First time exhibiting at the big 'London' Fair March 26 2015, 0 Comments
First time exhibiting at a big 'London' fair
So you've been in business a while and decided to up the anti and get your name out to thousands or you're starting out and aiming high. Whatever the impetus you've applied and been accepted for one of the big, 'high profile' fairs that cost an arm and a dozen legs, for a meagre 4' of space and promise the earth in terms of exposure and sales.
The elation of being one of the 'chosen ones' is indescribable, your emotions soar, adrenaline fuels your veins, you immediately fly on a high, go to sleep dreaming of recognition, huge sales and leaping into the limelight of fame and fortune.
Before you know it you're frantically researching, googling and spending money on high end displays, exclusive branding and packaging, agonising over how many thousands of pounds of stock you need. Working your online profile and social networking, maybe doing some press releases. If you re a designer maker you will be working to improve and increase your stock wondering how much to take, where to store it, designing your order forms, thinking about how you would cope if a gallery or boutique approached you for trade.
You live , dream and sleep hope and possibility. It's exciting, daunting, stressful and exhilarating. The beginning of the journey to fame and fortune. The biggest investment in time, money, emotion and energy that you've made to date. You mentally multiply the sales you've made at smaller shows by the amount you've paid and then a bit more, because its 'London'! and tens of thousands of people are coming. You reach a final overwhelming expectation and although you tell yourself not to get too excited and not to get too hopeful it's actually hard to think anything but extremely positively.
So the actually day dawns, everything is planned meticulously, down to the clothes you wear, the time you leave home, packing the car/van, accommodation etc, after months of anticipation what can go wrong???
For a lucky few the dream absolutely may become reality right from the start but from my own experience and that of many around me and many I spoke to it's just the beginning of a journey that will take you on a ride to the very top and bottom of human emotion.
This is just my own roller-coaster ride on my first venture into a huge London exhibition that I felt compelled to try based on sales, experiences, feedback and confidence gained over my first couple of years in business.
To say I learnt a huge amount was an understatement but it wasn't in sales it was in very unexpected ways.
Firstly my product is 100% designed and handmade by myself, some pieces taking several days to create. The show I chose was in hindsight a mistake as it was largely focused on big businesses and imported goods. I.e wonderful products that in some cases were designed in Britain but often produced in large quantities abroad, or were big established companies with huge customer databases.
Very little was designed and actually totally handmade in Britain although there were a few amazing exceptions.
Some of the companies were unashamedly selling fashion imports at such a low price points that no British designer/maker could ever compete. Many had huge sales, promotions and offers.
There were three floors with around 360 businesses for people to browse before anyone even found the forth floor gallery where the 20 tiny newcomers were hidden. the few brave people whose legs and stamina held out long enough to find us were shopped out and exhausted.
Having realised very quickly that this was totally the wrong platform for sales and trying not to let myself get too upset, I switched focus to marketing. I relished the wonderful comments from those that made the effort to come to chat and enthuse over how wonderful and unique my product was. focusing on how much they enjoyed seeing something different, they happily discussed my techniques and the patience involved in making my creations, took cards and promised they would be in touch.
The comments were worth millions in terms of keeping me buoyed up in what was essentially a fast track to despair.
It was only by talking to the other exhibitors, some who had been in business for decades that I realised this was not unusual and at some stage most people had been through similar experiences but instead of folding and giving in they had reevaluated and learnt front the experience.
No price can be put on exposure and marketing because the possible benefits can come in over many months or even years. Equally the experience gained in terms of presentation, endurance, connections, support, networking, and learning is huge and hard to put a price on.
I had the pleasure of being with some amazingly supportive people in a newcomers gallery with mixed fortunes but such a positive attitude that it was almost impossible to get too down, interestingly we were several floors up with a sheer 60' drop behind us which was maybe not the optimum position to put vulnerable newcomers!!!!
Many of the seasoned exhibitors also shared mixed experiences, some with over 30 years behind them and still finding events unpredictable which added to the fact that nothing is ever guaranteed in life but the important thing is to learn from every opportunity and grow.
Do I have regrets??? The short answer is no! Life is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning and growing, sharing experiences good and bad. Meeting people and networking. Listening to advice and developing. Things money can't buy, only experience can give.
The next twelve months will be interesting in terms of whether any of the cards taken result in sales. I'm glad I did the show as I would have forever wondered and dreamt of what it may have been like if I hadn't. However with hindsight I do think that products painstakingly handmade need their own showcase and will be focusing on 'handmade only' events in future. I also will not do any more events that require huge hotel bills on top of the show fees as the overall cost is an overwhelming gamble if you don't sell well.
My only advice would be to visit and research the show to ensure its a good platform for your own product, look at the position and space you will have and the type of shoppers. Talk to other similar stall holders. How many people are selling products similar to yours and what are their prices like. Don't be flattered just by being accepted as many shows just need to fill a lot of vacant spaces and will say anything to get you to part with your money.
Try not to let your expectations run too high, treat it as a marketing and networking event and see great sales as an added bonus.
Never give up or doubt yourself, learn, grow and focus. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day nor were great businesses.
Writers Lock-in September 30 2014, 0 Comments
Following a glorious summer, a garden full of colours and flowers. Warmth and an abundance of inspiration and I have to say distraction, I feel myself wanting to share some of the progress I have made since my last blog in which I reflected on the crazy highs and lows of the first year in business.
However having had complete writers block for the last year, mainly due to a crazy brain, endlessly overflowing with inspiration for designs .....Most frustratingly at 3 am the "light bulb moment" I now find myself sitting in a writers lock-in to focus my attention.....not a wire in sight. (sigh) just indulgent biscuits, coffee and the company of a few other creative ladies.
One of the biggest things I have learnt to date is to recognise the areas of the business that I procrastinate over.... and over....and over! How many of us do that? I will do it tomorrow, next week .......whoops it's next year!
So today is the day I’m going to introduce you to one of the amazing people I have met on my fascinating journey and the reason I am 'locked -in' today.
Following on from this over the next few weeks I will introduce you to some other wonderfully creative people that have helped my journey this year.
I'm sure most artistic people would agree the one thing that comes easily is the designing and the creating. I can happily spend 12 hours in my workshop, oblivious to everything, usually only moving when the cat leaps on me to remind me she needs feeding. The fridge is empty, the house untidy, messages on the phone mount up along with the washing and ironing pile. All the while I’m happy in my own world oblivious to all but the house collapsing.
I met Claire at 'Mumpreneurs' and felt an instant connection, although young enough to be my daughter she had the positive bubbly confident personality and the edginess to connect with my style. And had grown up in the social media, online world unlike myself......a dinosaur in comparison
Claire is a coach, radio presenter, blogger, mother, and wife and above all has a great voice and way with words.
I had created some amazing designs that had every bit of my heart and soul poured into them but no way of expressing that on my website.
So the 'marriage' was formed, I enlisted Claire's help, sent her scant ramblings of how my designs were inspired, the countries that influenced them, the names of the goddesses and stones I had chosen for them
Claire, I'm sure is a witch - of the 'best kind' as she certainly possessed the power to get inside my head, writing the most powerful, beautiful descriptions for each goddess design, invoking all the feelings I knew I had locked inside but couldn't put in words.
It was more than emotional reading about my own products and I have to say bought a tear to my eye.
So here I am at the writers lock in, making a positive step towards unlocking my own thoughts and getting them down. With the help of Claire Bradford from www.straightforwardcoaching.com
on my next blog I will share my journey that led to the great images on my website.
Preparing for year two in business June 14 2014, 0 Comments
I can't believe it's June already, where has the last six months gone? How often do you feel like 24 hours is never enough and even with double the amount of time you will never manage to do everything on the to do list?
As you can tell the first six months of this year....allegedly the quieter months have been no such thing. I've been hard at work reevaluating my business, after all there is no point learning lessons if you don't act on them is there?
So you ask? what did you learn in the first twelve months of business? Well for one, not to book a fair for each weekend meaning you work seven days a week without a break! What idiot would do that? its against all EU regulations! lets call it research rather than stupidity. About a handful worked well, the others were lets say an opportunity to visit other parts of the county and meet other crafters which although lovely was hardly the best use of precious weekends.
Lesson number one learnt ...be selective about the type and quality of show, ensure it has a great reputation, great following and attracts your ideal clientele. Quality rather than quantity and hey suddenly you have a life back! Not rocket science but a painful lesson.
Lesson number two, don't try to please everyone, decide your market, price point and a few well designed, finished and packaged collections and stick with it. Attempting to be cheap, expensive, women's, men's, kids, and everything in between gets confusing and looks a mess on a small display. A few well executed ranges, well displayed looks far more appealing and sophisticated.
Lesson number three, invest in long lasting, good quality displays. Your work is only as good as it's perceived and your display can make a world of difference when you only have a 2x1 m space to attract people. Equally time and effort spent designing paperwork, branding, packaging, etc makes a world of difference.
So following these revelations and changes to my business plan I have kicked off year two with six wonderful high end exhibitions, bespoke packaging, my goddess range of five exclusive limited edition collections and some up market display goodies. I will let you know in due course how it goes and have no doubt that once again it will be a year of revelation and learning.
What does handmade mean to you?? October 17 2013, 0 Comments
I can honestly say it is something I had never put much thought into. I had spent years collecting handmade jewellery from my travels but it tended to be the uniqueness of the item as opposed to the cost that attracted me.
Having started my own handmade jewellery business just a year ago I have come to the realisation that for a lot of people ‘handmade’ is a label that barely warrants much thought other than price and style.
Style is often very unique with handmade goods but costs can vary wildly depending on whether the maker is a hobbyist, just trying to cover the cost of materials in order to make the next batch or someone trying to run a business and earn a living doing what they love.
If I had a pound for every person that said to me “isn’t that unique you’re so talented” or “it’s so beautiful it must have taken you hours, where do your ideas come from? Etc. then walked off…… I would be a millionaire by now. So what is it about handmade that makes so many walk past with lovely words but a reluctance to buy?
As a handmade jewellery artist I go to great lengths to source and select all my materials. This means travelling far and wide to find wires, gemstones and beads that are not only different but of a quality that I’m happy with. My life no longer includes shopping for clothes, make up, shoes and perfume. These days wherever I happen to be in the world I’m hunting for gems and beads, checking out craft markets and boutique shops selling handmade items. Gathering ideas and inspiration, taking photos, studying colours, texture, form. I’m constantly envisaging my next design.
Every piece is designed individually, this usually means taking a notepad to bed and at 3am when my crazy brain is buzzing and you’re sound asleep I’m sketching ideas, ready to experiment with them the next day. The ideas, thankfully, never stop but need to be worked on as soon as possible before the moment is lost.
I test wear a sample from new designs for many months to ensure the quality and durability is of a standard that I’m happy with. My pieces have to be comfortable, as neat on the back as the front. Striking without being heavy and above all enjoyable to wear.
There is no such thing as an eight hour day. An artist’s work is never done. We live, breathe and dream our craft. When not actively making pieces, we are booking shows, marketing, accounting, planning displays, taking photos, updating websites etc.
How can this passion, commitment, time, effort and creativity be valued?? The short answer is it can’t unless you are an artist at the top of your trade.
Most of the ‘handmade’ craftspeople I have had the pleasure to meet feel almost guilty asking for money for doing something they love. Most will say they could never charge for the hours they spend making items. How much do you cost the design element and uniqueness off a product? The time spent researching, sourcing, experimenting, testing, cost of paying for fairs, petrol, insurance, displays and standing for hours in all weathers hoping people will appreciate what you do and choose ‘handmade’ over mass produced.
So I ask you, next time you go to an ‘arts or craft fair’ or look at ‘handmade’ goods, spend a moment chatting to the artist……….we are really nice people and love you to show an interest. Take time to look at the designs, and quality of materials. Imagine the love and energy, time and commitment that goes into each piece. The pleasure we get from knowing you appreciate our work. Then rest assured that we are dedicated to customer service and will happily do anything we can to help you find your perfect piece or even make it just for you.
It might cost a little more than a mass produced item but you are getting something money can’t buy, a little piece of our heart and soul and a whole lot of love.
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