Last night I managed to take part in the chat with the @Craftblogclub on Twitter, having participated earlier in the year, but more recently realising that I had just missed it! I actually came across it having met one of the bloggers/makers through a craft market that we used to do.
Last night we were discussing our next projects and what Christmas fairs (if any) we are doing. Obviously we’re doing 2 in Chalfont St Peter and Chorleywood, on a reduced schedule due to impending house move!
There are lots of these creative groups on Twitter now, like Folksyhour and Handmadehour. Its a great way to share information, ideas and to even arrange crafty meet ups. I’ll have to see if I can take part in either of those, maybe as a one off.
@craftblogclub currently chats Tuesdays 7.30-8pm on Twitter
I spent a good portion of the morning fulfilling a couple of orders that came in towards the end of this week, which is great! I’ve been really keen to see the website orders pick up and it is happening when we’ve actually stepped back a lot due to packing up the flat to move (soon…hopefully next month?), so who knows what we can do once we’re settled into our new work space? Exciting times!
We’ve cancelled our place at the Chalfont fair again because it could have been in the middle of the move, but we are definitely doing the Christmas one. Can’t wait to get back into that and getting known by new customers. It’s always worth being there every time as people can get to know you and come back to see what else you have on your stall.
We now need to get making for those Christmas events!
Here at The Soap Cabin, we care about the environment and try to re-use and recycle where we can. As well as using recycled labels, boxes and shredded paper, we also hang on to any packaging we get through deliveries of supplies, such as cardboard boxes and jiffy bags, and use this again for packaging up orders to send out to customers. I recently bought a portable tap dance practice board for home (my main hobby!) and the box contained SO MUCH bubble wrap, so I have kept all of it to use for sending out orders! It saves us buying bubble wrap (not sure I have ever had to buy any), and it also stops it going straight in the bin.
I was thinking about our body butter tins recently. Once you’ve finished with it, what do you do with it? Well, why not wash it out and re-purpose it?
- Refill it with another product
- Use it for storing jewellery, buttons, pins, stationery
- Use it to store sweeties
- Make a candle and set it in the tin
- Turn it into a gift for someone else
- (Or, we are happy to take back your empties if you are coming to one of our craft markets)
Sorry! I feel like I haven’t written much on the blog lately! Maybe it is that Winter get-your-head-down-and-get-through-it thing. Now the days are getting longer; lighter mornings, lighter evenings, and suddenly I feel like I’m getting the ‘spring’ back in my step, if you’ll excuse the pun. (I also do Tap Dance, so…)
I was also wondering recently if there is also the aspect of our hyper-connected age, where we have access to so many blogs, that we can almost be intimidated by the really good ones, which then makes us hesitant to write our own because it’s not as interesting/funny/cool etc etc. (It can be the same with a business or product).
I try not to be too bothered about what other people are doing, but I’ve found when looking for ideas that I have been drawn to blogs written by seemingly ‘successful’ people sharing their amazing stories of starting their own business or going freelance. People who quit their day job to travel the world and earn tons of money from their blog, which they write by the pool…when they feel like it… This then breeds dissatisfaction in the reader. How did they do it? Why I am still stuck in the same job/routine? Why do I not have thousands of Twitter/Facebook/Instagram followers like they do?
But then, I drop back down to earth. Social media is full of people bragging about how great their lives are and how successful or good-looking they are, and very rarely, if at all do we see the real person with personal struggles, sleep deprivation, writer’s block, lack of inspiration to make or design or just a season of really poor sales!
What do you think? Is hyper-connectivity swamping you?
I regularly tune into to watch BBC’s Dragon’s Den and have been watching it ever since the days of Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce. Business owners, entrepreneurs, inventors and wheeler dealers go on the show to pitch their business or invention to the panel of Dragons, which have included business power houses such as Hilary Devey, Kelly Hoppen, and Peter Jones for a large investment and a percentage of equity in their business.
Someone asked me jokingly if I would be applying to go on Dragon’s Den with The Soap Cabin. Firstly:
- The Dragons want the finished, already hugely successful product or business. It should already be turning over LOTS of money and you MUST know your figures!
- You cannot remain ‘handmade’ or ‘British made’. For the dragons to see a return on their investment, you HAVE to go big or go home. You just cannot compete with cheap manufacture in China or Taiwan if you want to scale up. Scaling up to national or international level means mass production to meet demand and therefore you can kiss truly handmade production goodbye. Many of the pitchers have been disappointed because they thought the Dragons would just give them money and then guidance on producing their product quicker. They wanted success immediately, so the Dragons ask if they are willing to move production to India. They say ‘no’ and it’s over.
You HAVE to go big or go home
- We want to remain a handmade, British cottage industry, small batch producer with a personal touch, which is why we firstly aimed at our local area to build relationships through face-to-face interactions and word-of-mouth, therefore building the significance of our web presence, rather than it just being another cold website among millions. We are also currently able to cope with our orders and adjust as we see fit. Handmade is in. People increasingly want to know how their stuff is made, where it comes from and what’s in it; probably a reaction to mass production. Several handmade businesses who went on the show were actually advised to just keep doing what they’re doing because otherwise it would mean moving production abroad and their products would no longer be British, bespoke or unique.
Handmade is in
- Less than half of successful pitches on Dragon’s Den actually get investment. Many pitchers have dropped out after their TV appearance brought them interest and increased sales, or they received a better deal from elsewhere after the TV show airing. There are also the cases of people being overwhelmed, changing their mind about handing over equity in their business, not wanting to go that big immediately, or the usual issues with patents. Read more here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/11/half-of-dragons-den-investments-fall-through-after-the-show/
I read an article this week by a lady who had a handmade soap business in the USA. In the article she was actually explaining why she had closed her business. To sum it up, she wanted instant success and went too big too soon:
- She went on TV with her soaps, orders increased beyond what she could fulfil
- She had soaps in loads of stores nationally and…orders increased beyond what she could fulfil
- One store she pitched to wanted her to drop her price to fit with their range. This will ALWAYS happen when you try to put your products in a national chain. Margins will be squeezed!
- She was told she needed to have more than just soap in her range, but wasn’t interested. I learnt this fairly near the beginning of our Soap Cabin venture when doing our first ever market stall, because it is strikingly obvious on a stall table when you only have one type of product. Variety and type of product draws people in. We expanded to making body butters, aromatherapy oils, bath bombs (have since dropped these) and selling bath accessories. The lady in the article took the advice to mean mugs and T-shirts?!?
I don’t believe real success is instant, and I believe success is in the eye of the beholder. The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because someone at a party recently asked if I was interested in getting into department stores because they have many buyer contacts through their work. It is great to be presented with that opportunity, but I am keen to stick with our ethos of handmade, small batch for the time being. Also, as mentioned above,there is the practicality of fulfilling the quantity required. I have seen the national store thing work for Neals Yard and Tisserand, who are both in Waitrose and John Lewis, but they have been going for quite a while on the aromatherapy scene and work quite well in that environment. But I notice other natural soap-type products in those stores gradually creeping to the dusty bottom shelf; they are like a small fish in a big pond and I’m not sure I want The Soap Cabin to get lost in that environment.
Anyway, lots to think about; but we’re definitely not applying to Dragon’s Den!
The Soap Cabin will be closed until 3rd Jan. Happy Holidays!
I love how everyone seems to think doing a 4 day a week HR job in London and trying to run a small craft business on the side is one big jolly. I’m so jaded with tiredness right now and have been on the receiving end of a few throwaway comments recently 😦
*Keep going, stay positive*
I think I’m going to have to focus on the bigger goal of eventually concentrating on The Soap Cabin full time and retain a thick skin in the meantime…