Tim Johnson

Fashion Design BA (Hons)

After dropping out in his first year at a London university, Tim wasn’t sure if he would ever study again. But after being inspired to explore his creative side, Tim returned to the Midlands and joined BCU. After thriving on the Fashion Design course, Tim founded his own manufacturing company. Now, he is designing and manufacturing his very own brand of backpacks with the skills he picked up during his time at BCU.

“I went to university in London when I was 18, but the course just wasn't right for me and I returned to the Midlands. I'd never considered doing something artistic or creative, but my mum suggested that I explore the creative spark that I had lingering. I did a foundation course where I was able to explore all avenues of art and the one aspect I enjoyed the most was fashion, so I applied for Fashion Design BA (Hons) at BCU.

Since graduation, I’ve worked in many aspects of the fashion industry. After working in product development for a UK fashion brand, I decided to branch out on my own and I’ve been self-employed ever since. I am now the Director and Founder of C&S Design Management Import Ltd, which design products, sources materials and imports fashion goods.

Alongside this, around five years ago, I was able to launch my own brand Cora and Spink, which is a backpack company. As a product developer, I was always looking for innovative products that fitted within a niche. I noticed a gap in the market within the backpack sector, a popular item with not huge amounts of competition in the market. They were also something that I personally enjoyed making and developing.

Working for myself, I don't have a typical workday. I deal with enquiries from customers, update my sales team, deal with any factory issues, launch new marketing campaigns and make sure everything in production runs smoothly. There are two sides to what I do. The wholesale side of the business, where I supply products to independent shops around the country, and the retail side with the backpacks. There is no such thing as day-to-day tasks as they change every day, but I really enjoy it all.  

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Overcoming and battling through to get a small business operating, and making a profit, has been a huge challenge. But I think I was very lucky early on to find a niche where my services and my skills were in demand. It’s been tough at times, but incredibly interesting. Launching Cora and Spink is what I’m most proud of since graduating. I launched the company with barely any money and managed to turn it into a success.

One of the best parts of my degree at BCU was being able to do so much work experience. That allowed me to get insights into the industry and inspired me to work for myself eventually and I’m so glad that I now do. Long term, I’m keen to keep growing my business. I don't see my job as work really, as I absolutely love everything that I do. There is not a single task that I don’t enjoy doing and even on the tough days, I still just thoroughly embrace it.  

My advice to current students would be to get plenty of work experience and try your hand at lots of things. That doesn't necessarily mean working for free, it means working from the bottom up or working in your spare time and just always having in mind where you want to be and work towards it. It can also really help if you formulate connections early on and build on them. You never know what or who somebody knows. Learn from everything that you do and keep an open mind, you will get there.”