Self employed people contribute strongly to the UK economy, with over 5 million self employed people and represent over 15% of the labour market. This blog aims to shout out to just some of the hard working and talented self employed people I know.
This week we profile Ewa Lefmann (pronounced ‘Eh-va’ or ‘Ee-va’). She was originally a customer and someone i had been following on instagram. I love the philosophy behind her products and how she presents her brand.
Describe your business
EVKA Home is a colourful design-lead homeware project, born in the first lockdown of 2020 out of a desire to do more with my hands and less on a screen. I have spent the last 7 years as a graphic designer and as the world of design gets more and more digital, I wanted to bring my craft back to what I really like doing which is making tangible design objects.
How and when did you launch?
I launched the EVKA instagram in August 2020 and launched the online shop on September 1st 2020. I started teasing the products and the brand throughout August whilst I shot them all professionally with my friend Nathan Joyce - who is an excellent product photographer! Then when the shop was ready on September 1st I had all my assets ready to go. I took a week off my full time job to give me the space to get it up and running.
What is your background? How does it link to what you are doing now?
My experience as a graphic designer, partnered with my Danish and Polish heritage, has always made me analyse the public perception of ‘good design’: Polish design is incredibly underrated, whereas Denmark as a wealthy, trendy country, is known for its ‘happiness’, design skills and minimal aesthetic. Their concepts of HYGGE and LYKKE are often used to market homeware in the UK, and it’s just a load of rubbish. They are a feeling and a state of mind, and not something that can be reduced to a candle.
That is where my brand motto “Quality stüff without the flüff” came from. When you buy from EVKA, you are getting a well-made and well-designed product for your home, without any other irrelevant messaging attached.
I also love playing with my limited knowledge of my family languages: when you don’t fully understand a language and remove a word from its full context, you reduce it to sounds. A bit like when you walk through IKEA and try to read all their product names - but they actually do all mean something loosely related to the product! That’s how I like to name EVKA products. For example, our ZAPI incense burners are named after the Polish street food pizza Zapiekanka, because they are both oblong with toppings.
What was your breakthrough moment?
I knew I always wanted to start a business selling designed objects, but I just wasn’t sure how to make this come to life beyond giclee prints. After trying a few home craft kits, I discovered I could use Jesmonite to recreate my designs in 3D form. I then began doodling immediately - trying to figure out how all these bits of homeware could fit together. I thought of about 20 different products in one go (I’m actually pretty sorted on a new product development front for a while!) and had to whittle it all down to about 5 products that I could realistically make with these relatively new skills and also in my home. I invested in a Mayku formbox to make moulds, which is fantastic but does have it’s limitations. But it’s all these limitations that I think helped me refine my brand and aesthetic, and keep me from burnout.
What is one of your proudest business moments?
My first wholesale order came just over a month after launching my instagram, and maybe a few weeks after launching my shop. That felt HUGE. I know small shops are having an absolute nightmare right now and the fact that someone wanted to stock my fledgling business was the biggest compliment. I received 2 more wholesale orders over the next couple months.
What was your plan?
Apart from making all the necessary tax/business registrations, I’m kinda just taking each day as it comes! It’s pretty hard to make plans at the moment.
How have things changed in Covid times?
I guess I don't know what my business would be like outside of covid! It’s pretty down to this restricted lifestyle that I’ve had the space to even start this business at all. I’ve noticed that Covid has definitely led to trends like people crafting more, people starting their small business dreams, and people investing more in their home environments. All this has created a really welcoming environment for a small business like mine, and a lovely online community.
How have you continued to build your brand?
Things like chatting to other small businesses, collaborating with other makers and designers, working on new products, creating fun content for social and taking part in online markets!
What challenges have you faced?
My main challenge is space. I currently operate out of my 1-bed flat that I share with my very understanding boyfriend. No garden and above a shop. I would love to get a studio so I can invest in more power tools and be able to create bigger products (and more mess!)
How do you stay motivated?
I really crave autonomy in my design work, so I’ve always done design-related things on the side of my full time job. Employers don’t always love this, but I’m lucky to have a supportive workplace at the moment.
Times where I don’t feel motivated I try to be kind to myself and question why I’m not motivated. It could be the shitshow the world is in right now, or it could be cos I’m making something I don’t actually like. Then I take a step back and reassess the range I'm working on, or whether I need to take a break.
What have you got your eye on for the future?
Bigger products and textile products! Plus a flat with a garden, a dog, and maybe a studio space.
What are your favourite things to carry around with you?
Not much to carry around nowadays! I have recently gotten into cycling, so I’m really enjoying investing in all these little things that make my cycling journey smoother. As well as a Goodordering backpack, I bought these clip-on reflectors from a Swedish company called Bookman that are really useful. Other than that I always have the usual suspects like keys, wallet, phone plus my trusty Baggu foldaway bag that I’ve had for about 5 years now.
Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
My personal motto (especially in the last year) is ‘Life is too short’. It’s never in a negative way, it’s more like ‘is this worth my energy and time?’ If not - let it go, switch it up or move on.
How can people get in touch with you?
Alternatively you can email me email@example.com and visit our store evkahome.co.uk