An interview with our founder Helen Edwards

An interview with our founder Helen Edwards

4th Mar 2024

As we celebrate our 14th Birthday, we thought it a good opportunity to interview our founder Helen Edwards, to find out a bit more on who East End Prints are, where we started and where we are yet to go! Read on to find out more. 

Why did you start East End Prints? (What inspired you?)

I worked in art publishing in 2000's travelling the world, signing up artists for art posters and cards - I have seen a lot of art! 

But the real reason was the whole team was made redundant from this company and I went into training to be a secondary art and photography teacher for a couple years, I couldn't really hack it, though I loved teaching, I wanted to start a family and needed to find 'work that works'. 

The long days and expensive nursery fees got me questioning my life - it's still tough for working mums and many of them end up keeping their job but not earning any money during those pre-school years. I thought long and hard about what I could do to earn money instead and pulled on my knowledge of art publishing to launch East End Prints. 

I still recall that moment -the first web build 'Oh dear here we go' and never looked back. Going back further, the 10-year-old me was drawing 80's poster art and making crazy graphics for my own birthday parties. I was inspired by visiting lecturer Abram Games during my BTEC in the 80's. His graphic work formed an important development in my understanding of the creative process and design aesthetic. I then discovered Alan Fletcher's book which I cherish. I come from working-class routes, so art was never a career option and if it wasn't for a full grant to go to Uni, I would never have pursued a creative career. 

Tell us about the first year of EEP 

What did this look like - Standing on freezing streets selling art prints on a fold-up table and organising crazy themed group shows -100 artists for £100 around the theme of London. We had a lot of people to drink beer -but I made no money at all! 

Being a female entrepreneur, how do you celebrate Women’s History Month? What do you think the importance of celebrating this is? 

I think we need to remember that equality is not won, especially for working mums. I feel strongly about ensuring a rich balance of art and voices within our team. Inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of what we do. 

How do you implement your values into EEP? 

I live and breathe my values - we are 14 years old, so without tenacity and resilience, we certainly would not still be here. 

I love the team, right now. It's the best-ever mix of leadership, management, apprenticeships and interns - and we actively encourage everyone to be in some form of learning to increase their skills and improve their mindset -nurturing is one of our key values.

What do you consider the most rewarding part of East End Prints? 

There have been some distinctive highs and lows looking back, but I cherish all of the failures as you mainly learn more from them. 

Seeing our artists grow and evolve their style - as well as getting them lots of sales via our B2B channels is super rewarding! Members of the team grow with us and it's been quite a journey for them too. 

Where do you hope to see East End Prints in 5 years? 

We are still in a growth phase with so many new team members, we have plans to systemise more of the manual work using AI and streamline our systems. 

We will be looking to expand globally across both our B2B, B2C and Dropship channels. We also plan to continue to print on demand in the UK or other countries to ensure our carbon footprint is limited and working towards B corp status as a company. 

How have East End Prints grown over the years? 

It started with me sitting at my kitchen table doing everything - framing art, uploading products, writing copy, marketing across social channels, processing orders - we even had a manual sales sheet for orders! I crowdfunded for an apprentice which then took the uploads /marketing off then I brought in a bookkeeper to process our invoices -she is still with us! 

What advice would you give to others who are looking to start a business?

Never, ever give up. Nothing is easy and from the outside, it may look 'effortless' but generally, I have spent many, many hours and sweat growing this business to where it is today and it wouldn't be unjust to call it my 'second baby'. 

I would definitely get as much coaching, mentoring and advice as possible -there is a lot more available now than when I started. SMEs make up such a big part of the UK workforce, they are important to us -we need to encourage entrepreneurship from school onwards.