Interview with Nina Daniels, founder of NINA D

Nina Daniels, 48 is an artist who lives in leafy Altrincham, Cheshire with her son Lukas, 10. Nina founded her homeware business in 2020 producing tableware inspired by her Swedish upbringing and family traditions. 

Nina was named as one of UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur #ialso100 2023 campaign. She is also a finalist in Enterprise Vision Awards 2023 ‘Creative Industry’ #evas2023.

What’s your career background?

Prior to launching NINA D, I studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art in London followed by a successful career with luxury retail (Burberry, Asprey and De Beers) designing store layouts and window display concepts on a global platform.

I left London for Worcestershire in 2008 and whilst continuing my creative career on a freelance basis, I also qualified as a Medical Secretary and worked within the NHS GP Out of Hours urgent care. 

Where did the idea for NINA D come from?

After my divorce in 2017, my son and I moved to Altrincham for a new start. Unfortunately the positive outcome dramatically changed when Lukas father unexpectedly passed away in 2019. As a result I could no longer balance my employment with child care and I needed to make a further change to support my sons bereavement.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment struck when I was visiting my favourite boutique in Stockholm to replenish my placemats. I suddenly thought “I can make a business creating these myself!”

How did you bring your business idea to life?

I began creating designs for tableware drawing upon my degree in Theatre Design and diploma in Illustration. Each design is inspired by a place or a person close to my heart back home in Sweden. My personal connection is represented in my art through colours and texture, often resulting in shapes and patterns.

During my design degree, I made the decision to always create my art by hand using watercolour on carefully selected paper and I have not once tweaked my artwork with a computer. I discovered my passion in creating depth by layering to produce a striking two dimensional effect.

It was important to source high quality manufacturers in order to maintain the hand created details of my work. I also take great pride knowing that the materials and process used is sustainable. NINA D first launched with a capsule collection of placemats and coasters, before producing the designs on Swedish birch trays. To complete the range, handmade table linen in matching colours was introduced. 

What was your breakthrough moment?

A few months after I started my business, I realised that my parents were the true inspiration behind NINA D. Having lived in England for twenty five years, I recognised that setting the table for celebrations and everyday mealtimes was a comforting ritual.

Mirroring my own childhood and family traditions, one of my designs is inspired by my mother to celebrate the essence of joyful occasions. Today our daily lives have become increasingly lead by technology. It feels even more important to share mealtimes around a table together for good communication and to improve mental wellbeing. 

What has been your steepest learning curve?

I launched immediately before the pandemic and as a result I had to quickly adapt to lockdowns and restrictions. Using my previous professional career in luxury retail, I identified a bespoke service sending beautifully gift wrapped orders with personal handwritten greetings. Especially as families and friends were not able to meet in person, I wanted to make it as easy as possible to give a gift.

My free gift wrapping service has proved so popular that I continue posting gift wrapped orders for weddings, new home celebrations and birthdays. Our customers often return, adding to their existing tableware range or send a gift. I am delighted to receive wonderful reviews from my clientele, being an inspiration for table settings and providing that unique personal service.

And your proudest moment to date?

I am honoured to be a finalist in the 2023 Enterprise Vision Awards category ‘Creative Industry’ with the Award ceremony taking place in Blackpool 29th of September. 

Who is your target audience?

My customers appreciate unique, high quality tableware either for their home or to give as a gift. They enjoy setting the table for mealtimes but are also practical about protecting the table or surface. Many complete their initial purchase by adding coasters, serving trays or matching table linen. My customers also enjoy learning of the personal story behind each design which can not be found by any other homeware brand on the market. 

Who inspires you?

My parents are my biggest inspiration. They have always encouraged my passion for art and to pursue my dreams and aspirations. Our family home is a heartwarming and welcoming place where parenting duties were shared equally between them.

My father often cooked the meals and washed up whilst my mother set the table with us. They always prioritised family time whether it was spent at our Swedish summer house or going on a boat trip in the Stockholm archipelago. 

I am also inspired by the woman behind the Swedish homeware brand Svenskt Tenn, Estrid Ericson. She founded her business in 1924 and ten years later she offered a safe haven for architect Josef Frank who fled the antisemitism in Austria. Their textile patterns and colours are bold and elegant. Creations that are timeless and inspiring to this day. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am thrilled to have my unique tableware in independent homeware stores within UK but also in Ireland and USA. I launched my eighth design ‘Ulriksdal’ in April this year which is inspired by a Palace (Ulriksdal Slott) just north of Stockholm, not far from my family home. 

In order to continue growing NINA D external studio space and storage needs to be secured, to expand the creative nature of the business and implement logistical efficiencies. Whilst increasing wholesale and private sales of my range of tableware, I also aim to diversify into producing bespoke designs for clientele.

Eventually, I am targeting a NINA D lifestyle store. A destination retail establishment for tableware collections, with floristry for the home and inspiring workshops for creative classes. An in house cafe to serve Swedish coffee and patisseries would need to be included to create a home from home. An independent and safe space to also inspire and support the local community and particularly for women starting up their own businesses.

What are your top four pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs?

1) Build a network

Network and join business support groups (face to face or online) where you meet likeminded people also setting up their own business. I know many parents who are running their own businesses and we regularly touch base in sharing the ups and downs. 

2) Write a business plan

Writing a business plan is a great first step so you can establish what you may need to learn more of. There are lots of training courses out there so shop around by recommendations. 

3) Treat your customers well

Provide outstanding customer service which will give you excellent reviews and generate continuous business in return! 

4) Enjoy the adventure!

Lastly, enjoy embarking on your new adventure. Your positivity and passion for what you are doing will shine through to your customers.

Find out more about NINA D.