I did a lot of work behind the scenes before I opened up the shop to the public. I wanted to be an instantly recognisable memorable mini brand.
Abi Simmons runs Red Hand Gang – a Folksy shop full of goodies for children with a very strong brand and unique products, which has just celebrated 1,000 sales! We wanted to find out more about how she developed with her mini brand, her product photography tips, why self-promotion is so important and also drill her for advice on selling at craft fairs …
When did you start Red Hand Gang, and what kind of things did you consider before setting up your online shop?
I started Red Hand Gang in late 2012. But I did a lot of work behind the scenes before I considered opening up the shop to the public. Even though I knew I was going to be a tiny shop I wanted to be an instantly recognisable memorable mini brand. I did a lot of work designing the logo, the address labels, the packaging etc, so when I opened it there was no chopping and changing, and I felt ready to start selling and promoting.
Self-promotion is essential to getting your work seen.
Where do you sell your work?
I sell 99% online. The World Wide Web is awesome and I would be totally lost without it. Wholesale is tricky. I have recently had some wholesale enquiries but as much as I hate turning down work, for me I just can’t make enough money from wholesale prices to make it a viable.
You ran a stall at Portobello Market for several years. Have you got any tips for selling at markets and craft fairs?
Good signage, don’t scrimp on displays, and build up if you can’t spread out. Take lots of business cards and start making extra pieces for Christmas now and squirrel them away until October – it’s lovely to know you can book into lots of craft markets knowing you have loads of products ready to go. It takes the pressure off.
As much as I hate turning down work, I just can’t make enough money from wholesale prices to make selling to shops viable.
How do you set your prices?
With difficulty. But I try not to undersell my wares.
What channels do you use to promote your work?
I rather reluctantly joined Facebook, but business-wise it was absolutely worthwhile. It has allowed me to reach and interact with a worldwide customer base. Pinning on Pinterest has also helped bring loads of traffic to the shop. Getting blogs to feature my work brings lots of traffic to the shop too – it’s worth having good photos ready for bloggers (and press) to use. The channel I probably use most though is Instagram, which has been brilliant for connecting with customers and bringing in business.
Getting blogs to feature my work brings lots of traffic to the shop too, so it’s worth having good photos ready for bloggers (and press) to use.
You’re also a professional photographer. Have you got any great product shots tips?
Having good product photographs is super important if you’re selling online. Having said that, it is easier said than done. At home I set up a little table by a north-facing window, have a white background and use some white card to bounce light back into the shadows. It’s worth finding a free online photo-editing programme to change things if needs be. But mainly, keep it simple, in focus and not too dark. If you have a timer option on the camera use that to avoid camera shake if you don’t have a tripod.
My top product shot tips? Keep it simple, in focus and not too dark. Use white card to bounce light back into the shadows and a timer to avoid camera shake if you don’t have a tripod.
Do you work on Red Hand Gang full-time?
No, part-time at the moment. I could certainly do with more free hours but I have three-year-old at home with me. My work hours are about 7.45pm to 12pm ish every night.
How do you balance selling your work with being creative and having a family?
It is a rather precarious juggling act at the moment and it doesn’t always go smoothly, but my girls seem blissfully unaware of the chaos going on around them. I would love to just be able to crack on in the day and get loads of painting done, or try out the new design that has been on my mind for a week, but I have to try to be patient and save it until they are in bed. Inevitably Sylvie gets dragged to wood merchant a lot and the post office most days, but I try to do those jobs before playgroup and then the rest of the day is hers.
Inevitably Sylvie gets dragged to wood merchant a lot and the post office most days, but I try to do those jobs before playgroup and then the rest of the day is hers.
Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d known when you started your shop?
Self-promotion is *essential* to getting your work seen.
How has Folksy helped your business?
I’ve been selling on Folksy for about two and a half years and have loved every minute! The staff at Folksy HQ work so hard to show us off to the world and I have had so much support and advice from them and the brilliant online tutorials. I really feel like part of a lovely big crafting family!
Read more about Abi and what inspires her in our Meet the Maker interview >