Today we’re saying hello to Stevie Maiden of Maidens Fayre. Stevie makes jams, chutneys and pickles as well as having diversified into covered notice boards and bath bombs, and, importantly for other crafters and makers, started and is very involved in the Second City Craft Group Facebook group, which offers a peer group and support to crafters in Birmingham, UK.
Stevie is among the many people who have turned a hobby into a business. She’s met some hurdles along the way but worked hard to overcome them, and you know what they say – something’s definitely worth doing if it’s hard to do!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Maidens Fayre. It started as a hobby at the end of 2011, but I decided to push ahead with it as a business more than a hobby in April 2013.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I almost didn’t: I was finding it so hard to fit it into my life that I had to decide if I should carry on or not. However, someone decided to try to stop me – so I pushed back really hard and went for it. I’m glad I did.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
It was because my husband’s family always buy us nice things for Christmas. Because of my age, I was finding myself quite unemployable and we didn’t have a lot of money to get them decent gifts. So, I decided to show my appreciation for them by making them a hamper full of home-made goodies.
Had you run your own business before?
No, I’d always worked for other people. I know I’m a hard worker. The week I met my husband, I’d just done a 63 hour week in a pub. So, If I can work so hard for a wage, surely I can do it for myself.
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 started off slowly, just making things for people I knew. I then joined an online craft group and found so much support and interest that it gave me the confidence to try having a table at a fayre. From there on, it was fayres I turned to, until I started a business page on Facebook. Now things can be sold from the moment people know I’ve made them.
Sadly, there were some issues with the founders of the original group, so I started The Second City Craft Group, so I could stay in touch with the lovely people I’d met online.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That people won’t always be happy for you . I’m a very honest and trusting person, so it shocks and upsets me when people actively try to stop you achieving your goals. I don’t understand it – it’s not in my mentality.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Make your preserves with seasonal items. Don’t decide what you’d like to make and go in search of the ingredients. Believe in yourself – especially when everyone is telling you that you’re good. Strangers don’t need to lie to you.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I’d jumped in with both feet and not been so cautious. Belief in yourself is the best thing. Sadly, as I’ve got older, I find it doesn’t come as easily as it once did.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad that when I reached the crossroads, where I needed to either go for it or stop, that my cussedness kicked in!
What’s your top business tip?
I’m not sure I have one. I’m not keen on treading on people to get where you want to be. I hope I never develop that trait.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I diversify all the time. Every time I find a glut of something, I feel compelled to buy it and make use of it.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I’d like to be doing bigger fayres. I’d also like to find a company that will deliver my produce at a reasonable rate, so I can get them out into the world. Even better, I’d like to supply a few shops.
All exciting stuff! There’s a good market for lovely home-made products like these, and I hope Stevie manages to find ways to do online ordering on a larger scale to get those products out there. I think not treading on people’s toes is an excellent business tip. I’ve got where I am partly because of my honesty and ethics, I’m sure, and from treating “competitors” as colleagues, and there’s no need to be unpleasant or unsupportive. Small businesspeople need all the encouragement and support they can get (hence this interview series!) and well done to Stevie for supporting other people, too! How was Stevie doing a year down the line? Read her 2014 interview 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 new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.