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Cambridge Payroll Loves… Catherine Ellis, Hill & Ellis


Welcome to another blog in the “Cambridge Payroll Loves…” series where I share the stories of business men and women who I admire.

Catherine Ellis of Hill & Ellis, studied art and design at Central St Martins college in the late 90s, and after a design hiatus working in TV production, she set up Hill & Ellis after struggling to find a bike bag that looked good and functioned perfectly. The company was established 4 ½ years ago with an aim to focus on stylish bags for commuting cyclists that worked on and off the bike. Since then the bags have sold internationally and the company has launched a British collection & a collection that attaches to the Brompton bike and has been featured in Vogue, Esquire, the Wall Street Journal and Der Speigel. The newest range of canvas bags will be launched in early summer.

Catherine Ellis of Hill & Ellis - part of the Cambridge Payroll loves blog series on inspiring business men and women

I personally love these bags and as someone who has set herself the goal of cycling more to and from work this year I think I will treat myself to one (I mean why not right?) – I just can’t decide which colour to choose!

While I am deciding 🙂 – Enjoy reading my chat with Catherine…

Q. Why do you do what you do?

I cycle everywhere and when I was cycling to ITV studios (when I was working as a TV director) I searched for years for a stylish bike bag that didn’t look ridiculous when I put It on my shoulder to walk into work. Every pannier that attached to the bike was black pvc, ugly, and uncomfortable to carry. I thought there had to be a better way – a bike bag that attached to the bike but looked handsome on the arm as well. So Hill & Ellis was born – focusing on both style and function.

Style and function designed bike bags from Hill & Ellis

Q. What has been your biggest learning experience so far?

Every day feels like a school day and to be honest it always feels like little mountains you have to climb – when I first started I didn’t even know how to price the products or how to import and export them. Everything is in code. And that’s even before you learn how to build a website and how to boost your SEO. The constant learning curve is what’s exciting about running your own business – you can never know enough.

Q. When things get really crappy, what do you do to keep motivated?

I always try and write a list the night before so that I know what I have to get done the next day. I think breaking every project down helps my focus on getting the small things done – which ultimately gets the big things done. But sometimes you just need a break and giving yourself the luxury of a lie in, or an afternoon off to maybe walk around an art gallery and get some distance, is a great way to get you back in the saddle – so to speak.    

Q. How helpful is your support network?

Incredible, from my family to my friends and the fellow entrepreneurs I have met along the way, they have all been a great support. You’ll also be amazed what variety of expertise you have in your network so you can use your friends for advice – for bookkeeping and accountancy advice for example. It’s really important to have a network – without one I don’t think it’s possible to build any business into a success.

Q. Who or what inspires you?

Cities and cycling – I love visiting cities especially in the UK and Europe, they have such a varied fashion style and vibe. Cycling around them in particular is inspiring as it allows you a slower, more intimate view of the city surrounding you and how the locals use their bikes. Cambridge is a great city to cycle around, there is so much history to soak up. In fact we created an Oxford and Cambridge satchel. Our Cambridge blue and brown bag is called ‘Don’.

I also get inspiration from art galleries and fabric and design shops particularly at the moment as I am working on a new canvas collection.

Q. What do you know now, that you wish you would have known at the start?

The importance of branding and photography. I re-branded and re-photographed everything about 2 years in and it made an incredible difference. One brilliant aspect of the internet is that you can look bigger and more established than you are but to succeed at this you need high quality photography to show off the true quality of the products and stylish branding. Hopefully we’re getting there with both!

Close ups from the range of bike bags from Hill and Ellis with Cambridge PayrollI hope you enjoyed reading the second blog from the Cambridge Payroll loves… blog series, and a big thank you to Catherine for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re interested in browsing the Hill & Ellis bike bag collection you can visit their website – and keep up to date with latest products and company news on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too.

As usual, I will be running a Facebook Q&A but this week it will on the slightly earlier day of Thursday, 29th March 2018 between, 12 and 1:00pm – why not join me online and help me decide which Hill & Ellis bag to choose! Alternatively you can also ask any questions you may have on any of our recent posts too.

One of the best ways to ensure your business is strong for 2018 is to keep on top of the financial matters, and we can help with that! 

We offer payroll,  bookkeeping servicessupport for start-upsself-assessment tax returns service, our new budgeting, planning and forecasting service, and even Credit Control through our sister company Cambridge Credit Control – so get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.

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