Handmade In Keswick at Craftfest

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Stalking Success - Nicole De Bruin

When I was carrying out research in advance of this blog series, I found that there was a lot of (heated) discussion about whether a 'supplies' seller could be mentioned in the same breath as a 'handmade' seller. But how could I not feature the BIGGEST UK Etsy seller - fellow Craftfester, Nicole De Bruin?

Nicole De Bruin

I started off doing scrapbooking until a friend asked me to make her some adult birthday invitations, after that I made handmade cards for 5 years, somewhere along those five years I started putting detachable key rings on my cards, which proved very popular. We had an opportunity to go to Austria with my husbands company in 2008 , so although I packed up all my charms and key rings and took them to Austria with me, I didn't have the social network to sell many cards.
Discovering the product
One day I was reading someone's blog and they mentioned opening an Etsy shop, I went to look and opened one too, I didn't list anything straight away but did look around for the European equivelant and found DaWanda, where I listed and sold some of my cards, but I realised that shipping them was very difficult and risky and decided to sell the charms themselves instead. 

Achieving Sales
 When I did this, I also began listing on Etsy. My first sale on Etsy was a huge surprise to me, as I had only listed 10 things and really wasn't expecting to be found amongst the hundreds of things listed. From there it just grew, as I had more sales, I invested the money to buy more stock and so my business grew.

Getting Known
I've never really done any promotion.
I sold on DaWanda for about a year, Coriandr and Artfire for a while, Bonanzle for about 5 minutes, but none of these sites have the traffic that Etsy does and I found it wasn't worth splitting my stock over more than one place, so now I only sell on Etsy, but do plan to start my own website some time in the future.
Becoming Successful
I feel success is achieving whatever goals you set yourself, it could be as simple as letting 10 people into the traffic that day.

I felt that I was successful once I started getting sales everyday, because I sell supplies we need a high turnover as our profit margins are low.

I attribute my success to good customer service, to having named my shop by my name, as I always sold my cards under my name and thus having buyers see me as a person. Listing in Dollars so that the Americans aren't put off my shop by first seeing the amount in Pounds and then a higher amount in Dollars as well as many of them not realising I am not in America until it's too late and they have already placed their order.

I have set up a coupon code for your blog readers, it is Blog25 this will give them a 25% discount.

So, I think that that counts as success worth stalking!  What do you think? And can you see the same similarities that I can in the approach that Suzanne and Jeff have as well?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Stalking Success - Suzanne Crawford - Coverupsurf

Well its a week since the last Stalking Success blog, so its time to hear from Suzanne from Coverupsurf, and her story.

Suzanne Crawford

I studied Printed Textile design at Art College in Scotland, and when I graduated in 2004 I got a job as a fashion accessories designer in North Yorkshire, where I have been living ever since. I have always had a great affinity with the beach, I love being at the coast and after moving to the Scarborough area I started surfing. The surfing lifestyle has been a strong influence in my work ever since.

I still work as a fashion accessories designer and run ‘Cover Up Surf’ on the side.

I love to paint and have sold my artwork in the past in a friends’ cafĂ© and on Folksy. I am always making things and sewing but my ‘Cover Up’s’ are the first product I have sold as a business.

Discovering The Product 

‘Cover Up Surf’ was just a little idea that I had one day, I was chatting to friends in my boyfriends surf shop, it was a really cold day and we were all freezing after surfing, about the problems of getting changed on the beach. I decided to go home and make something to help! I had no idea at the time what I was creating. I made a few samples first that we used ourselves to try them out before starting to sell them on-line and in our shop. The towels started to get noticed in the area and we would have people coming in just to ask about them. It was then that I realised that I could start a business from making them and introduced more designs and patterns to widen the collection.

Achieving Sales

  After selling in my boyfriends surf shop to begin with we would get customers coming in to ask for my ‘Cover Up’s’ after seeing other people in the local community with them. This really gave me the encouragement that I needed.

Cover ups have now sold world-wide to Australia, California, Europe and all over the UK

Getting Known

I advertise my product in magazines such as ‘Surfgirl’ magazine who’s readers are the perfect customer base for me.
I do promotional stickers/business cards and Christmas cards as well as having a facebook page  and presence on instagram and pinterest, and I sell online through Folksy
on my website

 Becoming Successful

Success to me is watching something I have created grow, and seeing people enjoy a product that I have hand-made. It’s exciting every time I get a new order or a message from a customer who can’t wait for their ‘Cover Up’ to arrive. It’s the little things that make all the hard-work worth while.

I am very lucky to be living in a place that I love, where I can see the beach from my studio. I think being successful is doing something you enjoy and that makes you happy. 

I am so lucky to be in a position where I can make that happen. I feel very privileged to have had the support and encouragement from the people around me who have helped to make my business successful.
I think success is something that can creep up on you sometimes. From starting to sell in our surf shop, creating a Folksy shop and a website it was a gradual process. It is a lot of hard-work starting something new but if you love what you do it doesn’t seem like a chore…it’s exciting and every time you see your product in a magazine or on a website, it makes you feel even more motivated. I love what I do and I think that’s the most successful you can be.

As a new small business you have to be really careful to keep an eye on the margins you make, to be successful you need to be making enough to cover not only your materials but your time too. I hope to be successful enough in the near future that I can concentrate on my own projects full time.

I owe my success to the people around me who have supported me and given me great advice. Also, to all the hard-work and late nights I have put in. It’s not easy starting a business, it takes a lot of dedication but it is so rewarding! I would encourage anyone who has got an idea or something they are passionate about to get out and start doing it!

We get up to a lot of crazy photo-shoots to get good images of my products; we can be out on the beach in the snow in bare feet freezing to get a good shot!

So there we have it - the second in the Stalking Success series. Dunno about you, but, although Suzanne and Jeff have completely different stories, I'm already starting to see some common denomination!
Whether you're a surf dude or not, have a look at Suzanne's Coverupsurf website and tell her what you like.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stalking Success - Jeff Soan - Wobblywood and the Royal Seal Of Approval

  The first in my series of stalking success 

I can't remember when I first saw Jeff's work, but I know that I have been aware of it for a while, and when I was looking around for people to feature in this series, I noticed that Wobblywood was top of the Folksy Best Sellers.

I'm not surprised - the craftsmanship in this piece is obvious, even is the lack of mechatronics is not - but the tactile qualities here must surely be addictive.  Click Play to see what I'm talking about.

I was intrigued about Jeff's background, and it turns out that he took a rather circuitous route that many artists end up taking.

Jeff Soan

I studied Art and Design at Goldsmith's College in the
late 60's, taught for a few years, travelled for a while, before getting married and starting a family in the 70's, when I started a building business.
After 18 years in the building trade, I needed to start something new and enrolled on a toy making course at London College of Furniture, and set up my garden workshop in 1987.  

Discovering The Product

My first sales were made at the local craft market in Greenwich - I was known as the penguin man when I started because of the success of my waddling penguins
After a year of selling many new designs I started making a version of a Chilean folk toy - a wobbly rat, created by cutting the wood into narrow sections and securing it to canvas - that had been my motivation in taking the toy making course in the first place.

This is not a rat - although my husband may disagree - Lu

I was fascinated by the possibilities of the movement  and how I could link it to my love of the animal kingdom and I started developing many different creatures incorporating the technique.
 I try to express the essential nature of the animals, birds,
and fish I create, sometimes by simplification, sometimes by
attention to detail and very often by the sinuous movement
achieved with the technique of articulation. 

The first week I took some articulating fish to the market I realised that this was the future for me because they sold so quickly and a TV producer was passing and asked me to take part in a craft programme called "Handmade".

Achieving Sales

The real turning point was The Craft Council's prestigous Chelsea Craft Fair in 1991There was so much work that I needed help, and Julia Darke has worked with me ever since.
 A couple of years ago I decided to do more direct shows and stop supplying the galleries to extent I had been doing for many years. It was such a good decision.  My cash flow immediately improved . I used to have continual cash crises because of the Sale or Return culture ( return? when did I ever get anything back?) and 100% plus mark up that most galleries operate.

So now I get involved in Craft in Focus shows, which have good promotion and advertising;
I'm a guest at shows that the Sussex Guild put on; and one of the best shows in the year is Art in Action, which has a fantastic reputation.

I still supply the occasional exhibition maybe two or three a year. I am currently involved with the OneOak project 
and we have Open Studios here in Brockley in July and in Brighton in May, which advertised mainly via word of mouth.
I sell online via Folksy linked to from my website which is from where most of the sales derive.
 I'm not sure if anybody finds me on Folksy itself.

Getting Known

I sell well at shows and enjoy the feedback and ideas that people give me and give out hundreds of pictorial business cards which results in continual flow of work direct from the customer. I have a few very successful pieces which continually sell. 

 I have tried Facebook and Twitter for business but use neither now - I think I must be missing something.
I have a blog which is a mixture of work and life events. I started it when I injured my hand and couldn't work so I had plenty of time. Now it is a struggle to keep it up to date.

 Becoming Successful

I think that making things that I want to make and the fact that I'm still excited by it and being able to sell them is success in itself. That I can sell enough to pay an assistant and support my family and re invest back into the business seems pretty good too
Making enough money to also take time off from it is something I haven't managed though. That seems like real success.
That said, I measure success in terms of happiness. I am happy, inventive and creative on a daily basis and my work seems to delight people

And What About That Royal Seal Of Approval?

I have been involved with making  creatures for the Cutty Sark and they wanted me to make something for the Queen when she opened the ship this year. In the end they gave her Twinings tea.
  Later they had a dinner to which the Duke of Edinburgh was invited and they presented him with one of the seals I made from the deck planks. I was dead keen for some Royal or other to have one because I just wanted to head a picture with "Royal Seal of Approval" I got a wonderful quote from him " a craftsman at the top of his game" 


Wow! Well after no blogging for a while, I got a bit carried away there - but it was hard not to really. If you like the look of Jeff's work, why not visit his website and tell him what you think. And while you're feeling communicative, drop me a comment here too! What tips do you have for running a successful business? - Lu
Next Time Suzanne Crawford and Coverupsurf