Lissa Cook founder of Peak Princess

I was very pleased to catch up with one of our lovely customers Lissa Cook at The London Bike Show in Excel just a couple of weeks ago. Not only did I discover that Lissa also runs her own creative business, Peak Princess, selling her beautifully handcrafted childrenswear made from Liberty prints, she also lives just down the road from my Dad in Derbyshire and even knows some of the same people. Small world. Lissa has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my questions to let us know just what life is like working from home in the beautiful, rugged land
scape of the High Peak.

AMY>> I am very jealous of the view from your studio window (Lissa’s top floor sewing room looks straight out over Cracken Edge, an idyllic tree covered hillscape in the High Peak). What have been the pro’s and con’s of starting your own business in the countryside as opposed to England’s capital where you lived during your previous life as a Radio 4 News Producer?
LISSA>> The pros are:
1) That view!!  (I cried when I first looked out the window the day we moved in).
2) I love working for myself – there’s pressure but not the stress of working to mad news deadlines.  Also I don’t have to cycle 45 minutes across London to be at my desk in an air-conditioned box for a 7.30am shift.
3) I get to listen to the radio all day long without any of the worry about having to get the programme on air.
4) My husband is a writer and works from home too and we’ve been able to get two dogs and cats.  And whereas your Dad lives up here in Derbyshire a few miles from us my Mum moved to London the day we moved up here.  We actually end up seeing more of her and don’t tell her but it’s like having a serviced flat in London available all year round.  And I get to drive her Mini.
The con is:
1) I think I actually end up working more hours than even I used to in London.  Though it’s still great because it’s flexible and there’s a freedom in working for yourself which you don’t get working for other people.

The stunning view from Lissa's studio

AMY>>We adore your handmade Liberty print children’s apparel. What do you enjoy most about running Peak Princesses and will there be a range coming out for us big kids any time soon?!
LISSA>>I love designing best.  It’s incredibly satisfying having a picture of a dress in your head and seeing it through to a customer sending a picture of their little girl wearing it.  Also, my Mum was a couture designer.  I grew up sewing but it’s been wonderful being able to take that a step further and to be able to learn all the tricks of the trade from her.  I think it would have been a terribly regret in my life if I’d have missed this opportunity to learn her skills.  And YES after being badgered by my sister in law I launched a range of blouses last summer.  Another friend persuaded me to make a skirt which will be out soon – the ‘thin day – fat day’ adjustable wrap.  And my husband nagged for a whole year before I finally got round to making him a shirt so they’ll be coming out soon too.  You can sign up to my e-news letter on the website for preview samples.

Lissa hard at work on a new design.

AMY>>As we well know it takes courage, hard work and many a sleepless night to get your own business off the ground. What advice would you give to other creative women looking to start their own businesses?
LISSA>>Start.  Get going.  Just do it.  Honestly I think there are far too many people who spend too much time thinking about setting up a business.  Naive enthusiasm combined with common sense is what you need.  If I knew 3 years ago what I needed to know I’d never have dared do it.  Taking it step by step it builds up.  Also remember you’re selling yourself as well as your product.  People love a story.   Being a journalist has really helped.  I love PR and I’m also a nerd so I love all the web side of things.  And remember – it’s a business.  It has to make money or it’s just a hobby.  And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask other people for advice.  Without family and friends I’d never have got Peak Princess off the ground.  It’s also worth a call to your local Business Link adviser.  And whilst there are loads of scary business books, I’d really recommend Emma Jones’ Spare Room Start-Up and her E-Nation website.
AMY>>Your husband Nik is an adventure sports writer. Apart from cycling what other outdoor activities do you fill your weekends with?
LISSA>>I’m a keen runner too (though not to Nik’s standards).  We have a lovely local club which runs on and off road.  Shamefully my cycling’s slipped from the 15 miles a day I used to do in London to the occasional jaunt.  I blame the dogs as they are a nightmare to try and run and cycle with.  I’ve also just taken up netball again – I hadn’t played since school.  We have a brilliant local pub which has just won Derbyshire Pub of the Year (The Old Hall in Whitehough).
AMY>>When we met at the London Bike Show you told us about  ‘ShAFF’, the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival on from the 4th to the 6th of March. We can’t wait! What is your pick of the films and events on over this action packed four days?
LISSA>>I’m a real sucker for the films with great stories.  Nik’s a judge and I’m doing the PR for the festival so we’ve had the privilege of watching all 60 films in advance.  Nik loves the action films and can watch endless hours of mountain-biking and freestyle snowboarding but I want to know about the people.  There’s a cracking cycling film called ‘Race Across the Sky’ with Lance Armstrong racing the 100 mile long Leadville off-road route in Colorado.  Very satisfying to see him struggle to change a tyre!  I also adore ‘Salt’ which is a combination of time-lapse photography and video – it’s a guy who spends months on his own in the middle of Australia’s Lake Eyre salt pans.  But strangely my absolute favourite is Eastern Rises about a fishing trip to the Kamchatka Peninsula.  The writing’s witty, the cinematography is brilliant and the guys in it are hilarious.

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