Welcome to today’s Saturday Business Chat! I’ve been meeting a lot of crafty ladies on a Facebook forum recently, and here’s another one, Victoria Burt, who runs a new business called Bags of Loveliness. This is one of those charmingly accidental businesses that grew out of a new hobby, and never having considered running her own business before (many of us have been there!), she has had a steep learning curve, which she shares with us here. The most important thing, I think, is admitting to the odd error and learning from them. And it doesn’t help any other new businesses to think that we’re all perfect and knew what we were doing from Day 1 (I wish!), so thank you, Victoria, for being so honest about your journey so far!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
I set up Bags of Loveliness in March this year.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’d learned to sew after being given a work of art of a sewing machine, and just got carried away making bags. It seemed to make sense to try to sell some! I started branching out into other items to add a range of prices to my stall – hence purses, aprons, glasses cases, occasional hats, cards, decorations …
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Ah….see above! I was lucky in that, when I started, there weren’t many fabric-y crafters in my area … there are a few of us now!
Had you run your own business before?
It had never even crossed my mind.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I still work alongside the craft stuff. I started with a few craft fairs, then added a Folksy shop which never seemed to take off, then followed my friend Lizzie at Merlin Glass and Art into the world of Facebook pages. I’ve just started my website – it was something i never thought i’d be clever enough to do as I’m not techy at all, but weebly made it easy (and my 12 year old daughter was a great help!)
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
How much time would need to be invested in networking to make a FB page work…
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Buy zips and buttons in bulk!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
This is on-going really … I wish i could be organised enough to never find myself low on stock. I often suddenly realise I’ve hardly any bags left and have to have a crazy sewing mission alongside the day job, the family stuff, and my studies.
What are you glad you did?
Got brave enough to even try to sell stuff! I didn’t think it was good enough for a long time.
What’s your top business tip?
Keep proper records of everything, especially communications! I’ve missed the odd craft fair booking through disorganisation and emails being buried in other emails. I hate to say it, but I may have lost orders the same way.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I’m still new really, so it’s hard to say. Some months I’ve been at the post office most days, others it’s been a rare treat. And it’s been a similar experience with craft fairs too. I have had my items in a shop for a while, before the owner diversified into mostly refurbished furniture … and I’ve got some of my bags in a local museum shop. I’m also considering shop space elsewhere at the moment, in a dedicated craft shop in Swindon.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
Sadly, I don’t see myself giving up the day job anytime soon (partly because I love it – I work in a nursery and those kids are fab!) but I’d like to be screen printing my own fabrics, if I can only find the time to get started.
Lots of my interviewees are still fitting their businesses around other jobs – it’s just one other model in the wonderful diversity of people we’ve talked to over the years. I look forward to seeing how things settle in during Bags of Loveliness’ crucial second year of trading, and the screen-printing of fabrics sounds very interesting! Watch this space …
NOTE: As far as I can tell, Bags of Loveliness is still going strong as of July 2014. However, Victoria has decided not to continue to take part in the interviews. We wish her and the company all the best for the future!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.