A solid business strategy and strong network have propelled Izzy Gray from printing her own T-shirt designs during lockdown to running four embroidery machines and creating uniforms for a host of hospitality clients in just a few short years

Izzy Gray was just completing her apprenticeship at her dad’s catering butchers business in Cumbria in 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit.

Up until this point, she was planning to complete the apprenticeship then move on to something else. In reality, like millions of others, she had to stay at home and put her life on pause.

She was still getting paid during lockdown, but after initially indulging in a bit of online clothes shopping, she quickly realised that wasn’t what she
wanted to do with her pay cheque.

So, aged just 19, she bought a vinyl cutter and a heat press and starting selling T-shirts with her designs printed on them. With her dad running his own business and a lifetime of seeing how he worked, as well as her time as an apprentice, it was no surprise that Izzy discovered she had an irrepressible entrepreneurial streak.

“I’ve always liked clothes, and enjoyed textiles at school. Printing T-shirts seemed quite a simple way to start: it was easy to learn and didn’t cost a lot to set up, around £600 for the heat press and vinyl cutter.”

Word got round, however, and soon she was spending most of her time decorating garments for friends and family, including firms such as the local taxi company, rather than selling her own designs.

“I thought, this could be what I do, this could be my business,” she explains.

Through a friend, she got in touch with an embroiderer in Manchester and asked him for his advice. Len Davis, aka Lenny, of Davis Embroidery was happy to share his experience and knowledge. “He showed me the embroidery machines, and I realised, this is what I want to do.”

She bought a single-head embroidery machine and started Lakes Embroidery.

….Read the full profile of Lakes Embroidery in our March 2024 issue here