Welcome to a new Small Business Chat! I’m so proud to be able to feature so many different businesses in this series. People have told me they enjoy reading these but please do post if you do enjoy them, to encourage me and my interviewees!
Today we’re saying hello to Shelly Terry from Evelyn Mae, a business offering handmade stationery, cards and picture frame art. Shelly took a hobby she’s loved (and made a business out of) since childhood and grown a thriving business, which is lovely, isn’t it. And what an interesting initial double job, actress and card maker! Shelly has some really interesting points for all you crafters out there, so I hope you enjoy reading …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
I have a handmade greetings card, stationery and picture frame art business, called ‘Evelyn Mae’, and although I ‘officially’ started trading in September 2010, I have always made my own cards – even as a seven year old I had a business called Rainbow cards with a school friend!!
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I was working as an actress, and needed a very flexible job that I could work around auditions, so I began selling my cards. I got married and put the acting on hiatus, but the card making and creativity continued!
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I decided on card making, because a) It is something I had always done, and b) it gives you a reward at the end of a day’s work. In the performing business, it was difficult to feel like you had achieved anything when you were in between jobs, but with card making, each day I had created something.
Had you run your own business before?
Before ‘Evelyn Mae’, I hadn’t run a business before: the only experience I had was being a self-employed actress. It has certainly been a learning curve!
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 already had lots of time between auditions and acting jobs, so I worked around this. I didn’t need to consider giving up a job to make ‘Evelyn Mae’ work, which is really lucky.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
I wish someone had told me that getting a balance between work and home life is difficult. I find that so many other businesses are run by people who have another job, that when I want to network online with them, I have to do a lot of it in the evening, meaning that there is a tendency to work all the time! Had I been told this early on, I might have got the balance right sooner!
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
If I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be to stick with creating card design lines. I moved away from this after the first few months, and am now, two years later, going back to it! I should have stuck with it to begin with!!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I had kept a stricter control on my budget! As a crafter, once you are in business you have to shift from hobby to business, and this means only buying what you need, and not what you feel like playing with! If I had manged this earlier on, I would have been in a position now to buy the equipment I really need now.
What are you glad you did?
I am glad that I have stuck with it. I have creative slumps where cards just don’t work, and I have to take a few days or a week away from it! But I am glad that each time I have gone back to it with renewed energy and continued building the business.
What’s your top business tip?
My top tip would be to adhere to days off, and working hours. I have found that taking the day off from the business in the week, lets my mind wander, reset itself and really focus when I am next at the craft desk. Days off are as important as the days you work. Take them, and protect them.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
‘Evelyn Mae’ is steadily growing. I have branched out from starting with cards, to offering wedding stationery and rustic frames. Next year will see Father Christmas letters and Christmas gifts. I have also stepped sideways, and next week will be giving business talks on using Facebook with your business, something I didn’t see as a possibility when I started three years ago.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
In a year’s time, I see my business offering word art and a new style of card, having bought the equipment I need to make this happen. I also hope to be turning a bigger profit, and having some work published.
Some great points about our work-life balance there – something we all find out as we go along through the years of business! I’m looking forward to seeing how Shelly’s doing this time next year – let’s look out for that work being published and the exciting new styles. And it’s great to see her giving back by sharing her knowledge about using Facebook to promote her business. Find out what Shelly got up to in 2013 here!
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