For International Women's Day, I took part in a panel talking about how women support each other in social networks. I reflected on how my whole business has grown because of social networks, online and in real life. I jotted down some of my thoughts prior to the evening and decided to share them here.
I run a business selling personalised bunting, children’s accessories and I teach beginner and intermediate crochet in London. I also co-run Highams Park Creatives; a platform for high quality crafters, designers, artists and craft teachers to share and promote their work. In addition I also co-run Highams Park Arts & Culture (ARC), a community forum to promote, celebrate and organise art and cultural events in Highams Park. We are currently organising an ARC Trail which will be happening 11-20th May 2018.
I was a primary school teacher but after having my 3 children (just 3 and half years between the oldest and youngest) found childcare to be almost equal to what I was earning so I quit! I only learnt to sew and crochet after I had kids so you never know what is round the corner in life!
I’ve always given everything I do 100% so decided to put my energy into growing my craft business - knowing nothing about running a business!
My cousin, who also ran a craft business at the time, recommended a book Craft a Creative Business by Fiona Pullen which helped massively.
Turnover has increased 10 fold since 2015. If it can keep growing like that there’s a real chance I will not need to return to teaching and can keep running the business to support the family as i fits well round family life.
Drive and determination has spurred me on but without social networks in real life and online it would not have been possible. I have found woman in particular so free-giving in the advice, time and encouragement they give.
A few questions and helpful suggestions here and there has led me to the next step of developing the business.
One example is a woman who had seen my bunting in Oh My Cafe wanted to place an order. At that point I only had a Facebook page. She was not on facebook and asked about a website which I didn’t have so I made one!
More recently I was talking about how to increase traffic to my website with my friend Sinead. She runs Papergrace, an award winning wedding stationery and paper goods business. I learned that I needed to improve my SEO. (I then needed to find out what SEO stood for!!). I went on to learn stands for Search Engine Optimisation or how to get found on search engines by having key words embedded in a website.
Seeing Sinead’s beautiful Instagram feed led me to doing a photography workshop, on her recommendation, run by Emily Quinton from Makelight who prides herself on having four children and being a kick-ass business woman and super lovely. She taught me all about flat-lays, lighting and editing photographs.
Over the last few years, I’ve had to learn how to improve my sewing, crochet and photography skills. I’ve also had to learn how to edit pictures, build a website, improve SEO, use Etsy, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Following a conversation with a woman I taught to crochet, I’ve recently been following a PR Guru called Kate Beavis who has given me tips on working with journalists.
Through FB groups, following Instagram users, I have been inspired and found the information I needed to take my business to the next step. This is ongoing and the learning journey will be never-ending thought the assistance of my social networks.
I have learned from other businesses too such as Liz at Ziggy’s Cafe and Afshan at Oh My Cafe where informal chats have helped me move on. And Sinead must be sick of my, ‘and how do you do x, y and z’ but always advises with a smile. Emma Finnigan of Emma Finnigan PR, got me to write a quote for Mollie Makes Magazine (which is a big deal for a craft-nerd!). Below is the piece from November 2016.
Spurred on by others such as my friend and blogger, Kate Milner of London with a toddler. She wrote a lovely blog post which motivated me when I felt a bit down and lost my crafty mojo. Another friend who first encouraged me to sell the personalised bunting I made for her. I was given confidence by Gill Poulter, long standing Highams Park resident, to take on bigger things like running ARC with my ARC team. And last but not least, my co-workers Jade, Kerry and Claire at ARC/HPC who keep me going when I feel like it’s all too consuming!
What is the moral of the story? Even a small informal interaction, such as a chat in the playground or in an online forum, can provide inspiration, encouragement and excitement about moving forward.