Melanie Porter’s online business sells a wide range of furnishings and accessories, all of them handmade by her. She uses traditional skills like knitting, sewing and crochet to create unique pieces and she aims to make sure that “every customer feels that they have a beautifully crafted item which fits perfectly in their home.”
Some of her most instantly recognisable work includes the colourful chunky–knit cushions, bedspreads and throws that she makes, as well as the vintage pieces of furniture that she re-upholsters with original designs. She has a toddler herself and this has inspired her to create a range of items for children.
Melanie has a BA in Womenswear Fashion from Central Saint Martin’s College as well as an MA from Nottingham Trent University, where she specialised in knitwear. After her studies, she worked for a variety of prestigious names in the high-end women’s fashion industry for a decade before launching her own business.
Melanie takes up her story, “I enjoyed my time as a designer but one thing was always missing – actually making things, which is my true passion and always has been. I started off making things like knitted furniture on the side but soon realised that this was the direction I really wanted to go in.
“I made my mind up to take the plunge when I was offered redundancy which I accepted. The redundancy meant that I had a year when I didn’t need to panic about money and could decide exactly how I wanted to set things up, working out what was going to be viable in business terms.
“I went to the Job Centre to ask them where I might get practical advice about setting up my own business and they referred me on to the Portobello Business Centre. It was 2009 when I first went to the Centre and that was when Maria Stammers was assigned as my advisor. I did the Centre’s Business Start-up Course which was incredibly helpful with all sorts of issues such as accounting and possible business structures.
“At that time, I was starting to get some really good press coverage but I didn’t know how to translate that into sales. Maria was a perfect sounding board and gave me lots of good advice on how to move my business forward and how to get the sales going.
“She is very good at helping me to examine my own ideas, she doesn’t tell me what to do, she helps me to work out things for myself. After every meeting with her I’ve got pages of notes! When she’s not sure about something, she knows where to find the right information or advice.
“In 2013 I took a break from work while I had my first child, starting back to work properly in summer 2014. Again, Maria was a great source of support in helping me to decide what came next now that I was getting back into the swing of things. Maria’s always there when I need some advice or if I have a question.
“I’d certainly advise anyone who is thinking of starting their own business to go to the Portobello Business Centre – the help and advice they’ve given me has been invaluable.”
Melanie has also written two books, Hand-Knit Your Home and The Hand-Knitted Nursery*, both available from Amazon.*