Never under-estimate the nostalgic feelings that people have for their first car. That’s a valuable lesson that has helped drive the roaring success of Hannah Woolley’s design business.

Artist – and self-confessed ‘petrol-head’ - Hannah, 32, hasn’t looked back since she branched out on her own and started printing her own designs of classic cars onto T-shirts, following a chance suggestion from her partner.

“Up to that point, I was mainly producing canvas prints, mugs and bags with other people’s photographs on them,” said Hannah, who took redundancy from a large photographic firm to start her own business, Lumipix, in September, “A lot of other people were doing the same thing, and it was slow to start with.”

“Then my partner suggested I try printing T-shirts with my own designs. I had a very small budget, but I thought that if I’m going to try it, then it had to be 100% my own designs. I didn’t want to be another firm taking other people’s pictures and tweaking them. I’m a bit of a petrol-head and I like vintage cars, so I did a few two-colour designs and trialled them. To my complete surprise, they went like hotcakes.”

Even now, three months after she sold her first T-shirt, Hannah can hardly believe her good fortune. “I had such an interesting response, and then people started getting in touch via eBay asking can you do this car or that truck. Now I’ve got 50 designs on my eBay store. The majority are classic British cars – old models like the Morris Minor or Austin Allegro that customers either had as their first car or were doing up and really cherished.”

“Just recently I did a transit van and people loved it. I thought this is crazy, but people really love their cars.”

Hannah credits the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) for giving her business the firm foundations it needed to cope with the sudden and dramatic response to her designs, which are advertised on eBay and Facebook. We deliver the scheme in regions across the UK, providing support and mentoring for unemployed budding entrepreneurs, and is available to claimants of Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (or their partners) and lone parents or sick on Income Support.

“I’m not a business person and wouldn’t have been able to create a business plan on my own,” said Hannah who was referred to us by JobCentre Plus, “They impressed on me the need to do my research, to find out what other people were selling. It’s not just a simple case of putting a few bits on eBay. They really focused my mind to turn what was then a hobby into a proper business.

“We were hit pretty much right away with orders, so having that business plan really helped us. Our first target was being able to put money in the bank that didn’t have to be ploughed back into buying stock. The first time we were able to do that was with £200. It wasn’t much but it was such a great feeling because it was the first profit I’d earned through my hard work.”

The response to Hannah’s designs has since exceeded all her expectations – so much so that her partner has now given up his job to work alongside her and help cope with the demand.

“I was expecting to earn what I was earning part-time when I was working for my last employer,” said Hannah, “But, over the last month, I’ve made double that. I’m so thrilled at how it’s turned out.”

“I do the design work and my partner has got the expertise on pressing the T-shirts. He was working for a company that do something similar, but because we have been so busy, he’s finished that and he’s currently helping me. We had so many orders in the run-up to Christmas, we hardly sat down – let alone had time to go out and buy presents.”

The flexibility that self-employment has brought has also meant Hannah has been able to work around child-care, working while her son is at school and late in the evening.

Hannah now has an eye on the future, and as well as moving to a bigger production space, she is expanding the design range and launching a new children’s sizes over the next year.

“I have to keep pinching myself because I can’t believe how well it’s gone,” said Hannah, “I’m sure people are fed up with me on Facebook saying how amazed I am.”

If you would like to view more of Hannah’s designs or place an order, you can do this through her Facebook page, Lumipix, or on eBay. T-shirts range from small to 5XL, and cost between £10-£14.