The Big C

A crisp, frosty, blue-skied Somerset has marked the last day of November. As of tomorrow, I will no longer be marginally irritated by the icicle lights adorning the  village pub, the garlands of ivy dressing the village railings, or the sizeable spruce bedecked with red baubles, standing pride of place outside the village cafe. Tomorrow I shall be ready to embrace the village festive spirit, not least because Saturday marks my first Fair, exhibiting and selling as an actual designer (though I still feel a bit of a fraud describing myself thus). So while some might be seeking out the perfect tree, or making wreaths to welcome visitors to their home, this is what my floor looks like right now:

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And while I probably ought to be working out what Santa will be bringing the kids this year (not much as it stands), the only thing occupying my mind at this moment is: will my room still look like this on Monday?? Dear lord, please let somebody actually want to buy this stuff!!!

I also had a panic last week that I had nothing festive to sell at the Christmas fair. (When was the last time you saw a nativity shepherd sporting a watering can towel on his head?) Having abandoned my failed attempts at Christmas cards last month, I (slightly hastily) threw together some last minute ideas for gift wrap.

Here’s what I came up with:

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And here’s the outcome:

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All things considered, I’m quite pleased with the result. Fingers crossed for some buyers who think so too.

 

Making Sales

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of 2017’s (not so extensive) tea towel collection ….. ta da! Thus far I have been incredibly lucky to have wonderful family and friends who – albeit, quite potentially out of pity – have purchased enough towels to make a little dent in my stock. Whether this level of purchasing plays out in the ‘real world’, where customers don’t know me from Adam, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it has given me a confidence boost for the forthcoming Christmas Fair next weekend.

Since my last blog, I have also taken the plunge and approached several local retailers with a view to having them stock a few CCD items on a Sale or Return basis. The outcome of this was mixed: On the plus side, those I spoke to were receptive and honest; they’re interested in promoting local artists, they like the designs and quality of the products, and they could see them fitting into their shop. I might, however, like to think about selling them in a bundle with an apron and/or oven mitt, as this would probably generate more sales.  I couldn’t agree more with this latter point, but it’s not something that’s going to happen with this particular collection owing to both financial and time constraints.

On the down side, most places seemed to want between 30% and 40% of sales. 30% I could live with. 40% would leave me with about 45p profit per unit. While I’m not in this line of work for the money (!), this makes no business sense at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m striving to make a small profit in my first two years; I want to be able to reinvest in my business …. to make things like aprons and oven mitts!

As someone who this year, has done about 90% of her Christmas shopping online, I’m also very aware that I need an online presence and sales facility. But this is going to have to wait until after the Big C. It will be my big step forward of 2018!

 

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Oooh, also ….. here is my first manufactured cushion. One of 20! I’m pleased with the quality and design, but I have a lot to learn when it comes to a design on a computer screen vs that same design on fabric; the final item isn’t quite as bright as I’d hoped. That said, I know how to remedy it for next time. Plus, I’ve bought two for my bedroom, and they look rather nice.

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Creating opportunity

It’s been a while (three weeks in fact), but after the chaos that half-term and illness  bestowed upon life, I am back in the driver’s seat ready to propel this design machine forward. Yes!

Well, maybe not so much of a machine as a moped.

A learner on a moped.

A learner, with no sense of direction (or satnav) on a moped.

Still, a learner is a learner, and learn I must. This means being ready to swoop down on any opportunity that presents itself. Except that opportunities don’t always just present themselves. That much I do know. Opportunity has to be sought, chased after, hounded down, until its only option is surrender. Any successful, self-made business person, has created their own opportunities and pounced. Creating them I can do. Pouncing? That, I’m much less sure about. I’ve always been more of a tiptoer, nervously meeting her target, then fleeing, lump in throat, heart pounding, hoping that somewhere en-route, a large hole will offer an escape route from which no one has ever returned.

Here’s the thing. Last week, my very first bulk order of t-towels arrived ….. all 125 of them. Am I pleased with them? Yes. Did I spend a fair chunk of my business investment on them? Yes. Are they sat in a box, in my hallway, screaming ‘money down the drain!!’ every time I walk past them. Yes.

I have stock. And it needs shifting.

The good news is that I’ve booked my first sales gig (whoop!) at our local village/school Christmas Fair. But unless all the good people of Chew Magna have ‘t-towel with pictures of watering cans’ on their shopping list, chances are I’m going to be left with a fair bit of kitchen linen on my hands by the end of the day. I need to create some alternative sales strategies. Online is an obvious choice, but I’d also really like to connect with local businesses ….. to see if  some of the local gift shops might consider sicking a few t-towels on their shelves and seeing what happens. It’s not like I’ve got anything to lose …. except perhaps confidence, credibility, reputation …. oh, and money. Thinking about it, I have not the fist idea of how much commission these places take. How will I know if I’m being ripped off? Completely clueless. Still …. it’s no excuse for not pulling my finger out.

In the meantime, here’s the front and back of my first business card. I’ve sent it to print regardless of whether I think it represents my design style or not. Maybe I’m acting prematurely, but I figure I need something other than my vacant mug to represent CCD when introducing myself to  potential stockists.

 

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