt and even Sir Elton John being accustomed her wares. Best known for putting Scottish slang back in style, Blingers are not shy when it comes to putting their hearts on their sleeves, or jumpers and jackets for that matter! With slogans from 'Peely Wally' to 'Trumps a Jobby' and even custom pieces available to order, we can all understand why #BlingersAreBest! So in that note, a Scottish laser cutter gets up to in a day in the life of Bonnie Bling.
Tell us a little bit about what you do?
'With a Highland heritage, a love for island life and a buzz from the bright lights of the Finnieston strip, Bonnie Bling mixes old and new Scottish life into bold, clever, laser cut jewellry designs and a range of homeware and accessory products.'
I've been running this wee business for 5 years now and love that I get to do a bit of everything from tinkering with the laser machine, chatting to customers and sitting making the actual pieces themselves.
How did you get into this business?
I've always had a huge love for jewellery, I worked in a designer jewellery store while I was a student and learned a lot about the buying and selling process, use of materials and creation of designs. While I was running my previous graphic design business I started doing an evening class in jewellery making and decided I'd like to try my hand at something new. People really liked the initial Scottish word designs so I decided to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for my own laser cutter and the rest is history!
Take us through a typical day
I split my weekdays into work days and Mom days.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays are for working. I take my daughter to her nursery for 8am and then head over to the Hidden Lane in Finnieston where I'm now based. I enjoy taking the bus so that I have a little bit of time to myself to listen to some music or podcasts on my way through the Clyde Tunnel.
First up is a cuppa while I check through my emails and get back to any customer service queries. Next job is always to go through webstore orders and get shipping labels and packing slips printed and ready. If I have admin to catch up on then I'll tackle that in the morning so that it isn't hanging over me all day. There are often custom requests that will need made to order so it isn't long before the laser cutter is fired up and I can get designing and cutting before lunch.
I get the amazing girls at the Lane Tearoom to make me something to take away for my lunch, then I can sit at my desk and catch up on social media for a while ( I do a lot of social media!), normally with the laser running away in the background. I can't leave the machine running unattended just incase anything were to go wrong, so I tend to stay at my desk as much as possible throughout the days when there is lots of cutting to do.
Afternoons are more about designing and making. New products, adding to stock, sketching up concepts. I also have a couple of makers who work for me so I'll write up some to-do's for them so that things are always moving productively. I tend to do a final email check before I leave the office at 4.30 as once I collect my girl at 5pm time becomes scarce until after her bedtime.
After I've fed, watered and washed the wain she'll get a bedtime story with me or her dad and then, all being well, I'll get the laptop out again around 7.30 and do some more social media work. I get my to-do lists updated for the days ahead so that I'm ready to rock first thing the next day. I also do the franking of post in the evenings as I have the machine set up at my house, that way all all orders can be dropped at the Post Office on my way in to work the next day.
On my Mom days it's kind of the reverse. My girl takes priority and we'll probably have a playdate or an activity on a Thursday and then have a day closer to home, in the garden at the local library on a Friday. She still takes a nap for an hour or so around lunchtime so that's my chance to catch up on emails or do a bit of jewellery making. I have lots of friends who run their own businesses so we take it in turns to go to each others houses then the kids can play together and we can snatch a little bit of admin/email time between us.
It's all quite the juggling act, but I feel pretty darned lucky (and mostly kinda knackered!) to be able to run the business and spend time with my daughter at the same time.
What time do you get up at?
I have the absolute pleasure of being woken up by my girl at around 5.30/6am every. single. day.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Major mom guilt alert! But honestly 6am is just too early for me and my hubby so we tend to turn on CBeebies to amuse the wee one for half an hour while we work on getting our brains to wake up! I have meds to take for a thyroid condition and it's really important I don't miss them as symptoms can wreak havoc if they flare up.
Then I'll fire up Instagram and Twitter to see what's been going on in the world. I've started trying to do some yoga videos at this time and am finding it's really helping me feel refreshed for the day ahead. It's good for my girl to join in too, I'd like yoga to be a thing we can keep doing together as she is growing up and it gives us a proper chance to check in at the start of each day, so far she loves it!
What do you have for breakfast?
By 7am we've got the kettle on for a cup of tea and each of us prefers something different so there's always a bit of breakfast chaos prepping everything. For me I love a slice of toast with peanut butter, banana and topped with chia jam or on a cheeky day I grab a breakfast sarnie from the Lane Tearoom and eat in the office.
How do you keep yourself organised?
I have been using Leuchturm1917 journals for years, I choose a different colour each time but always A6 size as it's so handy to carry around with me. Part of my thyroid symptoms mean I can get a bit forgetful at times so I absolutely can't survive without writing things down. I naturally use a bullet journal style and this year have been working to improve it so it's something nicer to look at rather than just my usual messy scribbles!
I keep a rolling to- do list that gets scrubbed when complete and a new one begins. I add meetings, customer appointments, and personal dates into my google calendar and generally, that keeps me right. I also have a wall planner in the office with each financial quarter marked out so I can check on my sales targets at a glance, I mark up new product launch dates and special events that I might want to include in my social media posts i.e. St Andrews Day or Black Friday etc.
Tell us how you structure your day
My day is split into family time interspersed with work segments but the amount of each varies according to what day it is. It's taken a while to get used to this parenting thang whilst keeping my business on the go but at the moment we have found a work/life rhythm that is really working for us. The juggle is real!
What time do you finish work?
Working for myself means that work never really ends but I try to down tools by 9pm as my brain needs time to shut down before I hit the hay.
How do you wind down?
In the Winter I love to get our coal fire on and pick a record to sit and listen to. In Summer, we are lucky to have a brilliant back garden, and I normally potter about watering our veggies or reading a book with my cats lazing around me. Stepping away from the screens is really important.
What's your bed time?
I'm trying to get earlier due to 'early rising child', so I'll go to bed around 9.30/10 read a bit and try to sleep for around 11, usually terribly unsuccessfully!.
Any advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Look after yourself first. Regardless of kids or no kids, partner or no partner you need to make sure you are happy and healthy. There are always going to be bad days, the ones where nothing goes right, or you get a difficult customer, or your cashflows gone screwy and you just want to run away and hide, BUT you are not alone. Hit up your networks for support, use your clever friends for advice, ask your partner to lend a hand when things get too much. And remember the good days will make it all worthwhile :)
You can check out Mhairi's creations online or at her studio in Glasgow's Hidden Lane.
Made in Scotland - From Lasers!