Monday, 15 June 2009

Happy Birthday Viva la Frida

This year Viva is celebrating her fifth birthday and it seems like a good time to start this blog and reflect on how far we have come.
5 years ago I was living in Bristol, working in an office and spending everything (bar the rent) feeding my obsession for Mexico, books, clothes, kitchenware, food, music, folk art, you name it I craved it! The flat I shared with T became a colourful kitschy haven and we had lots of fun creating it.

It was while trying to source some Mexican oilcloth for the 'Bristol Hacienda' that I realised it wasn't available in the UK. I had discovered a niche market and the idea for Viva la Frida was born. Despite being totally inexperienced in all aspects of running a business I was determined to at least give it a go and let the experiment run its course. I took out a personal loan of £2400 and with the help of a friend started learning about websites. My first stock was 15 rolls of oilcloth and it was a happy day when it eventually arrived after getting stuck in customs for a week (my first lessons in importing were quickly learnt!)

There have of course been frustrations along the way, like trying to understand css style sheets, filling in tax returns, an early stock management system that would allow people to order items that weren't in stock and moving house and business 4 times in 5 years!
It has been a lot of work and continues to be so but I do it because I love it. I remain passionate about Mexico and Mexican oilcloth, although my house is a bit less kitsch these days! I still get excited when we have a new colour or pattern of cloth and immediately cut a length for our table to 'try it out', I still love the ritual of cutting the oilcloth to order and folding it with my husband or apprentice Laura and it makes my day when customers email to say how much they love the cloth or come back for more. It has been fun trying out new products, some of which have been a success, some not, and it has been great planning the next steps, like our sister site
Oilcloth UK which launched in 2006. I have loved this journey with Viva over the last 5 years and can't wait to see where the next 5 will take us! Nikx


  1. Congrats! I bought a length of your oil cloth a few years ago now - used daily as a tablecloth on the dining room table (so easy to wipe clean). You can just about see it on the last post I did for my blog - under the vase of flowers.
    I love the hibiscus design so much I have plans to try a fabric applique table runner to complement the cloth.

  2. Cool. Nice to hear your story. I just ordered from you and am dying to get my cloth!
    Hope you go from strengtrh to strength.
    Nuala x

  3. Great story! Brave to start out in business knowing nothing about it. I'm almost at that point myself but am too scared to take the plunge! Well done.