14 December 2007

Well, hang it all!

Just a quick blog today - had a query from a shop in Dorset saying they love my Let's Sail Away Wallhanging and did I do wholesale? Am chuffed to bits that they like it enough to ask! I know little about the ins and outs of wholesale apart from the fact that it can mean working to tight deadlines for little money BUT I have had some advice on what to watch out for from some dear people (you know who you are) and I thank them heartily for it.

And so I shall wait to hear more and then make my decision. Who knows?

But it's nice to be asked....

11 December 2007

The Quiet Time

As those of you who read my blog yesterday will know, I spent most of the last few days sitting with the littlest one on my lap. Lovely on the one hand as I not only got those cuddles, but time to think as well. Unfortunately the other hand provided the downside; this time to think meant my mind dwelt on the problem of what seems to be referred to in small business land as 'The Quiet Time' - specifically January and February. Now I have worked hard to avoid thinking about this for now as it has taken all my energy to get this project off the ground and keep up with the unexpected (but lovely) early success of it. This is not how I usually work. I worry over a problem until I come up with a few possible things to try, decide on the one that appears to offer the most possibilities and then give it my all. This time I think it feels too big or maybe I am just a bit tired; either way, I have swerved around the problem of The Quiet Time and left it well alone for the moment...or so I thought. Yesterday the Quiet became a booming noise insistently crashing in my brain, refusing to be quelled and demanding to be dealt with.

I wonder what other small businesses of a similar ilk do in these months when we all nurse our over-stretched purse strings? I guess established groups have long term custom that call for those gifts/birthday presents/treats that sell all year come what may, but when the business is as new as mine (still only 3 months) then this is unlikely to be the case. One avenue I hope may help a little is the NoTHs 'store' which I joined recently, but the bulk of their sales also come in the lead up to Christmas and so I expect a drop off there too.

Of course, this could be a wonderful time for exploring new designs for the Spring, a time to play with fabrics and let the imagination become immersed in the warmer months without the pressure of fulfilling orders needed in a hurry....that's if you live in the land of Country Living (where I would sooo love to live!) and have a hubby who works in the City or is a property developer or...well, you get the gist. Many of these people we read about have another string to the financial bow in terms of a partner with fairly substantial earnings. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle what these people do just point out that the risk is not the same. For us, as with so many of you, the business is a huge risk as we need the income. Should I be doing this or should I be going back to a regular wage? With the instant orders that rolled in it has been easy to believe I am doing the right thing - that was until The Quiet Time shouted in my ear.

I have a few things up my sleeve, one of which is going onto my website later today -my Heirloom Cloth (shown in yesterday's pics for some reason!). This has been something of a pet project of mine, tried and tested on a wide group of people in Cornwall and seems to have struck a cord in a way I hadn't quite expected. The notion was simple...a cotton cloth which I send out complete with indelible pen which your family/friends/whoever is around your table sign and which is then returned to me in the bag provided to have the names embroidered as a permanent reminder, as an heirloom to be passed down through the years. I sold some and was pleased with the reactions to the idea even from people who I admit I thought would not particularly want this kind of thing. Word spread a little and I sold a few more. Now I am beginning to think I am on to something as I have been asked by quite a few people for one of these cloths. Some want to know if the names can be embroidered in colours; others want to know if they can have messages. One lady wanted to know if I could scallop the edges and did I know how to do drawn threadwork (where you create decorative holes in the cloth). The answer to all these was yes and so the Heirloom Cloth was born and will bring in a tiny, but important nonetheless, income in The Quiet Months as these cloths return for their names to be stitched.

Just need to think of a few dozen more of these Good Ideas!!!!

Pipany xx

Ps. If you are after a gorgeous Christmas door wreath and can't make your own have a look at the ones made by Jane of Snapdragon; they are truly beautiful - the best I've seen - and there's still time to order!

The Big Match

It's funny how things go. There you are one minute feeling as though you have things sorted, under control, and then it all changes. I was feeling a tad smug that's the problem. On top of orders, nay ahead of myself I'd go so far as to say, and even thinking about scribbling some ideas onto paper for next year - ways to move things on, new products, etc - but the gods were bored up there on their fluffy clouds and decided to bring some reality back into the world of Miss Pipany-too-high-on-her-pedestal.

We had storms and on the Sunday a walloping great willow departed from the hedge to land crashing into two gardens which run down the length of ours. It took a fence or two on its merry way and telephone cables to boot; miraculously no-one was hurt and the neighbour's new, partly-finished garage build was left intact, but there it is lying like some vast creature across two previously neat gardens while our own lies untouched by its descent....which means the insurance won't touch us. Only if our own buildings, fences, etc had been touched would they have helped. Lovely.

But this was not enough for the gods...no, Pipany had been just too cheery in her little sewing room so they made sure the 77mile an hour winds also drove the torrential rains into her precious sewing room and thus she ran with bucket to hand and almost wept at the potential devastation the night could bring. Peachy.

Enough surely, I hear you cry. Er, that would be a no. Determination straightening her spine and manically shouting 'Ha, Bring it on!!' to the world at large, Pipany then found a further challenge to the running of her empire-ette (I kid myself)...Isabella got croup. Now, to the uninitiated let me tell you what this usually means; the nights have passed in a blur of wheezing, crying and coughing fit for a Dickensian novel. Bless her little socks. She has been poorly and wanting to sit on her Mummy's lap, while her Mummy has been sitting thinking about the orders needing to be completed in the erste-while dry sewing room and also nursing dark thoughts about insurance companies which may/may not involve dolls and pins!

And sew (forgive me, but I am truly sleep-deprived!) to end this sorry tale on a brighter note.... did the gods win? Did they heck! This is me and I will not be flipping beaten quite yet! The tree will be turned into much firewood at vast expense, but ah well, at least no-one was hurt. The sewing room has been sealed up and nothing got wet so that could have been worse. And poor little Isabella being poorly means my tiny whirlwind actually sat snuggled up for extended periods rather than racing off to new adventures every two minutes which was pure bliss for a mummy who loves to cuddle (and sit come to think of it).

And as for the empire? The orders are done and packaged ready for the off (what else are the midnight hours for?) and I have written down a few ideas for next year after all. I have finally worked out how to market my heirloom tablecloth as a kit and will be putting it onto my website tomorrow which I am quite excited about...or I would be if only I didn't have this need to curl up and snooze...just for a minute...honest...

The Final Result

The gods - 0 Pipany - 1


Pipany xx

4 December 2007


Ship, Ship Sailing Game

The last week has flown in a flurry of adding yet more new skills to my repertoire. Having mastered the management of my own website I also had to set up shop within the NOTHS store and this of course involved a completely different system to my own. Reams of advice, rules, regulations and 'how to' appeared on the screen. Not very encouraging. I had orders calling me back to the sewing room, but knew that having invested my money I needed to get this new site up and running to maximise the selling potential for Christmas. I worked all through Sunday, most of Monday and a bit of Tuesday, and finally it was ready for me to click the activation button. The site was live by Monday evening and actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be to do. I suppose I actually know what I am doing now rather than feeling the world of websites is beyond me.

So, to todays lesson....don't let yourself be put off.

A business needs a website in this computer savvy world and therefore it pays to learn the skills. Most of the sites, whether a package set up such as www.moonfruit.com , the one I used for my own site, or a portal site such as NOTHS there is usually plenty of info to guide you through. It may seem off-putting but, trust me, it is just a case of sitting there and doing it. Anyone who has filled in endless forms for Child Benefit, Tax Credits, etc is more than capable of working through this kind of information. What you need to remember is that these companies want your business; it doesn't pay them to make it impossible for their customers to do, espeially as anything internet based is already part of a highly competitive market.

And lesson no.2....TIME.

These sites are your showcase. They are your way of reaching a potentially wider marketplace than any number of shops, fairs and occasional magazine articles can ever do, not that these aren't all worthwhile and necessary means of promoting a business too. The global market is huge and can be accessed by most, but for it to be effective you must be competitive - the layout, the copy used to sell your goods and the images all have to work together as the problem with such a massive market is that the competition is also massive. All this takes time and effort which will take you away from producing the stock you need. It's a dilemma and definitely suggests paying a website designer would be the way to go, but for most small businesses this is an impossible cost to justify.

What's the answer? Determination and endless energy I suspect! Certainly scheduling in time for this important work is a definite must. Though not difficult once you are familiar with the format, it is not something to be considered an after-thought and, as with any good shop, there is a need to move things around and add/remove stock periodically to avoid a stale look which will stop people from returning. Again more time. Certainly in my own case where I am now effectively maintaining two sites, it is time for me to move away from lists on bits of paper and move to an organised yearly planner where all these things are given an allotted space and do not get pushed to the backburner (soory Zoe, bit slow but I got there in the end!).

Time...don't underestimate it.

Oh and before I go, a little update on NOTHS - my store went live on Monday evening and yesterday I received two quite substantial orders; the beating heart is stilled...just a little.

Pipany x