Like many makers, jeweller Gwin Kerry is not a natural sales person and admits that talking about her own work with confidence “is nerve-wracking at times”. Despite this, she has found the most successful way to promote her work is by interacting with people at craft fairs and events, as well as online. She has also recently experimented with paid promotion on Twitter, which has so far shown a good return on investment. We talked to Gwin to find out more…
When and how did you start your business?
I started my business in October 2013 with a loan and business mentoring from the New Enterprise Allowance scheme. The NEA scheme was run through the job centre, and provided access to business training and a mentor, and resulted in a viable business plan. Once the plan had been approved I was eligible for a small loan. It proved invaluable as it got me started with the business basics.
Did you consider your brand identity before you opened your Folksy shop?
I already knew what my logo was going to be – it’s based on my nickname (which I’m not going to tell you) and I knew I wanted my name to be a part of my company name. My brand was harder to figure out and it is still developing.
How and where do you sell your work?
I currently sell online with Folksy and through my Facebook page and I’m working on getting my own website togged up for selling. I regularly attend local and regional markets and events and I’m just looking at getting my work into some shops. I have just completed a wholesale order for the lovely Paul and Michelle at Harlequin Glassworks in Alfreton and I’m looking for more opportunities to get my work into shops and galleries. This Christmas my work is going into the Depp Pop Up Shop in Sheffield organised by artist Ellie Depp and we’re having a Christmas fair here at West Studios in December.
Do you ever develop pieces with a particular customer (or event) in mind?
I will usually develop some work for seasonal events such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Small themed keepsakes are always popular at certain times of the year – people like to buy nice things for the people they love. I’ve just added the first of my Christmas products to my shop, some of which can be personalised, which I hope will build on the success I had with similar products last year.
What’s been your best-selling piece so far?
My products tend to be made as one-offs or in limited batches so it’s difficult to answer this. I will say that I can never guess what’s going to sell and what isn’t. One week I’ll sell nothing but earrings and another week people will go for copper bangles. I’ve had successes and failures. I think evaluating and learning from both is what’s important.
Have you got a method for working out your pricing?
Yes. I’ve worked out an hourly rate based on the money I need to live and I apply this to all my pieces as a starting point. Batch-making products or parts of products (such as ear wires or copper beads) is how I keep my prices down. The cost of materials is added on and then profit. This makes my wholesale price. After I add the dreaded 2.4 retail mark-up and any additional costs for postage (if I’m not including that in the materials) that provides my retail price. I’ve got all this in a flexible spreadsheet that means I can play about with profit levels and material substitutions if my retail prices seem too expensive for the market.
Do you work to commission? What are the good and bad points of working this way?
I do. I enjoy working to commission and I’m always happy to consider any requests from customers. I’m currently working on a bangle for a customer who has asked for a peacock design as a gift. I enjoy the research part of the process – looking for images and ideas and developing imagery and ideas.
The most important part of working to commission is to communicate often with your customer. Even if it’s only a quick email or phone call with a project update or a progress photo, people like to know that you haven’t forgotten their order and that you’re making considered decisions about their product. People often ask for commissions for special occasions or as a gift or keepsake, so they like to know that you’re serious about getting it right for them. Good communication helps you to avoid the potential pitfall of making something that ultimately the client doesn’t like or is unhappy with in some way.
How do you promote your work?
Like most people a lot of my promotion is done online for free. I use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest and I have my website and blog but it takes a lot of time to develop relationships and reach for all of them. I don’t think online promotion is the be all and end all but it is helpful. By far the most successful promotion I do is attending fairs and events. There is little substitution for meeting potential customers face to face and talking and answering questions about your work. I’m not saying it’s easy (I’m an introvert and I am definitely not a natural sales person) but I get most of my commissions this way and I’ve even been offered exhibition space and opportunities on the back of an informal chat with people I’ve met. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can! Meeting people is also an essential way to get feedback about your work. I’ve recently started to use some paid promotion.
I’ve recently paid small amounts for bursts of social media coverage – I’m focussing on Twitter for now. The money pays for the extra coverage and reach the company has and, of course, the time it takes to set up and organise. I’ll have to let you know how it goes but based on what has happened so far I’ll be looking at a return of about £80 to £100 and lots of new followers for having spent roughly a tenner.
Which social media channel is your favourite and why?
To start with I liked Facebook but recently I’ve noticed it’s harder to increase your audience on Facebook – I’m steadily picking up about 5 new followers a week without any gimmicks or promotions. But now I’ve (sort of) got the hang of Twitter it’s really been working for me. Twitter is instant and you can quickly gain a lot of followers if you are clever with your hashtags. I also like to organise and share images on Pinterest.
Do you do your own product photography?
I started doing my own product photography out of necessity rather than choice. I’m not a naturally skilled photographer. But you can see looking at the product shots in my shop that with the right advice – from places like the Folksy blog and from people like the fantastically helpful photographer Guy Badham (whom I met at a fair) – I’m improving and learning about lighting and settings etc. However, I remain very thankful for digital photography and editing software that allows you to tweak photos after the fact!
How did you adapt from teaching to being a full-time jeweller?
It was strange really. I missed teaching terribly to start with. I loved the job but not the bureaucracy and politics that makes it so hard for teachers to do their jobs well. So it was refreshing to work for myself while at the same time terrifying that I had to make money from scratch. You might think that you wouldn’t be afraid of anything after teaching a roomful of surly teenagers about the importance of quality control when all they wanted was to be let loose in the workshop, but talking about my work with confidence was and still is difficult and nerve-wracking at times.
What’s the hardest part about being a maker?
I’ve found the hardest part is accepting that not all of my time is spent making. My working day today has been about chasing up orders, finalising promotions, posting out orders, organising future events, social media and boring admin tasks. I haven’t been near my workbench yet. Which is frustrating because I can’t wait to get to work on my next pieces – I have ideas for new bracelets and bangles that I can’t wait to get started on. Watch this space!
Finally, have you got any tips on how to stand out from the crowd when selling online?