Over the several years I have been running Winter's Moon I have come to realise what an invaluable resource it is having friends who are self-employed to talk to. To learn from, get motivated by and also help keep your, sometimes precarious, small business afloat. I have realised too that the more we share with others, the more we learn.
This creative small business malarkey is not easy - there are definitely more straightforward, less stress-inducing ways to earn money, and at times it can be really demoralising. So I thought I would start a series of blog posts, asking nosey questions of other small businesses I admire - with the hope that we will all learn something useful along the way to keep us all floating along a little more smoothly!
So for the first post, you get my 'Show & Tell', I hope it's useful & thanks so much for stopping by!
How long? WM began very casually about 12 years ago & went online in 2009.
Who? I began it with a friend, but went solo about 6 years ago
Products? Vintage & modern homewares & furniture, many exclusive to WM.
How it’s sold? Online, through our studio & occasionally at events.
Did you create a business plan before you started out?
No, I have never had a formal business plan and suspect it has held me back, I am a typical creative, all about the visuals….less about the numbers. I do try to think ahead and analyse what works, what doesn’t, but I sell such an unusual variety of items it isn’t always easy. I have definitely had more of a plan with my products in the last 12 months though which has paid off.
How did you fund your business at the beginning? (no obligation if too cheeky a question)
I had no external sources of funding so did other work alongside & still occasionally take on stuff outside Winter’s Moon. It is definitely a harder road to have to live and grow a business off profits without an initial lump sum to invest (a supportive partner makes this alot easier). I am trying to take a few more risks in terms of investing rather than squirrelling my profits....maybe ask me next year how that plan pans out?
What small thing that you do has made the biggest difference?
Probably being particularly particular in terms of what I buy & sell. This has meant that items really have to have something about them whether its a vintage fabric or a new greetings card, to make me want to put my name to it. It also has resulted in me being really fortunate in having lots of lovely loyal repeat customers who have learnt to trust my eye & product descriptions especially in terms of the vintage items.
What have you learnt the hard way about your business?
The tricky task of creating a range of products that sit together under one brand but still can offer a variety of looks. I am very good at getting excited about a pattern or product idea, and then realising (sometimes too late) it just wouldn’t work with everything else I sell in the long term.
What piece of advice or guidance were you given has been the most useful?
When things are tough in terms of sales, (thank you Mr Cameron & your EU referendum, thank you Mrs May & your General Election!) they are generally tough for everyone & you just have to stop whingeing, dig deep and work harder to make sure that you survive when maybe others won’t.
What sources do you use for business advice / learning / support?
When I have time I read blogs on SEO / online marketing etc. I did an online instagram course with Me & Orla which was great and I learnt loads. I also subscribe to The Guardian Small Business Network and receive their newsletter which covers broader business issues. I also do a lot of talking to other self-employed friends - this is a massive help when working mostly on your own.
If someone gave you £5k to invest in your business right now what would you spend it on?
I would definitely get some help with my photography - some of my product shots aren’t quite as I would like and good photography is everything for an online business! I would also develop more furniture products as I have some stuff bubbling in my head & would like to get it out. The rest I would spend on online marketing help - tweaks to the website & improving my SEO - such a dark art and it's so hard to keep up the constantly shifting world of online.
If you are running your own business, it would be great to hear what you have learnt in your journey so far? All comments are very welcome!