Starting a craft business
NEDay Crafts is a craft business in the North East offering workshops, activity kits and online tutorials. NEDay’s Managing Director, Vicky Lloyd, spoke about the challenges of running your own craft business.
Switching careers to craft
“I grew up with Blue Peter, so I was always making stuff out of empty bottles as a child. But it never occurred to me I could make a business out of it,” says Vicky.
After leaving school, she went to work in office administration, and then retail.
“It was when I first had children that I started looking for craft activities or local craft clubs. I wanted to find things for them to do that didn’t involve sitting in front of the TV all day!”
Vicky couldn’t find anything available in the local area, despite thorough research.
“I’ve always adapted to changing times – that’s what you need to do to survive.”
“I also looked at major craft retailers, and the prices of the craft kits they were selling were ridiculous. Not only that, but what they contained was pathetic – really low-effort tasks that didn’t challenge children at all.
“I thought: 'maybe I can do something about this'.”
Vicky was becoming increasingly unhappy at work and finding most of her earnings went on childcare.
“I felt like I was missing out on the children’s lives. So I walked out of my full-time job and set up my own craft business.”
Setting up a craft business
Vicky had no experience with running a business, and initially had no idea how to go about it or where to go for help.
“I just saw a gap in the market and went for it.”
When she first set it up, NEDay Crafts primarily worked with children’s centres. Vicky also ran art and craft workshops for children and designed activity kits for sale to the public.
“The kits were based on the workshops I was running – all low-priced and very basic.”
As Vicky got going with her business she started assessing what worked and what didn’t.
“I was doing craft parties in the North East, with maybe 20 children each time. They lasted an hour, usually, but I might spend an hour each way just getting there.
“So I did less of those, and focused more on craft fairs and the craft kits.”
Finding new markets for craft
The business was going quite well, but then everything changed.
“Trade fairs and markets started diminishing, and people in general weren’t spending as much as they used to. I could see that my business model wasn’t going to work in this new climate.”
“It’s lovely to be inspiring my daughter. I’m sharing craft with her whilst also teaching her about business!”
So Vicky diversified again, focusing more on workshops with local councils. This worked well for a few months, but then the councils had their funding cut.
“That was a real crunch point for me. The contracts suddenly stopped, and they had made up about seventy per cent of my income. I didn’t know where else to look.”
“I saw it as make or break: workshops had dried up, parents didn’t have the money they used to. I needed a new approach.”
Using social media to develop a business
Vicky’s business mentor then encouraged her to get into blogging.
“The idea was basically to take the business online. I got a Twitter account, and redeveloped the website.”
The new website featured a prominent blog, where Vicky shared inspiration and tips for other businesses.
She also started selling online tutorials and resources.
“My approach across all social media was quite straightforward – I just told people what it was like running a business, and shared my experiences and tips! If I was having a bad day, I’d say so.
“I’ve now got a huge Twitter following, which I think is because of people responding to that approach.”
“I’m still selling products, but I’m increasingly bunching them together as groups or packs, which are more cost-effective.”
Vicky now mentors new craft businesses in need of advice or guidance. She is also working with the council again, this time on an enterprise scheme.
“I go into schools and talk about my work there. It’s great to meet young people and new businesses!”
Vicky is also introducing her own children to business. From working as her mother’s assistant, Vicky’s ten-year-old daughter Ellie is now also running her own enterprise. Ellie’s Accessories sells handmade keyrings, badges and hairbands through the NEDay crafts site.
“It’s a lovely feeling to be inspiring my own daughter,” says Vicky. “I’m sharing craft with her whilst also teaching her about business!”
4 tips for running a craft business
1. Look at what’s out there already
“Know your market, and research what’s out there already before you get going.”
2. Be flexible
“Lots of different things have been thrown at the business, but I’ve always adapted to changing times – that’s what you need to do to survive.”
3. Be aware of copyright
“I had a great response from customers when I made my stuff available online. Naively, though, I didn’t expect that would be open to anyone to do with as they pleased.
“Research what’s out there already before you get going.”
“Plagiarism is a big problem in the creative industries in general, I think, but especially for small businesses.
“When you start out, you want to get your work out as much as possible, so you send out samples and so on – but you don’t necessarily ask yourself what will happen to your work once it’s out there.
“Always make sure the client has seen your product before you put it in the public domain in any way. Set up some decent tracking on your website so you know where people are coming from and going to.
“I’ve also put visible copyright symbols on all the images I have on my site.”
4. Use social media
“Social media is a great tool for finding resources – and, occasionally, pots of money.
“If you ask them, people often have suppliers they would recommend, or advice to share.
“Twitter is really where I got my bank of contacts and resources.”