female entrepeneur

A side hustle is nothing new for Generation Y. With soaring rent, a growing list of direct debits and basic living expenses, there’s not a lot left over to buy other basic human rights such as trips away, girls nights out or that pair of boots that everyone except for you is wearing. Like we said, basic human rights, and FOMO is a very real thing.

If we thought twenty-something living meant daily Starbucks and weekend cocktails in the latest boujee bar, we thought wrong. The reality is a bottle of red wine from Tesco Express, and waiting for the next sale to drop in H&M, while carefully curating our Instagram feeds to look like we live our best lives.

More often than not, a career itself isn’t enough and scraping by has never been the plan. Who doesn’t want some more pocket money to play with, right?

Jenn Carew, 25, is part of one of the fastest growing video production teams in South Wales. Working with high profile clients, Jenn is a master multi-tasker, scheduling jam-packed diaries, booking equipment and assisting the crew while out on location. She keeps a snack handy at all times, meaning she’s well-loved amongst her colleagues (and friends!) Jenn’s pro tip: Keep KitKats in your handbag.

Before she landed her job in film production, her entrepreneurial spirit and desire to bring authentic African products to the Welsh market led her to build her own business.

From her childhood bedroom in mid Wales, she set up Interior Afrika in early 2017 after travelling to South Africa for the first time, and her ambition led her to working with The Prince’s Trust to help support her venture. Jenn then moved to Cardiff later in the year to begin her journey in the film and production industry.

What began as a few holiday purchases, turned into an adventure in business. Jenn hunted for the tools she needed and bought an old second-hand sewing machine from a little shop in Carmarthen, but it wasn’t lost on her that she didn’t know what to do with it.

After that, Jenn hastily took up a sewing class. Feeling a little overwhelmed, she asked the lady who ran it, Jill (also an Aberystwyth University lecturer), for a lesson. She took a typical Welsh rainy-day drive to Jill’s hidden cottage in the countryside for private lessons in needles, fabrics and stitching.

African interiorsShe explained her own a-ha moment, saying “Once you know how to fit a zip, you know how to make so many products. That first zip made me realise how much I could create.”

We caught up with Jenn to find out how she juggles her side hustle, develops her career, and makes it look oh so easy.

Handmade soaps – Interior Afrika

Tell us a little about Interior Afrika… What made you get started?

It all started when I went to South Africa for the first time. I had gone to visit my boyfriend’s family, and really fell in love with the markets and the things I was seeing every day. I wanted to bring a little piece home with me, but ultimately ended up filling my mum’s house with piles of fabrics! It wasn’t long before she told me to do something with it.

I had to find a purpose for them, and before I knew it, I’d made my first cushion. After that, I felt so pleased with actually making something by hand that I knew I wanted to create something more. From this, Interior Afrika was born.

Where do you find your materials?

Most of my materials are hand-sourced from South Africa and sewn in the UK. We use Shweshwe fabric which is now only produced by a handful of authentic producers in the world. The cotton is a traditional print now synonymous to South Africa. Unfortunately, as trends come and go, there are a lot of ‘fake’ African prints on the market, but we pride ourselves in knowing that ours are 100% authentic.

Every time I go to South Africa, I travel around. So other cottons and canvases I pick up can be from both the Eastern and Western Cape.

What are your hopes for the business over the next year?

I really hope to diversify my range a bit more, and we have recently started selling soaps and taking commissions for specific styles of cushions. I want to develop the lifestyle range of Interior Afrika, exploring textures and colours to complement our interior range. From cool stones, wispy hessian to bold tribal prints, all of these will create a unique tactile experience.

I also want to go out and about, attending more events. I’m such a people person, so to talk to people in person and get their thoughts is crucial– I’m focused on having my customer at the heart of everything I do. Plus, I love a good chat!

How do you juggle working full time with running your own business?

Having a job full time and running my own business is full on – but in a way they complement each other. My career in film production means I’m on my feet all the time and always dashing around! With my business, sitting down to make my products is such a contrast, so even though it’s busy, it works. As I love the creative process of piecing something together, that to me is downtime.

Then when it comes to selling and the more logistical side, I’m a firm believer in setting things up for yourself so you are in the right place at the right time – with the right contacts! So as long as you’re organised with what’s coming up then it’s fine, it’s easier to manage it alongside a career.

How has having a side hustle benefitted your life?

It’s an outlet for my passion for creativity. I love a project – and this is the ultimate project. Don’t get me wrong, being an ‘official’ business does have its harder, more strenuous moments, but my passion for what I do keeps me going.

Launching my own business also led to my involvement with The Prince’s Trust Wales Enterprise Scheme. The scheme helps young people aged 18-30 to start their own business. Thanks to them, I’ve learned the basics such as developing a business plan, and the (dreaded) paying of business tax.

Through being part of The Prince’s Trust Cymru, I have since become a young ambassador to support the charity and encourage young people into business. So, my side hustle has really helped me in terms of personal and professional growth. I work all the time, but it’s worth it.

What was it like moving to the city to pursue your career?

It was a huge adjustment. I always joke that I’m like a little country mouse, and I still love to go home and spend time with my family, and my other passion, my horses.

It’s been a hectic few months, but I’m starting to feel at home in Cardiff. I’m just starting to discover all of the little independent shops and cafes that make Cardiff such a vibrant place to be. Luckily, I live within walking distance of the city centre so I’m excited to find my new favourite haunts as time goes on.

One last question… Where’s your favourite place in Cardiff to spend time?

I’m still a newbie, but I’ve been finding my way around (slowly)!

girl coffee shop image
Jen Carew at Coffi Co, Mermaid Quay

I discovered a coffee shop that I instantly loved and I have plenty of photos to prove it – always a sign of good things! Even with the queues of people waiting for their hot chocolates, Coffi Co in Cardiff Bay gave me the perfect first taste of independent coffee shops.

For more information, check out the Interior Afrika website here.

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