In The News
Last week my local newspaper the Warrington Guardian did a feature on my kit business in their Weekend section and how sewing helped me to get through lockdown.
My friends run a PR business Write on Time Ltd and offer advice on how to get your story out there and into the press and over lockdown they ran a 5-day 'Pitch to the Press' challenge which I took part in. Their advice was spot on as after completing their daily tasks I emailed my local paper and was delighted to get a reply asking when would be convenient for their photographer to come out and take some photos of me and the toys in my workshop.
I should add this was all very out of my comfort zone and I REALLY wish I hadn't been at that tricky stage of growing a fringe out when the photographs were taken but the feature was great and so much more than the few lines I expected!
It was really lovely to be able to chat to a reporter about Two Owls Design and have the story appear in print, it makes everything feel more real, more serious somehow.
One of the biggest challenges of running a small business is getting noticed and generating publicity on a limited budget, I have a horrible feeling I’m about to quote Donald Trump here and for that I can only apologise but; having great products doesn’t matter if hardly anyone knows about them.
I’m incredibly lucky to have a lot of loyal customers - one of the most rewarding parts of this job is the interaction with customers, sharing a love of sewing and seeing finished makes. That interaction has really helped me gain a sense of what sort of extra detail is helpful in a pattern - for example I regularly add pivot points in now where I never did previously. A new Gallery feature has been added to the website which will hopefully be filled with customer makes soon – once I get to grips with it! To grow and for the business to be sustainable though I need to find new customers too and show them what I do. The free patterns in my shop are there for a few reasons: 1. to try before you buy and if someone hasn't sewn a toy (or anything before) they can test it out and see if it's their thing 2. to give a flavour of what to expect from my instructions and show that they are easy to follow (I hope!) and 3. basically sometimes money is tight and things are tough (especially during the pandemic) and sewing can be a tonic.
When I first took the plunge and started my kit business there was a ready-made sales channel in place as I had been demonstrating my patterns on the Sewing Quarter shopping tv channel for over a year and so customers were there on the other side of the tv and knew me and what to expect with my patterns. To be honest it was never my dream to run my own business as I knew how precarious it can be but if I wanted to keep designing, and I did it's what I love, it became the obvious thing to do. In a very short period of time that all changed though.
I launched my first kit in the February and by early November I was just finding my stride when a perfunctory email arrived one morning cancelling my upcoming shows and all work with the channel with immediate effect, including the show just over a week away for which I had bought everything in. Boom. Over. I won't lie it was a total body blow but after a few days of spinning out a little bit I decided to keep going (had I known that we were only a few months away from a pandemic then maybe the decision would have been different - ha)! Sadly it is just one of the risks of being a small business that depends on another business. Being flexible and adapting the plan to best fit the circumstances is the basis of designing anyway. Brutal as that period was it provided space to assess the business and devote attention to various aspects that had been put on the back-burner previously when all focus had been on having a new kit ready every six weeks. Since then I have launched the website so that I can depend more on myself, experimented with different designs, contributed to a book (more about that in my next post), worked with friends, launched a few new designs, recorded some video demonstrations to YouTube (I might blog about my sophisticated filming set up involving stepladders in another post) and signed up to some business courses - the future still seems as terrifying as ever but exciting all the same!