For the first post in my blog small business series 'Show & Tell' I shared with you a few of the things that have tripped me up and that I have learnt since I started Winter's Moon. Today it is turn of my wonderful friend Shirley Scott who runs Handprinted.
For a short period Handprinted was based next door to the Winter's Moon studio, Shirley and I became good friends sharing the struggle of running an online business and also a love of the creative stuff. Handprinted sadly needed more space so Shirley moved to a larger premises in Bognor in 2015 and has created a really great business there selling and teaching all things printmaking.
How long? 15 years with lots of changes along the way.
Who? I work full-time in the business and employ Holly full-time and Tom part-time along with a bunch of freelance practitioners who come to the studio to teach.
Products? We sell printmaking and dyeing supplies and teach printmaking in our studio upstairs from the shop.
How it’s sold? Online, in the shop and at occasional print fairs.
Did you create a business plan before you started out?
No! The first two years of Handprinted was a completely different guise. Handprinted was the name I gave for my printed textiles that I sold at gift fairs alongside teaching printmaking at the local Adult Ed College. I found selling my own work a bit soul destroying when I occasionally overheard someone saying that they could find similar much cheaper on the high street. At the same time my students were finding it difficult to source their materials from one place so I started sourcing materials and selling to them and through eBay which was still quite a new market place. A friend offered to build a website and in 2005 it went live. I was lucky with timing the internet was much less competitive back then so I found my niche quite quickly.
How did you fund your business at the beginning?
I was working part-time while our children were small. I didn’t have any funding apart from my small pot of savings. I was lucky that I didn’t need to take any money from the business to begin with so any profit got ploughed back into the business.
What small thing that you do has made the biggest difference?
Being very customer focussed and trying to get orders out and answer queries as quickly as possible. We also include a packet of Love Hearts in every order which has proved really popular on social media!
What have you learnt the hard way about your business?
So many things….the biggest one was not trusting my gut. We once had a new website built and I was worried about losing our Google ranking so I stupidly took someone else’s advice and launched a second website with a different url (.net rather than .co.uk). I thought we could run the two sites side by side and then merge when the new site had risen up the ranks. The reality was that we ran two separate sites for about two years and confused many customers along the way.
What piece of advice or guidance were you given has been the most useful?
Don’t pay much attention to the competition as it will squash your own creativity.
What sources do you use for business advice / learning / support?
Mostly friends running similar businesses.
If someone gave you a small lump sum to invest in your business right now what would you spend it on?
There are lots of new product lines I would like to invest in but with each new product we need time to trial it and understand it’s properties so we can inform our customers. So if I could buy a chunk of time that would be great!