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Kickstart Programme

Eleanor Tomlinson

York St John graduate Eleanor is a traditional artist and illustrator.

Eleanor Tomlinson, York St John graduate

Tell us about you

I’m Eleanor, I am 24 years old and am a full-time artist and illustrator. I studied Illustration at York St John’s for years two and three of my degree, graduating in 2019. I have always loved art and started a creative business as a hobby in my teens whilst still at school, but I only realised this was what I wanted to do as a full-time career once starting my degree. This was one of my main reasons to transfer to York St John’s after first year, as I knew I would receive more support whilst juggling being a full-time student and entrepreneur.

Tell us about your business

Yorkshire born and bred, I am a traditional artist and illustrator working predominantly in ink and watercolour. My work is inspired by my home county of Yorkshire and focuses on the UK countryside and all the wildlife found within it; both great and small. I have developed these pieces into an extensive range of stationery, limited edition prints and a growing homeware collection alongside the original pieces. These are available in a growing number of independent stockists and galleries across the UK. I also work to commission, working with a wide array of private and commercial clients, sending private pieces across the world, to working with leading UK hotels and restaurants on menu designs, to personal bespoke wedding stationery. No two days are ever the same. I work under my own name as Eleanor Tomlinson Art Ltd. My business started with a single Christmas card design when I was 13 in 2011 whilst still at school and has grown organically since then into what it is today.

What were the main challenges of starting your business and/or going freelance?

There have been quite a few challenges along the way, but for me personally confidence has always been my biggest hurdle. But my business has forced me out of my comfort zones again and again, enabling me to achieve things both big and small that I never thought I’d be able to. Speaking to other entrepreneurs and business owners, other challenges would have to be self-motivation, organisation, and unwavering commitment. Keep going no matter what.

Did you receive any support/inspiration from York St John? If so, what?

York St John’s really did give me the support and confidence I needed to make some of those important early steps. The careers department, in particular, never made me doubt that I could achieve my ambitions. Their kick-starter funding was a key turning point for myself; writing a business plan, analysing my business, and pitching in order for a grant that ultimately led me to gain a professional partnership with the national brand Joules and become a ‘Friend of Joules’. A large number of my designs are now featured and available on their website alongside their own products and ranges.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

There are countless positives to running your own business, I couldn’t possibly list them all. But the creative freedom I think has to be my number one. Within reason, I can make and create what I want and when I want. You can’t put a value on that.

What tips would you give any aspiring student start-ups?

Anything is possible. But start now and don’t put it off. You’ll be amazed at the amount of experience and important business-related skills you learn simply through trial and error by yourself. It’s really not as scary or as complicated as you think, just break things down into a step-by-step action plan and make a start on that journey today.

Where can we find you/your business?

You can find more about myself, my work, designs and products over on my website, and see my works in progress and new items as they become available on Instagram @eleanortomlinsonart and Facebook

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