I’ve always used gut reaction before sense; heart before head, so perhaps opening a shop at 59 in a recession was stupidity over reason! But I believe in following the heart. I’ve always done my own thing and been led by my passions, so I suppose that’s why it feels so natural. I opened Jane McIntyre Design and Eccentricities 3 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
I started out in business running an entertainments company with my husband. It was a humble beginning, we started at the kitchen table of our tiny terraced house in Preston in 1974 and the business just grew from there. After a couple of years of solid, hard work our company became one of the foremost in its field. We worked with some of Britain’s top celebrities and bands, but for me the highlight was Torville and Dean. I used to dance and had avidly followed their career so getting to work with them was a dream come true. They were absolutely lovely and we spent an amazing 6 years producing their ice shows.
Working in the entertainment industry isn’t exactly conducive to family life though. Long hours, unpredictable schedules and the need to travel meant that when my two daughters were born changes had to be made. Until they reached school age I took them everywhere with me but it became increasingly difficult arguing with teachers that a tour of Australia might teach them as much as a term at primary school. We moved from Lancaster to the New Forest so we could be nearer the London office and therefore have more family time. Unfortunately that didn’t happen though, and I ended up leaving the company and the marriage.
It was tough; but as I’ve found in life, when one avenue closes, another one usually opens. I’d originally trained as a fashion designer but somehow fell into interiors by renovating my own houses, then friends, which evolved into a commission here and there. I threw myself into it and completely re-designed and refurbished a 30-bedroom hotel in the New Forest, which I then ran for 11 years. During that time I also did freelance design work and absolutely loved it. However, I got frustrated with always having to source furnishings and fitting from other businesses. I realised I wanted to get closers to suppliers, and to have my own space to be able to sell directly to customers.
And now that’s exactly what I do. I still draw inspiration for stock from my interior design work but my customers also feed my creativity. It’s amazing what people share while discussing fabrics! A shop seems to be a great neutral ground for ideas. The community spirit in Winchester is really strong and there’s a fantastic supportive network among all the independent businesses, but it’s not always easy – then again nothing worth doing ever is. And on days when things seem tough I change the shop around, give myself a new perspective and go home saying I’ve had a productive, if not a lucrative day. It’s hard work but ultimately I get to do something I love everyday and for that I feel extremely grateful.