I've wanted to write an article about running a handmade business for ages. The unfortunate thing is that I find it incredibly difficult to put anything into words, let alone put those words together in an article in a coherent order !!
Whilst running my own handmade business for the past 15+ years I have met an amazing array of other makers - whether they be crafters, designers, makers or upcyclers like me. I have found them to be incredibly generous community - sharing knowledge, helping each other, offering support and encouragement when needed.
So back to the reason I wanted to write this article. I wanted to share some of the things I have learned over the years but also get some of my maker friends to do the same.
So, I'm going to add a couple of tips of my own below and then open this article up to others below to add something about their business and offer their own tips. I hope that you find the information useful and please remember to visit the other contributors websites and check out their wonderful products.
Tip 1: Attending Events
The majority of people running a handmade business are one woman / man bands and whilst I would argue it is the best job in the world it can also be incredibly lonely. So for me, going to events, meeting other makers is invaluable, not just from a selling point of view but also as a way of maintaining my sanity :).
So my first tip is if you can get out and about to sell your products and meet other makers.
Tip 2: Selling Online
For a long time I have avoided selling online. It always seemed like a lot of work, especially when everything I make is slightly different and so each product needs to be individually listed.
I have now gone all in and have a Shopify website. I have been so impressed with how easy it is to use, update and maintain and even has its own app to manage products from my phone. For me this is invaluable so I can update the site whilst out and about at events.
I do have an Etsy shop as well, although I don't currently use this. Lots of people I know do very well on Etsy, but for me I could never get that hang of how to get my listings seen. It is an easy to use platform as well though so definitely worth looking at if you don't want to invest in a website initially.
My main tip for selling online would be to use one platform initially - whether that be a website, facebook, instagram or Etsy. Get one working really well and then add in another one. It is so easy to spread yourself too thinly when you are doing everything yourself and then you end up with nothing working well.
Now over to some fellow traders who have written a bit about themselves and kindly shared a tip or two too.......
Forced To Be Fussy - Jenna Boyson
I have turned my hand to many things over the years from crafts and sewing to upcycling furniture and now food! I love it all. I’ve always enjoyed getting stuck in and feeling accomplished once it is finished; whatever it may be.
These days I focus on Forced To Be Fussy; free from vegan baked treats, bake at home kits and merchandise.
I have always loved baking and cooking, so creating recipes comes natural to me. I love creating flavours and seeing what can be made! Turning recipes at home into produce that can be made on large scale and ready for market is quite a challenge though. I have had to learn many new skills and take advice from a mentor. Upscaling, using a commercial kitchen and creating consistent batches are things I battle with each week. I dream of the day that my recipes are used by many others!
Turning my recipes into bake at home kits was really important to me. My customers and followers wanted whole cakes so this was the only way that I could make it work. This meant I had to choose recipes that I could turn into kits easily. All the dry ingredients were bagged up with instructions to take the buyer step by step through the baking process. This was a difficult process to begin with. I had to make sure each kit was cost effective to make and sell with a profit margin that made this a viable business. Despite all the experience I have had in making and business this was all new to me. I needed to make sure all the wet ingredients that had to be added were items that could be bought easily and again were cost effective other wise people would have no reason to buy my kits.
Merchandise came about accidently but through my connections from previous projects. Knowing local artists who wanted to create images for my brand is an amazing compliment. We all work together to illustrate my recipes or create puns to express humour on the pressures of free from diets. Lots of planning goes into merchandise and upfront expense is required. All products need to compliment each other and produce enough profit for both the artist and Forced To Be Fussy.
When launching a brand that relies on hand made products you need to be organised, planning is essential. Knowing expiry dates, lead times on orders and knowing your audience is key. I will continue to learn and continue to keep making in the hopes that customers will keep buying.
Pollynogg is based in Southsea, working out of a converted loft space. We make fun and unique pieces of clothing, as well as upcycling preloved items. We have also recently ventured into making lampshades out of pompoms.
You can find us at many local markets such as, Castle Rd Pop ups, Curio Southsea, as well in the West Sussex area at Vintage and very nice and Drapers Yard.
We have an Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/POLYYNOGG
After 5 Years of growing our business we still enjoy the day to day running of our small business, the Markets we attend are very enjoyable; we get to interact with our customers which are very important, as they give us a constant source of valuable feedback on our range.
One handy hint we have learnt from running Pollynogg is to invest in a card payment method, making it easier for our customers to pay and maximising our sales.