What's your 'day' job?
We have just recently re-located and until I find a part time job in an online social enterprise company, I’ll be concentrating on my side hustle on a full-time basis.
What's your side hustle?
Illustrator, creative thinker & Etsy store owner at Oh Hello Shan. My brand brings beautiful, whimsical paper products and gifts from an online marketplace to your home.
When and why did you start illustrating?
From an early age, I loved drawing. I remember my grandparents had the most amazing artwork pieces in their home. When I was small, I used to stare at my favourite pieces and think to myself that someday I would create something that beautiful. My favourite painting had the most beautiful shades of teal in it — to this day this is my favourite colour. I drew and painted a lot growing up, and was particularly interested in art subjects at school, which led me to go on and study fine art and graphic design at university.
At uni, one of my favourite subjects was illustration. I remember painting a beetle with a lot of detail, which I was particularly proud of, and the lecturer exclaiming that she thought I would make a fantastic illustrator.
I finished uni and went onto a career in retail, but always continued drawing in sketch pads and painting on the side. And now, years later, I’m sketching, drawing, illustrating and painting full-time and hoping to land a few commissions and collaborations and continue to grow my online business.
What is the biggest money management challenge with your side hustle?
Coming up with great new ideas and having to budget and work out how you’re going to bring these ideas to life. Sometimes you have to keep new ideas on the back burner till you can afford to put them into production.
There has also been a few occasions where you try something new out and it doesn’t exactly go to plan which costs money and time. I guess it’s all part of the learning process.
What inspired you to start your business?
About a year ago, the retail company — which I worked at for over six years — went through another round of restructuring, which meant longer hours travelling to work and a new team. Having worked in the retail sector for a fair number of years and having been through the restructuring process a few times, I felt that I had to make a change.
I had started painting and drawing again as a way to cope with the stress of work and found that I really enjoyed being creative again. Friends and family commented on how lovely my work was and asked whether it was something I should be pursuing, which got me seriously thinking about making the change. I decided to give up my retail career and start my creative business. Looking back, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made and I couldn’t have done it without the support from my fiancé James, and my mum, who also runs her own online business.
You seem to draw inspiration from animals. Tell us about that.
Having grown up in Africa, my childhood was filled with adventures in the great outdoors. Holidays were spent exploring and we came across a lot of beautiful wildlife. This is where my deep appreciation for nature and animals came from. Coupled with my love for art and illustration, my products are inspired by animals and nature.
My Christmas range this year is inspired by British woodland animals: hares, foxes, badgers and deer. It’s a tribute to English wildlife — we love walking in the woods.
I have so many. To name a few: Kiran Desai, Barbara Kingsolver and Roald Dahl. I love beautifully written books — quirky or serious.
Autumn, winter, summer or spring?
Summer is my favourite season! Summer is a carefree time with sunshine, the beach and ice cream; in particular pistachio which is my favourite flavour! Coming in close a second is autumn — I just love the colours.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up — I guess when you’re small anything seems possible — but there were signs when I look back now which pointed to a creative career.
This one Christmas, I must have been four or five, I asked for a big blue pen from Father Christmas. He was kind enough to put the biggest Crayola set I had ever seen under the tree. There were so many colours and the crayons came in this really cool holder that displayed the crayons in rows of colours making it easy to choose which one you wanted to use. In my mind, I had grand ideas of all the beautiful drawings I was going to make. It was the best present ever — I spent hours and hours colouring in and drawing with my favourite crayons. I guess that was a sign.