Meet Shoshana Bratton, a talented, creative Londoner with a great sense of humour that shows through in her illustrations. She specialises in creating cards and invitations for the LGBT community and hopes to one day also illustrate a series of children’s books alongside other ambitions. I first met Shoshana a few years ago at the Chelsea Arts Club during a London Local Team Etsy meet-up and have been following her wonderful work since. One of these days, I’d love to join in on one of her modern calligraphy lessons!
Below, she tells us a bit about her work and her background that led her eventually to start Shoshy Cadoodle®, shares some brilliant business advice and a few excellent resources and talks through some of the challenges she faces while working for herself.
Little Observationist: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
Shoshana Bratton: I’m an illustrator specialising in cards for the LGBT community. I also design invites, take commissions & teach modern calligraphy.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
SB: I mostly make my illustrations by hand, using watercolours, inks and modern calligraphy with just a few minor tweaks here and there digitally. Combining analogue and digital techniques is the perfect combination for me. I don’t think I could ever give up painting by hand completely, like other totally digital artists, because I love the process and the results too much.
And in regards to my involvement in supporting the LGBT community with my illustrated cards, I think it’s something that some bigger brands are starting to do but are lacking on having an insider’s perspective, which is something I have as an advantage, being part of that community. I like to do it with a little sense of humour.
LO: Share a bit of background on yourself and your business.
SB: I’m based in London and grew up in the suburbs of London. I was always drawn to creative activities as a child and art was consistently my favourite subject at school. The pull to a creative career was always there, even though I found the question, “What do you want to be when you grew up?” pretty challenging. I thought I wanted to be a fine artist at first and enrolled in a Fine Art BA degree. Starting the course, I saw there was a strong emphasis on making art that shocked people and created controversy. I soon realised that while I found conceptual art interesting and the people who make it admirable and gutsy, it wasn’t something I wanted to devote my life to. I transferred to the Illustration degree and though there was also a push on this course to be cutting edge and push boundaries, I loved the fact that illustration was focused on visual problem solving and connecting with an audience.
I took a break from illustration after my degree to study and later work in filmmaking in New York. When my visa ran out, I came back to London to work in the fashion industry. Eventually I came back to illustration and launched my own business, Shoshy Cadoodle®. Working in a creative field for other people was what inspired me – I loved helping come up with creative solutions but I yearned for more of my own creative control.
The name Shoshy Cadoodle® is a play on my first name, Shoshana and the word doodle… Shoshy Cadoodle® evokes a whimsical, funny, sweet feeling to me. Those adjectives conjure up perfectly everything that I am naturally drawn to!
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well-invested? Any tips for newcomers?
SB: I use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Most my social media platforms have a cross over between business and personal use. Instagram is the one I find most enjoyable and straightforward to understand and use. YouTube is very time consuming but I do absolutely love it because you can really connect with people on a personal level. I use YouTube mostly for personal reasons, but occasionally I’ll mention my business on the channel. My two tips for newcomers are, firstly, to ask a friend or an expert to explain or train you in any platform you don’t understand. It took me the longest time to understand Twitter! Secondly, put your main focus into the platforms you like the best, because you can’t be everywhere, all the time, unless, of course, you have a team of people working for you!
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today? And your favourite resources for small business?
SB: My favourite piece of advice came from a relative who said, “What’s the story? You need to have a story.” He said this after I showed him some of my very earliest card designs, which were pretty, colourful patterned cards but didn’t communicate a strong message and they certainly didn’t have a story. Now, when I create work, I always go back to that question, “What’s the story?” It can leave me walking around in circles sometimes, but it always really helps to address this question when I make new work.
When I first started Shoshy Cadoodle® my friend recommended me to look at her friend Rachel’s blog, Oh No Rachio. Rachel just recently celebrated her 3 year anniversary of running her design/illustration company full time. Her blog is peppered full of small business tips for creative businesses and freelancers.
I also enjoy listening to After the Jump podcast with Grace Bonney on Heritage Radio.
Another resource I rely on is having friends who have small creative businesses. I met a lot of new friends through a local community group called The London Local Team, and it’s actually how I met Stephanie! Having these friends means there’s always someone to ask for advice if you have a specific problem or people to support you as you grow.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
SB: My biggest challenge as being the boss of myself is that I find it hard to direct myself when working on new ideas and running my online shop and workshops simultaneously. I have a lot of projects on the go that I’ve set myself that I’d like to complete, but sometimes it can be very difficult to take a step back and decide what should be tackled first and what realistic deadlines are for self-directed work. Sometimes, although it can feel more stressful, it is actually easier when you have another person to pester you and say, “Hey! This project is due on Monday, so make it your priority.”
The greatest reward for me is when I take on personal commissioned work and create something that brings joy to someone else. My work helps me connect with new people, different brands and opportunities, which is another very exciting perk. I also think it’s amazing to be able to set your own schedule and have greater control over what you do each day.
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short term goal? And long term?
SB: My short term goal is to build a more varied portfolio, with an increase in illustrations for kids, editorial work. The long term goal is to receive more varied commissions that push me to create work slightly outside my comfort zones, but that still feel true to my own style. I’d love to be able to have a few childrens’ books published in future.
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
1. Our internet has been down for a whole week and we’ve been managing using the 3G on our mobiles… we decided to head to a café today to get some work done with wifi on our laptops. Wifi that works has never felt like such a luxury.
2. Caffiene. I’m trying hard to cut down so I’ve limited myself to one cup of coffee per day recently. I’ve been enjoying it so much more now I’ve rationed it so strictly.
3. Valentine’s Day, a day to remember how lucky I am. I’d been very busy with packing up lots of orders for LGBT cards in the run up to the 14th, which got me in the mood as I felt a bit like Cupid! On the actual day though, my wife and I had to travel up to Solihull to renew her visa as she’s from New York. The visa office isn’t particularly romantic, but receiving a yes from them made me feel so grateful for a lot of things. I’m thankful for her as a person, for the recent passing of equal marriage laws and for her ability to travel freely again. She’s been desperate to go back and see her family and we are planning for a big holiday later this year to Japan. We celebrated that night with a fancy meal at Spring restaurant in Somerset House, which just so happened to be a lot more romantic than the visa office!