Welcome to another Small Business Update – Welcome to Helen Earp from Sweetheart Designs, who makes lovely crafty gifts and decorative items, and who we first met in June 2013 When I asked Helen where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied, “Ideally, I would like to be cutting ALL my own shapes, rather than just a percentage of them. I would love to have my own website up and running and I also have plans to approach a gift shop to see if I can get certain products stocked there”. As seems using with my interviewees, she’s not quite in the place she envisaged, having had a stressful year personally, but she’s had a lovely opportunity to build on one of her plans with a shop that’s actually in my neighbourhood and is supporting quite a few craft businesses with getting their products out there in front of people. Let’s hear about it from Helen.
Hi, Helen! It’s been a while, but are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward back in the summer of 2013?
No, I’m in a different place, but I also think at the same time, I am where I’m meant to be.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I had quite a stressful year, a lot happened in my personal life which at times pushed me to almost breaking point and many a time I thought something would have to give, and that would have been my business.
In the same breath, I had my most successful and busiest year to date, which did add to the stress levels but I came out the other side and appreciate every single customer that allowed me to keep going and to stay at home with my twins.
I now rent space in a wonderful shop called Togademus, its a shop selling traditional wooden toys who have started a scheme called shareRshop – basically they have allowed a whole side of their shop to be rented out to local crafts people. I have done really well there so far, and the owners are happy to listen to my ideas to take both the shop and the scheme forward.
I have also very recently taken the step to become a Business Associate for an amazing Community Social Enterprise called The Busy Parents Network.
I have temporarily stopped cutting shapes now, due to unforeseen circumstances so I have been busy using up the ridiculous amount of shapes I had sat in boxes in my garage.
I am also currently looking at diversifying into printing photographs onto my wooden items: think Photo Bunting, Wooden Stacking Blocks etc.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I have learned that I have the most amazing customers who trust me to create products for them from just a vague description.
I have learned that I am actually better at drawing than I remembered.
I have learned that you can function, just about, on 3 months worth of less than 2 hours sleep a night.
I have learned that people WILL start ordering Christmas Decorations in June, and already in 2015 I have taken orders for Wooden Christmas Baubles!
I have learned that I must say no, a weakness of mine as I really hate to let people down.
I have learned that I should really think about employing someone to do my admin for me.
So many lessons this year! A huge, huge learning curve but I am now in a place where I feel comfortable and confident of my business future.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Have faith in your work. If it is something you love doing then don’t let anyone dull your passion.
Use any opportunity to network: you never know, the person you stand next to in the queue for your Costa coffee may be a future investor!
Again, remember to take time to enjoy the fruits of your labour, it is good to occasionally leave things for a few days then go back with fresh eyes.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
In a further year’s time, I hope to have a full website up and running and also hopefully be stocking a couple more shops.
It is a very difficult decision to make and I would rather take my time to find a shop/venue that my products will really fit in with.
My ultimate goal is to have a commercial premises, involving local crafters but also involving the community and the vast array of social groups there are in my local area, but that will be at least a couple of years once my twins start school.
Well, Helen’s made some big strides forward and has really engaged with her local and online communities and networks, which can only be a good thing in my opinion. She’s using up that stash of shapes, and the new photography plan sounds interesting, but I think this interview really bears out the fact that running a business is as much about running a business as it is about doing your craft thing or your favourite activity – you have to do business as well as do the business.
Helen is online at www.facebook.com/Designs.Sweetheart or you can email her. Togademus is part of the shareRshop scheme which helps local makers to get out there in the community and have their products seen. I’d be interested to know if any of my readers take part in this scheme!
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 (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.