Name(s): Camilla Ahwazian
Where’s home? London!
Profession: Purveyor of rug beauties/ Entrepreneur
Company Name: Lilla Rugs
Did you go to university?
I studied History & American Studies at University of Nottingham
What is Lilla’s Rugs and when did you launch?
Lilla Rugs is an online boutique that sells beautiful handmade rugs, handpicked from their country of origin. Each rug is one of a kind. They are all fair trade, and are made using eco-conscious materials, locally produced, and cruelty free.
I launched in February 2017.
How did the idea for Lilla’s Rugs come about?
My mum and dad set up an oriental rug wholesale company when we moved to London a couple months after I was born, so rugs have been in my life for as long as I can remember. My older brother and I were lucky enough to travel round Iran as children, visiting all the weavers in villages across the country. From a young age I learnt about the incredible stories behind each and every rug, direct from the families that weaved them.
I wanted to take all of this passion and knowledge and put my own spin on how the rugs were presented: redressing tradition for a new generation.
It initially started as a creative outlet, where I compiled interior inspiration and photos of a lot of handmade rugs of Instagram. I soon realised that more and more people wanted to get their hands on the rugs for their homes, and so decided to open an Etsy shop to share them with everyone.
What have been the challenges in initially setting up Lilla’s Rugs?
My two biggest challenges were time and tools. I was, and still am, working full time in Advertising, which isn’t exactly a 9-5 career! I’m therefore limited to before work, after work, and weekends. It can be frustrating when you have so many ideas and just want to spend every waking hour on building them out. The other challenge was that I didn’t know the best tools to build everything: the website, fulfilment, SEO etc. A bit of hustling from all the amazing people around me, and I learnt the basics!
Have you got a mentor?
Yes, my dad is an amazing mentor. He has the most incredible rug knowledge – no books or websites or anything would ever be able to teach me as well as he has and continues to do.
Who do you seek out for support and advice (if not a mentor)?
I also have my wonderful Escape the City leads & escapees to lean on for advice whenever it is needed.
Do you ever doubt yourself?
All the time! Honestly, so much of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, when it comes to running a business. All I know is that I have passion, and I know rugs. Surely everything is of secondary importance?
How are you marketing Lilla’s Rugs?
Given the issue of time, I’ve started small with marketing. I pumped all my efforts into Instagram, as that is really where Lilla Rugs started. It’s the perfect way to display such a visual product and to communicate what Lilla Rugs is all about, even beyond the rugs. I am a huge supporter of young entrepreneurs, and all the amazing #GIRLBOSS women out there in particular.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have some great PR in magazines and blogs.
How do you think Lilla’s Rugs differs from the competition out there?
I think that the Lilla Rugs personality is what really sets us out from the competition. Of course, at its heart, it is a company that sells rugs. But really, it is a lot more than that. It’s a commitment to creativity, passion and entrepreneurship.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Nothing. You have to make mistakes to learn, and I really do believe that it’s a good thing to look back and feel embarrassed of your first Instagram post, your first packaging, your first everything. As long as you go above and beyond for your customers and keep your passion alive, there is nothing to regret. It can only continue to get better and better!
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
Be patient. People will not know you or trust you overnight. These things take time.
How do you juggle Lilla Rugs with a full time job?
I wake up and head to a café every morning to get an hour and a half in before work. When I’m not home too late, a couple hours in the evening. Then weekends (sometimes with a hangover). It’s not easy and isn’t a long-term way to do things, but totally doable for a year. I love every minute I spend on Lilla Rugs, so that’s why I’ve been able to juggle it.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
As an extrovert, I get most of my energy from being around and talking to other people. I’ve realised this more than ever in the past year. If I spend too much time working on things on my own or without running things past others, that’s when I get caught up and lost.
Any utter disasters along the way?
I’m not sure I’d say they’ve been utter disasters, but definitely mistakes! It’s particularly soul destroying when you message 100 influencers and get 3 replies!
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Lilla Rugs?
The moment I sat down and worked out that financially, I can do it full time & quit my day job (which I’ve now done)! Pretty amazing feeling.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
If you’re passionate about something, you can learn all of the ways to run it as a business. You can’t teach passion. So just go for it! Don’t over think things, just make baby steps and get things out there day by day.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
I’m officially going to be full time for Lilla Rugs as of January 2018, hurray! The next step this year is to build out a clear plan for next year. I have so many ideas in my head, I’ll need to prioritise.
What’s the dream?
The dream is to be the go-to for rugs in London. Both for interior designers, and private customers. I will know I’ve achieved this when people can say ‘I want a Lilla Rug in my home’.
Finally, if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I really do believe that either way, I’d be working for myself. I think if it wasn’t my rugs, I’d have gone to design school, likely still interiors! Who knows, maybe I still will at some point.
Just for fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are… getting on the property ladder/ where will my next holiday be/ love & the future
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually… PANIC!
The Twenty Mile Club is…. a place for twenty-somethings to gain inspiration and learn from others that have been through it all before. Perhaps going for what you really want isn’t as scary as you thought – The Twenty Mile Club helps you realise that.