Finding time to take stock of how your small business is doing is so important but (and put your hand up if I am talking about you) it tends to be the last thing we do. There are always other things that need to be done that appear to be more important. When Sarah from Tilly Mint Boutique emailed and asked if wanted to go to the Folksy Summer School, I couldn’t say yes quick enough. Taking time out was a much needed shot in my small business arm.
So drumroll please, the first important thing I learned is take time out to learn what is going on in your industry by attending a seminar or a “school” like the Folksy Summer School.
The second thing I learned is the best way to increase the value of your product is through the use of photography. Each and every person who spoke – whether it was James Boardwell from Folksy , Tilly Walnes from The Great British Sewing Bee or Claire Bates from Landbaby – said that your product or service needs the best possible photo in order for potential buyers to be interested. And there was a fantastic mini course on how to get a great product shot using minimal outlay by the super talented Lyndsay James who demystified how to set a stage when shooting your product. When I look at my notes from this session, I noticed that I had circled the words “first impressions count” and that is why having a bad photo is not an option (btw – I took all the photos you see in this post and if you have been following me through the years, these photos are much better than my previous ones!)
Trying to develop your business can also be a scary prospective – how do you know if you have a product that people will want and that would be profitable to sell? How do you know you are even on the right path? I know for Make and Do, it is a constant process of reviewing and seeing where we can add value to the crafters that come through our door. But I don’t always get it right and rule number three is “there is no rulebook as to what will work in developing your business but you will need to be prepared to work hard, try new things and don’t be afraid to get it wrong”. When Andy Poplar, from Vinegar and Brown Paper included this nugget of knowledge in his presentation, it made me exhale with relief as I had often wondered if that was the case but no-one dare say it. So perhaps that one should be tattoed to your left thigh so you don’t forget it when you are not sure what to do! However, there a few websites that I do refer to when trying to do a bit of research that might help me make an “informed choice” and limit the possibility of doing something drastically wrong…
- Design Sponge has a great section called Biz Ladies which I think is hands down one of the best resources for up to date information on just about anything to do with small business ownership. Much if it is not rocket science but as they have it written by industry know alls, they can cover a topic in just a way that is a bit more…topical.
- Design Trust has an incredible amount of information on their website and they want to ensure that people who create are also business aware (and being business aware isn’t that scary when someone helps you along the way).
- Build a Little Biz is a website that I stumbled on and often times, find her free Toolbox as well as blog the right balance of help, motivation and a few choice swear words thrown in!
I know I said that I would limit the “important things I have learned” to just three, but as I am all about just doing that little extra I will include one more bit of information which was discussed that surprised me..
…you can never be too niche…
If you are all about cupcakes or bunting, the bad news is that those two market places are pretty saturated and entering them now means it will be an awful lot of work, just to stand still. But what you should be thinking about is whether that really whacky idea (I did have a lady that came to one of our beginning sewing workshops because she wanted to learn how to make ferret hammocks to sell – that, my friend, is niche!) start researching it to see what else exists. If you want to see if someone else sells it, check out Folksy . Then if you start to get a feeling that your idea has legs, check out some of the websites I have listed above for practical help in starting your business. If you already have a business, but are finding it may have hit a stagnation period, it is worth reflecting to what else you could offer that will set you apart from the others in your field. That involves research and tapping in to what you intuitively think you can offer that compliments your brand.
Alot to think about I know and I am hoping in the next few weeks to have some news to announce to help people with some of the items covered…so watch this space! Feel free to post with any comments that you have as would love to hear your thoughts.
And lastly, no matter how hard you are working, you should always make time to have something sweet along the way!