Adam Christopher took a huge leap when he left his job at LEGO to set up his own business designing and making concrete feature products. In our Shop Talk series, Adam talks to us about how his business has developed, and where he would like it to go from here…
When did you start your business, and what kind of things did you consider before setting up your online shop?
I started my business back in 2011 with a range of sculptures and that’s where I learned how to use the fibreglass-reinforced concrete. That development process took a lot longer than I had anticipated, so while I had the designs and moulds ready to go I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the product. After a year or so I managed to crack a good mix and process and began to promote my work. This year I’m adding to the range, with two coffee tables and two flower pots, and I’m working on something else that I hope to launch towards the end of 2014.
What I consider when selling online is something that will grab the attention of the viewer. I don’t really think it differs from selling anywhere else but my design ethos is all about offering something that is different and creative. I studied for a long time learning form and aesthetics, so it’s important to me that items are considered in their shape.
Is this your full-time job?
Yes, although it is hard going. I’m trying to build a name so that I can follow my passion and create products to sell under that umbrella. Grabbing the attention of the right people and trying to get them interested in your work is very time consuming, but every stage of the process has been and is very exciting and interesting.
What channels do you use to promote your work?
For lack of funds I tend to stay away from advertising but I do put a lot of time into researching the right contacts and then making a special effort to attract their attention. The time involved in finding those people and constructing something to send them that will grab their attention is far longer than conventional promotion techniques. I did some garden shows last year but they were absolutely dreadful so I actually didn’t attend all the ones I had paid for – it just wasn’t worth my time. That scared me off spending lots of money before really having proven demand for my products.
Do you take your own product shots, and what do you consider when photographing your work?
I do. In fact, I do the website, photoshoots, manufacture, design, planting and everything else. When taking photos I try to get a good depth of field so the product is the focal point of the image. Ideally the sun would be shining, so it’s a bit of a waiting game sometimes. A good variety of landscape-format and portrait-format photos is essential plus some close-up and some longer distance shots because all sites demand different formats and resolutions.
How do you manage your time?
Being creative, I have a very small attention span, so I tend to get distracted very easily. Being a man, I tend to only be able to take on one task at a time. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and having to draw them, make them or research them, so in terms of productivity I’m not very good but creatively it’s great.
My usual working day really depends what I’m pushing for. It always involves checking emails and answering them, followed by a look at Pinterest to see what’s been pinned and what is inspiring. Then if I’m manufacturing it’s down the garden to get messy, or if I’m promoting it’s sitting on the computer looking for people, Pinning, getting exposure, writing articles, anything I can do to get my name out there.
Which part of running your own business do you struggle with most?
Publicity. It’s really hard to get people to notice you and be at the forefront of someone’s mind when they are thinking of making a purchase. The best way to do that is hard to know and expensive if you get it wrong. I also find it hard to know what will sell and where to sell it.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I want the business to have established a brand name. I’d like to have a good range of garden products, but to have crossed over into the interiors market as well. As I said, I’m working on something quite exciting which will give creativity over to the consumer, but that’s something for another time ;)