Yesterday we took part in the Family Christmas Fair at Beaconsfield School, organised by Iain Rennie Hospice. We were very excited about this one because it was our first ever fair in Bucks (I have been hoping to get into a good fair with high footfall in the South Bucks area for a while), the fair is usually well supported with 500+ footfall and Beaconsfield is a wealthy commuter town.
The day went fairly well and we were on a table next to our friends Bjarne & Sarah of Artistry Coffee, but there were several lulls in the day due to the atrocious weather outside, and I think the footfall was half of what it usually is. It was raining when we arrived to unload and raining even harder when we were loading up to leave! So unfortunately I didn’t get any shots of the picturesque character buildings in the Old Town for the blog.
The thing I love about fairs is the opportunity to chat with people about problem skin, and I had several conversations with customers yesterday about eczema and how there is sometimes a lack of understanding around it, like “can’t you just put some E45 on it?” probably to do with the way adverts simplify the condition to a dry skin issue. (E45 is a petroleum-based emollient that does nothing for itching and I found it actually stung my irritated skin, which wasn’t actually dry, but clammy). One lady was telling me that her sister made her a pair of cotton mittens to sleep in because she would scratch in her sleep. We also discussed adult chickenpox with a few other people and we decided that calamine lotion doesn’t do much either. So it was a good way in to talk about the benefits of our calendula-infused Soothing Skin Balm and Soothing Skin Oil, (all natural ingredients, calming, can be used head to toe, I keep one in my handbag…)
You will notice our new jute The Soap Cabin banner on the table display; I made this after seeing someone in the US had something similar (professionally printed I think), so I decided to whip one up on Friday, using a burlap sack, a home-made stencil, a black ink pad and a sponge!
Next up: St Clement Danes School Christmas Food & Gift Fair, Chorleywood 29th Nov 11am-3pm
At the moment we are working around the clock (as my nan would say) to get our products ready for the first of our line-up of Christmas fairs, the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home Christmas Fair at The Beaconsfield School (not to be confused with Beaconsfield High School) up the road in South Bucks. We’ve been melting butter, mixing and pouring oils, infusing soap mix with essential oils, wrapping, sticking, labelling, stamping, ordering more supplies, stressing…. It’ll all be fine…I’m sure!
As a craft or small business owner, do you ever find people are constantly giving you unsolicited advice? Do you appreciate it, or do you find it annoying? Since starting the Soap Cabin, I’ve had a heck of a lot of ‘you shoulds’.
- You should get on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Linkedin/Etsy/Folksy/Banksy/Boo Er yes, we are on the ones we consider important.
- You should have a Facebook Shop We already have a shop…on our OWN website. We use Facebook for advertising purposes only.
- You should apply to the Prince’s Trust for funding I’m too old to qualify?!!
- You should rent a shop in xyz That costs a lot of money, and many small businesses have had to close shops.
- You should do this event and that event We are already booked up with several events that work for our costs, schedule and aims for the business, and don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, but thank you.
- You should make xyz product Actually, we used to make that product, but it didn’t sell, it’s not unique and we were wasting money on ingredients…also, most people have showers these days.
- You should have an Etsy shop We did consider this, but with sites like Etsy, you are a small fish in a big pond
- You should do wholesale At this point The Soap Cabin was in its infancy and we were just testing the market and wanting to develop our own line to begin with.
- You should have a big banner on your stall saying… Are you going to pay for it?? LOL
- We should go into business together NO WE SHOULDN’T
- You should go on Dragon’s Den NO
The best one was from Ralph:
You should be wearing something brighter on your stall, not grey! There was no interest in our products at all, just ‘here’s my card’. Needless to say, I almost told this self-promoting performing arts-based individual standing in front of my stall where to go, but held my tongue – ever the professional!
The intention is usually well meaning, but when you’ve done your own research, you have a clear idea of your own goals and aims, have sought the advice of people who know what they’re talking about, and the person just seems to throw things out there without actually finding out where you’re at, it can be irritating! Some people are just born fixers and like to point out what you could be doing better all the time without actually listening to anything you have to say. They drop it on you and walk away. Some people just love the sound of their own voice, or do it to make you feel like an amateur compared to their vast knowledge.
Other people have offered advice because they have started something similar themselves maybe run their own business, mentor business start-ups, blog, or just make stuff and understand where we’re coming from and know how to give helpful feedback, like Marco who bought a bar of Lemongrass & Lime Soap to try, and then told us that it was nice, but the scent needed to be stronger, so we took his feedback increased our essential oil concentration in all our soaps, or a fellow stall holder who mentioned some fairs and markets that they had done that had great foot fall and said they could see our products fitting in there and give us the details if we were interested. Someone else suggested joining a local women’s business network – I’d never thought of that, so I checked them out.
What are we up to next?
- Christmas Fair for Ian Rennie Hospice at Beaconsfield School in Bucks on 14th Nov
- St Clement Danes Craft & Gift Fair in Chorleywood on 29th Nov
- Little Fox Market Christmas Market on 12th Dec
- Christmas Lunch at some pub or other…