Today we’re saying hello to Pat Wilkes from Starlight Gifts by Pat. Pat found out about this interview series via Facebook, which I’ve found is where a lot of crafty people hang out. It’s interesting that Facebook pages consistently seem to do little for people who sell services, like me, but do very well for craft-orientated businesses. As I find I do well with Twitter, I wonder whether the opposite is true there.
Pat’s had an interesting career path, following one area then swapping over to a more creative side of things. It’s so important to be flexible and to continue with what is either selling well or making you happier – one of the things I find over and over again when talking to other small business owners is this theme of being flexible and adaptable – this is what makes your business last long term.
So, let’s meet Pat and find out what she’s learned along the way …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Starlight Gifts by Pat and it has sort of evolved from Starlight Therapies and Gifts, which I started a couple of years ago. I am a qualified Aromatherapist, and it’s only this year that I decided that my creative side was actually getting stronger, so I no longer practise my therapies and am concentrating on the gifts now. So it’s only really since last September I have been promoting and trying hard to get the business growing.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I set the business up to hopefully make it a full-time occupation eventually, after working in a job that no longer makes me happy anymore.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I love making and creating, and as the pile of lovely gifts, cards and jewellery grew, I knew that the only way to fund making more was to sell them.
Had you run your own business before?
Not really seriously, but I had run my therapy business more like a hobby, because I enjoyed my aromatherapy.
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 am running the business alongside working part time, because I realise how hard it is in the craft business to make a living. I am hoping to create a full-time job from this.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Not to be as self-critical of what I do.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Be less critical and do not under-value yourself, and what you make.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Not booked craft fairs without asking a few questions of the organisers.
What are you glad you did?
Getting out there and meeting the customers at craft fairs: it’s built my confidence in what I’m doing, especially when people recognise my stall after seeing it on social networking sites. Finding my own style and branding.
What’s your top business tip?
Keep promoting the business. It’s hard work and many hours are put in on social networking, but do talk to fellow crafters and put yourself out there.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s going well so far, if slowly, but the business is growing. It’s hard work, and I am learning all the time. I have diversified: after starting out with jewellery and cards, the gift selection I now stock works so much better for me.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I would like to have either reduced my day job hours right down or have stopped doing the day job altogether. This is a long-haul dream, not something that I expect to work in a few months.
Lots of learning by experience, working hard on promotion as well as making the actual products, and changing and re-assessing as she goes along here – all good pointers to a long-lasting and sustainable business. Let’s hope Pat has followed me down the path to full-time self-employment by this time next year. Find out what happened next here!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books.