Emma Hooton graduated from the University of Exeter in 1993 and now runs Studio Hooton an interior design studio based in Winchester.
I remember my time at Exeter in the nineties fondly – it was an idyllic place to study with a great sense of community on and off campus – you’d always see a friendly face when you walked to lectures. The social life was fantastic too, with some of my favourite memories being fun gatherings in students’ cottages in the depths of the surrounding countryside or down on the coast at weekends.
I started my Classics degree whilst settling in to Hope Hall and absolutely loved the variety it gave me from philosophy and poetry to art and architecture, all of which appealed to my creative side which I went on to develop in my career.
It wasn’t a typical career path in that I came out of my degree without a clear plan which seems to be part of the journey as you find your way to where you want to be. I worked in a consumer PR agency in Covent Garden as my first job before moving onto sales and recruitment roles as they seemed to suit my nature, working with people in fast paced environments and jetting around the city.
“I learnt so much from my time at Exeter, not just about the inspirational world of Classics, but also independence, confidence and self-motivation which have stood me in good stead for setting up and running my own business.”
I then decided to take a year out travelling in my late twenties which I still value as one of my greatest experiences and it seems more and more that it really doesn’t matter when you take your gap year these days, post-university is as acceptable and beforehand.
It was in my early 30s that I decided to undertake a year’s diploma at KLC, one of the best interior design colleges in London. This was to help me firm up my pathway into the industry which was helped by a prestigious Exeter degree.
Following my design course I consolidated my CV with experience at a top interior designer in London where I learnt so much about running a business and the design world I was entering into.
After around 3 years I decided to set up my own practice here in Winchester 8 years ago and have a team of five talented people working with me. Establishing your own business can be challenging but it’s ultimately very rewarding and overall a lot of fun, especially in the creative industry.
We work on big country house projects across Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey and London and often these are historic with classical elements of the ancient architecture I learned about at Exeter, so it gave me a good grounding of knowledge for the buildings we are working on every day.
The business is going strong and we are all passionate about the designs we are carrying out, from the very technical lighting drawings to the all-important furniture and furnishings. We love working with people and reaching the full potential of properties, both old and new.
I learnt so much from my time at Exeter, not just about the inspirational world of Classics, but also independence, confidence and self-motivation which have stood me in good stead for setting up and running my own business.
Tips for setting up your own creative business:
- Network locally and online – Instagram is one of the best platforms for creatives
- Ask for advice from suppliers and craftsmen you work with – there is so much you can learn from collaborating
- Constantly work on evolving your design work to stay fresh and at the top of the market
If you’re interested in setting up your own business while you’re a student the Think Try Do team will be able to help.