Inspiring Makers: Don’t Feed the Bears
This week, we’re interviewing our favourite bear-clad duo, Tom and Lucy. Like us, they started their business together, making the most of their respective (and considerable) talents to bring us Don’t Feed The Bears – a brilliant t-shirt label worn by the likes of Old Forge Creations, Alex Horne on Bake Off and, last but certainly not least, our very own Josh Holmes.
We find out more about their creative journey so far, their top tips on harnessing your creativity, and, of course, their favourite drink of choice.
Hey guys. Tell us a little bit about yourselves…
We are Lucy & Tom aka Don’t Feed the Bears. We run a little bear themed T-Shirt label (also we’re married & have two cubs of our own). Lucy draws the designs & I (Tom) screen print them onto T-Shirts & jumpers.
How did you get started on your creative journey, and what do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
Lucy was born with a pencil in her hand – and I’m a big old geek. From the time we first started going out we knew we wanted to do something creative together.
We’d stay up until 2am learning Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator for months on end, then drag ourselves to our day jobs (school teacher & PAT tester) just to do it all again the next night.
I learned to build websites firstly as online gallery space for Lucy’s art. Lucy learned to translate her old school art skills into the digital world. We bought some old screen printing kit from Ebay. Lucy had done silk screening as part of her art degree, so she showed me the basics, and little by messy little we started Don’t Feed the Bears. Lucy still loves the design side most of all, especially designing the packaging (I think because there’s zero pressure for it to sell!). I love screen printing, although my ideal day would be screen printing 3 t-shirts, videoing it from 15 different angles & then editing it into an Instagram reel!
What’s your daily routine, and how does it shape your creative output?
We’re a family business & so our routine always starts with the school run. Once that madness is out of the way we get to come back together & work out what we want to achieve for the day.
I always have an unrealistically long list of designs & elements I want Lucy to draw for our website – because I can’t draw myself, I heap it all on her, then we work out what’s most important to get done – there are never enough hours in the day to get through all the ideas we have!
Our favourite tee of yours is, obviously, the bear drinking (what we imagine to be) a cup of tea. How do you fuel your days?
Our days start with tea (we’re not just saying it honestly!). We like to have a couple of cups before we leave the house – usually English breakfast, sometimes chai.
After 10am we switch to…. are we allowed to say this on here? …coffee. [Editor’s Note: Redacted]. We have a bean to cup machine & so strong coffee & apples (not in the same mug) are what keep the energy up until about 3pm. After that we’re back on the tea until bedtime. Food wise, breakfast – muesli, lunch – often Greek sandwiches – there’s a local place that delivers amazing sandwiches (it’s what about 80% of our profits go on) dinner – usually a salad that starts off healthy but after adding all the seeds, home-made mayo & parmesan shavings it may as well be deep fried. We also like to relax with a strong cosmopolitan or three!
Who or what inspires you? Do you have any quotes or mottos you live or run your business by?
Ohhh… lots of things. Our DFTB Instagram feed is chock full of incredible people doing awesome work. People who inspire us. Jeremy Fish, Miss Van,Father John Misty, Old Forge Creations, The Simpsons, MKBHD, you guys at NUDITEA the list is long.
Lucy’s favourite motto is ‘Kaizen’ – the Japanese philosophy of small continual daily improvements amounting to great improvement over time.
My motto for dealing with stress is from the movie The Terminator “In 100 years, who’s gonna care?” – It always helps me not to sweat the small stuff!
What’s your tactic for those slow days when everything feels like hard work?
The best bit of being your own boss is that on those days you can take a step away from work. Sometimes if things are feeling like a struggle, it’s good to go to the gym or for a run and reset, then get back to work with a different perspective. Sometimes we’ll work at night if we’ve taken time out during the day.
And, finally, what’s your advice to people who admire what you do and/or want to start their own creative businesses?
Just start. Don’t procrastinate. Make a website (it’s never been easier). Get on YouTube and watch some Peter McKinnon videos about how to take better photos/videos. Even if you don’t yet have a product, you can start documenting your journey & practising getting out in front of people with your work and ideas. There’s no way to learn anything without making mistakes so start making them right away – that way you can get them out of the way and be free to make different mistakes. Geek out on what you love & don’t worry about being popular. If you have something to sell, then open a Shopify site. Learn how Facebook/Instagram paid advertising works. Take Instagram seriously. It’s a great shop window for your business. Reach out to people you admire & ask them questions. But before all that… have a cup of tea.