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Graduate Launches Bonny Business

Sarah Chorlton

Does that cushion have a moustache?

It does indeed, but it’s not something that a plain cushion has grown naturally and subsequently groomed, as that skill is beyond them. It is the work of Sarah Chorlton, who has set up her own business called Bonny Boutiques, specialising in quirky gifts.

Why did she set up her own business?

Sarah went to Winchester School of Art and studied fine art, but like many graduates found work difficult to come by. She said: “When I left University I felt a bit lost and didn’t know what to do when I returned to Horsham. As most people who leave University find, it’s very hard to get into what you want to do. It seemed as though I would have to work for free for a year to have any chance of finding a job I wanted.”

And home furnishings was her calling?

Working part-time at Waitrose, Sarah would put out the magazines and look in the homes and lifestyle sections. These designs would inspire a business. “I decided to make cushions and bunting to begin with just to try it
out,” said Sarah. “I see my cushions as a canvas, and I collect fabrics and put it together, so it is still a creative process with colour, shape, patterns, and so it feels like I am utilising the skills I gained at University.”

What does Sarah make?

It started with bunting, with Sarah using her mum’s old sewing machine and a cutting board belonging to her grandmother, and this led on to cushions, bags and even quirky greetings cards. The best sellers have been the cushions with moustaches or VW Campervans and Beetles. Sarah said: “A lot of it is experimentation –  sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it does.”

Is there a Bonny Boutiques shop?

Not at the moment. Sarah’s first event was at a crafts fair at Loseley Park near Guildford, but her first local stockist was Dixey CB Opticians in West Street, Horsham. Now, Bonny Boutiques sells products at New House Farm, Iris & Arlo in Petworth, Old Mill Café in Wisborough Green, as well as La Vida and Rosie Lee & Me in Piries Place, Horsham. Sarah is on the market too. 

The market in Horsham town?

Officially called the Local Produce Market, it’s become a great way for Sarah to meet new customers. She said: “I couldn’t get on to the market initially as it was full, so I started to concentrate a little more on the online market. Then in January 2012 I re-applied to go on to the market and was successful. Last year it was really good for my

What is it that people like about Bonny Boutiques?

Sarah says: “The products are all hand made, so each one is slightly different. Some people would rather spend a few extra pounds to order a cushion that is hand-made, matches your interior or your mood and character, as opposed to buying a mass-produced cushion. I like to make something that is personal to the customer.” 

Presumably moustaches are personal to a lot of people...

They are the best sellers. Sarah sold items in a pop-up shop in Richmond close to Christmas, and the cushions were flying off the shelf. She said: “On one Saturday, I had people rushing in and asking about our Campervan and Beetle cushions, but I completely sold out! I was surprised – I must have sold 20 cushions on one Saturday, so every night I would come home and make a few new products. With the moustache cushions, people have run up squealing, grabbing the cushion and saying that they have to have it!”

And it’s just a moustache? Not pictures of anyone cool like Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck?

No, although it is the traditional aviator-style moustache shape, like the one sported by Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, as opposed to a bushy Freddie Mercury style moustache or the short, neat Charlie Chaplin fashion. Sarah said: “That was an idea that just popped into my head, and it just worked. I thought ‘someone must have done this before’ but I could not find anything so I seem to have come up with a unique product.”

What’s next - London, Paris, New York?

Sarah said: “The pop-up shop has made me realise that I want to be up in London a lot more. I want to go into the Victoria pop-up shop next. The plan is to go into London, concentrate on the best-selling products, and see if we can grow.”

Where can I find out more about the business then?

Pop along to the market or visit the website at www.bonny-boutique.co.uk


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