SEPTEMBER 2012 ISSUE OF HOUSE BEAUTIFUL (UK Edition):
Read the article on Barbara Hobart and HomePlates UK
Barbara Has the World on Her Plate
A woman who spotted a true gap in the market talks from
America to Patricia McLoughlin about
investing in inspirational ideas.
Hobart laughs, "I'm actually a TV writer and producer who worked
in Hollywood for many years but when I was starving in New York and trying to
write and get produced I worked in business."
Although it was always the TV business, she knew how to
take a good idea and run with it and, being
creative she was always working with crafts in her garage and improving her
"But you know when it all looked great there was
always one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb, the light switch plate."
Take a look around most newly decorated rooms and you'll
see what she means. Then, having started her company Home Plates in the USA in 1994, she visited friends in the UK.
"And nobody knew what I was talking about. Then they said well, you
couldn't have them in the UK because they are wired into the wall.
"So I went back to America and invented a cover and
screws for the UK. All you do is remove
the old screws, put the new decorative plate over the old one and screw in the
new screws. Easy as that!"
launched in the UK in 2004 and sells in major retailers like John Lewis and
BHS. You can go Horrible Histories or glow in the dark for the kids'
bedrooms, Beatrix Potter for the nursery, damask taupe for the bedroom, Japanese
flowers for the conservatory, starfish on sand for the bathroom, the
The plates are desirable, they're affordable so have they
made Barbara rich? "It has provided a nice income," she laughs.
"And everything is made in America and warehoused and distributed in the
UK. I feel it's very important to employ
people in your own communities."
Barbara says she was "lucky" to hit on her idea.
But surely there was more to it than luck and are there tips she can pass on to other entrepreneurs?
"The world is so small now, there's a Starbucks on
every corner, and back then I was shocked to find out this product didn't exist
for you guys. But having a good idea is
just one part of it. You might say, 'What a shame they don't have
attractive light plates' and just leave it at that.
"You have to
be prepared to invest in what you believe in because that's a one in a million
opportunity. And you have to have the eye to see what you can bring to the
marketplace, how is it different. I'm always looking for new things and new
angles but it's still true that I got lucky that I went to the UK saw it didn’t
exist and said let's do it!"
Barbara has been travelling to the UK for years and says
she probably has as many friends here now as in her Los Angeles hometown.
"I love London but it feels as
familiar as New York. I really love visiting friends in Oxfordshire, going
for walks in the countryside, seeing beautiful villages with houses with
thatched roofs. We don't have those here."
almost hear her wondering whether thatch might sell in LA!
Talking would like to
offer one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of Home Plates of their choice.
To enter just answer the following
one of the categories for Home Plates.