Virginia Hartley – Funk My Seat

Virginia Hartley started her retail career back in the 1980s on Camden Market. A graduate of the London College of Fashion, she made and sold clothes on her stall that reflected her own individual style and creativity.

Having children and returning to Devon meant a change of lifestyle for Virginia, who focused on raising her family before eventually combining the two: re-kindling her passion for creating items in funky fabrics whilst still being home for her kids.

Virginia’s lightbulb moment for her business came when she was looking to cover her seats in her VW transporter van but was unable to find anything functional and unique.

“I saw a gap in the market to provide a cover to protect seats from sticky fingers and muddy paws, that are easy to remove and wash in a domestic machine, but also have a funky and individual style. Funk My Seat was born!”

Virginia heard a radio advert for Outset Torbay and got in touch for free support to help develop the business.

“Outset Torbay really helped me to formulate my ideas and gave me focus. I was able to concentrate on a particular part of my business at a time, and to keep working on each part of the jigsaw until it all came together.”

Virginia progressed through the programme of workshops with like-minded people and had one-to-one coaching to look at specific areas of the business with growth potential.

“The business has developed to offer custom design requests, rear seat covers and more recently, matching steering wheel covers for the US market. UK customers want their VW transporter seats covered, and I now know the fabrics that will sell well. The US market is totally different to the UK. They seem to like everything in their vehicle covered and are prepared to pay for it!”

As Virginia’s business has grown, so too has her confidence in the product and service she delivers.

“I have been working on the business for over a year now, and things have got easier: money, income, turnover, my knowledge and my enjoyment of work. I love being self-employed. I spend a day talking to customers and then a day doing profit margins and accounts, then rush to get back on the machines and create orders.”

“Working by myself can get lonely at times, but it’s great to know that the team at Outset is on hand when I come across a challenge, and if the businesses progresses at this rate, it won’t be long until I will be taking on employees to meet growing demand.”