Recent research – summarised here on our website a couple of weeks ago – highlighted the rapid growth in small business start-ups, particularly in the craft sector. It is an area in which both women and men excel and in Somerset there is a vibrant creative community of artists, sculptors, jewellers, needleworkers, bakers and others engaged in producing products to fill local markets and shops.
We have discovered some valuable advice for anyone who has recently started such a business or is thinking of doing so. Patricia van den Akker is the director of The Design Trust, the online business school for designers and makers based in London and she has recently written an article for The Guardian which offers the following tips:
- Think of alternative income streams – private commissions, licensing your designs and creating and selling small quantities of your work. Private commissions and teaching can ‘get your name out there’ and the additional income can give you more time in the studio.
- Start off with a small range of your best work targeted at a particular market, and only offer your best work.
- Time management – you may want to spend all your time making things, but, Patricia suggests, you should spend around 40% of your time creating, 40% on marketing, 10% on administration and 10% on professional development to ensure your business is stable.
- Set goals – work out what you want to achieve by the end of the year and think about your financial goals. Identify specific shops, online marketplaces or fairs where you would like to sell. What are your ambitions for your business in the coming years? Write them down to motivate and plan.
- Marketing – Patricia stresses the importance of raising your profile and although we aren’t all comfortable with blowing our own trumpet it is vital to commit to at least three consumer events in the first year. You could help organise a local show or open studio event.
- Create a professional online presence – and get on to it straight away. A basic website is the minimum you need and grow from there, perhaps offering an online shop, using social media and popular marketplaces, such as Etsy or Folksy.
- Pricing – a difficult process. Make sure you don’t undersell yourself. Checking with competitors is a useful exercise. How does your profile, presentation and branding compare to other makers? Patricia suggests you calculate how many products you need to sell, and at what price, to break even and then to reach your financial goal.
- Plan ahead – for busy times of year, such as Christmas when may craft businesses sell the majority of their products.
- Keep learning -make a list of what you want to do and what you need to learn. There is lots of advice to help crafting businesses online.
And don’t forget mentoring!! Get in touch with us to discuss the possibility of joining our growing band of small businesses in receipt of free advice from experienced business people.