Saturday, 8 June 2013

There is change ahead...

They Really Are...


Two blog posts in the space of a week.  That's a bit novel for me at the moment!!  It's been so hectic over the last few months - in fact I feel like I haven't really stopped since September last year!!!

About two months ago I started to feel stuck.  I wasn't feeling as motivational about my business and didn't know what to do to change things up and set a clear direction on where I want to be.

I'm getting there!

I think (I hope)!

Fabric I purchased today :-) :-) :-)

So, as always, I love to keep my fab customers/fans/likers etc fully informed so thought I would give you a little update on what's going to be happening around here.

One of the things I have had to have a long hard think about is whether I want my little business to remain little and to supplement my day job income or whether I want to throw caution to the wind, put my heart and soul into the business so that it grows much bigger so that eventually it becomes my only income and one I will LOVE doing.

I want my business to grow.

So, there needs to be changes in order to do this.  Some people will be disappointed by the changes, especially as some of my products will eventually no longer be available but I am also hoping for lots of support.  I hope I'm doing the right thing - but you know, what have I got to lose???  I'm willing to try and as long as I try my best then that's all that matters.

The first thing for me is that I'm losing my tag line to my business.  I've always been known as "Sweet Williams - Handmade Soft Furnishings, Cards and Gifts".  I will now be known as just Sweet Williams.  It is for many reasons as I am now doing other things such as running sewing workshops and I am not going to be making greetings cards any longer.

Card making does not make me money.  I enjoy making them but I charge very little for the amount of time I spend making and personalising them.  I cannot afford to sell them any longer.  I will be making up one large batch of cards to sell and I will then be selling all of my remaining card making goodies. I have a 5 drawer chest which is overflowing with beautiful papers, some of which are handmade, card toppers, embellishments, flowers, peel off stickers, sparkly things, blank cards, envelopes - just lots and lots of stuff.  I have lots still in its original packaging.  I am hoping to get a sale album up on Facebook in the next week.  Whatever does not sell on Facebook I will then pop on ebay.

The next thing I will be doing is limiting the amount of small gift type items that I make and stock.  If anyone has ever visited me at an event you will know how many different things I make (all of which are incredibly time consuming and most sewn by hand).  I will be having a range of decorations, beautiful embroidered hoops, a small selection of keyrings and brooches, and that will pretty much be it, everything else will be discontinued.  Although, I will continue to have special featured products and seasonal items.  I will be focusing much more on cushions, peg bags, aprons, tote bags etc.

I will continue to stock and sell a small range of haberdashery items.  All of my haberdashery items will be available to purchase online and at my sewing workshops.

Sewing workshops will continue to grow in my local community, which will be small clubs held in public venues such as libraries.  These will be low cost £5-£10 per person depending on the type of session.  They will be more of a social craft and chat event and the opportunity to learn a new skill with like minded people. These will be to learn about hand sewing and will be purely project based so my student gets to take away what they have made.

I am currently looking at studios.  My aim is to have a studio in my local area to run longer more professional sewing workshops (but which will still be friendly, informal and lots of fun), using machines to create cushions, peg bags, door stops etc.  Hand sewing will also take place at these sessions and again will be project based.  These are going to be longer sessions than the clubs held in the community and will likely cost upwards of £40 per person, again depending on what we will be making.  I have a vision of Welsh dressers stuffed full of handmade products, buttons and ribbons.  Lots of vintage style bunting, fresh lemonade, cupcakes - you get the idea?

My New Baby and gorgeous vintage finds x
I will be doing less events - certainly less of the smaller church hall/community centre type craft fairs.  This is incredibly awful to say but a lot of the ones I have been to, because of the type of venues that these are often held at, the lack of advertising for them, little effort made to the styling of them etc the type of people these kind of events attract are often not my ideal customer.  I have so many comments about things on my table saying "that's beautiful but is waaaay too expensive" and they're often referring to items that costs around £3!!  This has made alarm bells ring for me and which was why I decided to undertake an intense business coaching programme.

I know for a fact that I am underselling myself.  Like mentioned above, I have undertaken an intense coaching programme, have recently been a guest speaker at a local business networking event and have met some amazing fellow independent business owners over the last few weeks.  The coaching programme has allowed me to find my vision, has helped me pin down my ideal customer and has given me lots of ideas with regards to marketing.  Speaking to all of these people have all said my work is very under priced.  I am hand sewing for hours, I am selling British made products, nothing is mass produced, lots of items are personalised and unique and I put one hell of a lot of love and effort into what I do.  I am completely in love with fabric and what I do with it and this needs to reflect in my sale prices.  Like most people in the craft business, under selling is a huge issue.  It means that most of us barely earn minimum wage.  I am prepared to spend the time to create a luxury British handmade product and this needs to come at a price.  This means that my new stock which I will be introducing soon will be of a very high standard, luxury finish and will be properly priced.

Beautiful Sweet Williams flowers

Lots of people (meaning the visitors/the general public) who attend the small craft fairs for a browse are often there for simply that reason.  They usually carry very little cash and do not realise what goes into a handmade product.  Therefore, the majority of people who wander on through continue to wander and will never purchase.

People at small craft fairs are after cheap pocket money items.  Lots of them tend not to be too bothered about whether products are made in a cute little home in Britain or in a huge factory churning out mass produced tat in China.  My local area adore shops such as Primark, Home Bargains, B&M Bargains Poundland, Wilkinson etc.  There is nothing at all wrong with these shops (I sometimes shop at them too) - I am not slating them in the slightest, I am simply saying the people who will like shopping at these kind of shops for impulse buys and gifts are not usually going to be the same person as my ideal customer.

Basically, what I am saying is that I cannot afford any longer to stand all day for example in a community centre (in particular time wise) hoping to sell my beautiful things when I could be elsewhere making much more money. I still love these events because you do meet some fantastic people, other stallholders are real characters who are equally as talented and there have been many occasions where people have picked up a business card which has later on led to a sale but I cannot risk wasting precious time at the moment. I am aware this sounds rather selfish of me.

Close up shot of a recent bunting order.  Pom pom trim, pretty fabric and a vintage button!

I will still be attending events but I am going to be looking more towards bigger national events.  I will keep you posted on this one...

Other major changes happening for me is supplying more retailers (I have supplied 7 already in the past).  I am employing a designer to design me a fantastic logo.  I am also employing a photographer.  I am having new business cards, new signage for those big events and new car bumper stickers.  I am going to be having new packaging designed for my new sewing kits.  The biggest thing for me is having a professional designer catalogue produced of my new luxury handmade products which I can't wait to get started on and am already excited about the end product.

Phew - I think you will agree that there is lots going on over here... So I may be a little quiet for a while whilst I get my head around it all!

I will keep you fully updated as I can't wait to share all my new products and ideas with you.

Until next time...

Much love,
Emma xxx

Ps.  If you are in my local area tomorrow (Sunday 9th June 2013) do come and see me and a bunch of other talented folk at Garwnant Forestry Commission which is set on the edge of the beautiful Brecon Beacons.  Its absolutely gorgeous up there and its set to be another sunny day.  This is one event I won't be giving up (that's if they'll continue to have me!) - the people there are just fantastic and whom I consider good friends and its nice to spend time with friends after a long week hard at work xxx

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

They have began...

They have began...

Sewing workshops that is and what an amazing time I've had.

Workshops are something that I have thought about a lot in recent months but wasn't sure how to go about them and felt nervous because I have never taught in my life.

Adult Learners Week was approaching and thought what better way to celebrate a week of learning a new skill than Adult Learners Week???

They took a little preparation but it was worth it.

I had two dates booked.  One in Port Talbot Library and one in Pontardawe Library.  Both went down so incredibly well, a fun time was had by all, so much so that I have been persuaded to set up a regular workshop / sewing club in both these venues.

 One of the displays Port Talbot Library kindly set up for inspiration and borrowing.

And this is what we made...

Fat Free Cakes!

Don't they look amazing?  Some of these were created by people who were new to sewing.  I thought that was an amazing achievement.  I think it is a lovely thing that my workshops are project based so that each person who comes along gets to take home a lovely creation.

I teach in a friendly way.  No question is a silly question and people of all ages and abilities are more than welcome at my workshops.

The next workshop is Saturday 15th June 2013 at Port Talbot Library which is now fully booked already (woo hoo) and the next one after that is Wednesday 19th June 2013 at Pontardawe Library.  There are still some spaces left at this one.  If anyone would like to come, please email me on to reserve your place.  The next workshop is just £5 per person for up to a 2 hour session learning how to make a pretty brooch using gorgeous fabric and wool blend felt.

Everyone will get the opportunity to purchase sewing supplies and kits at the end of the session should they wish.

 I was at an event all day yesterday.  This was my table.

Lots are happening behind the scenes here at the moment.  There are going to be lots of changes.  I am having a bit of a re-brand.  I have a new vision for my little business which I hope is going to help me grow much bigger than what I presently am.  Keep your eyes peeled for news...