3 London Entrepreneurs Take Their Hobby to Profit

February 17, 2015

8:17 pm

According to recent statistics published in the Guardian, the past three years have seen more entrepreneurs embroiled in the small business journey than ever. Unfortunately, few would question the likelihood of the future steering them through choppy waters.

Right now, the gloomy talk around the subjects of disappointing global growth forecasts and startup failure is ubiquitous. Hardly inspiring, such news could have a dampening effect on the enthusiasm of would-be entrepreneurs with a wealth of niche knowledge.

As we’ve read here on Tech.Co, startup copycats are in rude health. But what if they were to apply their innovative skills to something more personal?

Don’t give up hope

Eager to start a business, but doubtful about the success of their dream projects, it’s not uncommon for some to ditch or adapt their plans to carve out an enterprise following the trail of the venture capitalists (currently making extensive forays into London’s thriving tech scene).

It’s heartening to know that passion can build and sustain a business.

Here are three business that have proven it’s entirely possible to turn your hobby into a successful career with entrepreneurial spirit.

Graeme Lloyd – SubBass

Like most great music industry stories, the story behind SubBass academy of electronic music sounds semi-mythical and is tinged with stacked odds and humor.

Graeme Lloyd, the founder, director and expert instructor, started the project in the back of a small record shop around the year 2000. The idea was to have an environment where people could learn and share information about DJ techniques. Unlike similar academic courses, it was cheap, accessible and ensured tutor interaction with small groups of students.

The space was appropriate; the size was not. Despite this, through a mutual love of music, an enthusiastic and talented community was formed. And suddenly, the back room operation had a reputation as a serious academy for people who enjoyed making and performing music as a hobby, and a career choice too.

Having added music production to the curriculum, their academy in Westminster is now recognized as one of the most respected music production and DJ schools in the world.


You spin me right round: a SubBass tutor instructing students on how to DJ.

Andy and Simon Payne – Blue Forest

The popularity of glamorous camping (or “glamping” as it has come to be known) has reached fever pitch in recent years. For brothers Andy and Simon Payne, it was always going to be inevitable and more meaningful.

Born in Kenya, they spent the majority of their early years surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. The exposure to natural wonders had a formative effect on their life ambition: to connect people with the natural world.

Together, they have created the world famous luxury treehouse company Blue Forest. Not just for children, their designs are behind some of the most spectacular but comfortable constructions, from treehouse offices, lofty luxury accommodation to end-of-the-garden retreats.


Nestled in nature: Blue Forest’s Cliffside Lodge

Erica and Andrew – The Other Duckling

At one time, Erica and Andrew were a London-based couple working in media and marketing. Erica was in creative management at innocent drinks, and Andrew had moved into digital media following a career in fashion photography.

With their combined talents, 2009 saw them leave the capital for the countryside to hatch their home-grown homeware business The Other Duckling. But to simply refer to their business as “homeware” would be a disservice. After all, few people could set up an online store selling tableware and hope to take off in the way they have.

Believing that people prefer attractive and practical rather than cheap and disposable, Erica and Andrew hand-craft their goods and repurpose vintage treasure with meticulous care and detail.

Relying purely on their natural talents they are now going into their sixth year of business.


For those who heart homeware: some of The Other Duckling’s products.


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Simon Davies is a London based freelance writer with an interest in startup culture, issues and solutions.

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