Linds Hall is the baker and maker behind Pixie Hall. We asked her to tell us a bit more about her shop, and share her tips for starting an artisan food business…
When did you start your business?
I started Pixie Hall in 2010. I was working part-time as a support worker, setting up my website and getting my name out all at the same time. I stayed at my job for another year or so while slowly getting Pixie Hall up and running, but working every weekend wasn’t something I was enjoying. So I went full time with Pixie Hall – it was the best decision I ever made.
Do you have a background in confectionery or baking?
I don’t have a professional background in baking or confectionery, but I’ve always loved baking. When I was a little I used to tell people I wanted to be a chef when I grew up, so I guess it’s always been inside me somewhere.
How you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
I do most of my selling through local farmers’ markets and events. I love doing markets because I can meet customers face to face. I also supply a couple of local shops and sell through my website and Folksy shop. I think it’s really important to sell in different ways as it means your products are always available.
Have you got a method for setting prices?
Setting prices is the bit I struggle with the most. In the end you have to cover the cost of making the product, including materials, packaging and (as far as possible) the time you spend making it. I find it’s also helpful to look at other businesses who are doing a similar thing and see what they are charging. It gives an idea of where to start. You have to have faith in your product and skills, and that’s often very difficult. Sometimes it is necessary to price your product based on where it will be sold. I find that selling at markets and events in affluent areas can mean the price of the pitch is higher and therefore the selling price of a product may be slightly higher too. It’s a complicated thing to sort out but trust your judgement.
How do you promote yourself and your work?
I have to admit I’m not very good at promoting myself. I’m quite shy and find it difficult to talk myself up to people, but I’m improving all the time. I have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and try to update them whenever I can, although I’m sure it’s not enough! I also try to work with my local community by attending events and helping out wherever I can. I’m a member of the Fakenham Area Business Community (Fabcom), which has enabled me to make some really useful business-to-business connections. I always try to promote the events and markets that I’m attending and I’m starting to send out newsletters about new collections I’m launching. I don’t pay to advertise anywhere so I look for free ways to promote myself. Often, just being at well-established markets and events is a good way to get yourself noticed.
Do you take your own photographs? How important do you think good products shots are?
I’m artistically challenged, so I don’t take my own photographs. I’m lucky enough to be able to work with two excellent photographers, Keith Osborn Photography and Sally Robinson Photography. Product photographs are so important and that applies even more to food photos. If it doesn’t look appetising, people aren’t going to buy it!
Do you work at Pixie Hall full time?
I do, which is lovely when it’s busy, but can be a bit of a struggle in the quieter months. As long as you can justify the use of your time in the quieter times, it tends to pay off when it picks up again. For example, I’ve spent the last couple of months developing new products, starting new projects and booking events for the year. While this isn’t necessarily making me money right now, it will in the long term. It also stops me sitting around bingeing on Netflix! You have to use the quieter times to reassess and look ahead.
Have you got any tips for other makers interested in selling artisan food? What do they need to know?
Setting up any food business is difficult. There are lots of things you need to do before you start and lots of rules you need to follow in order to comply with food safety regulations. I would first of all suggest contacting your local authority for advice. They can tell you what you need to do to register your business, and refer you to trading standards who will ensure you have all the information you need for labelling your products. They will also refer you to Environmental Health, who can help make sure you start your business off on the right path. They are there to support, advise and help you, and they do so for free. Use them.
Apart from all that stuff, my main tip is to find something that you love. If you’re making and selling things you are passionate about, be that bread, cakes, sweets or coffee, you will engage your customers with your enthusiasm. It’s really important that your products and business are a reflection of you. If people wanted faceless, mass-produced food, they’d go to Tesco. People want real, honest food with a story. Embrace that and love what you make.
How do you see your business developing? Have you got any plans or dreams?
I’ve got several new projects in the pipeline which should help me to reach more customers and engage new people with my brand. I have new ranges of products coming out all the time, which keeps things fresh and exciting. I’ve been working hard on my new Easter range which has been really fun – it’s the first time I’ve made traditional Easter eggs and I’m filling them with adorable little chocolate buttons. I’m hoping to attend more events this year, so I think that will help get the Pixie Hall name known by more people. I’m planning a workshop too so I can teach people how to make delicious sweets at home, and if it goes well, who knows? You have to be open to new things. People often tell you what they want and it’s up to you how you respond. I seem to be of the “say yes and worry about the logistics later” school of thought. I’m not sure whether that’s always a good thing or not!
My big dream is that one day I’ll have a chocolate shop or deli of my own. I’d love to have a dedicated space to sell my creations. That’s all pretty far off, but it’s always worth looking at the bigger picture. My main hope is that I’ll never fall out of love with what I do. Long hours, late nights and early mornings hurt a little less when you’re doing something you love.