Starting a new business can be a daunting task – designing, opening a shop and then promoting it can sometimes seem overwhelming. We recently talked to textile designer Chez Beccy about how she tackles these tasks and discovered that determination is key. Teaching yourself how to use social media, take good product shots, write press releases… life as a maker is never dull.
When and how did you start your business?
It was a gradual process. The idea began to germinate when I saw a stunning display of blue and white china in Rossiters Department store in Bath. I knew then when I had my own house this was the look I wanted for my kitchen, so I began to collect nice pieces of blue and white china. Then four years ago I moved into my own house and I put up my china on the dresser. All I needed were tea towels and aprons to match. So I decided to design my own. Then I thought I could sell these – how hard can it be these days with the internet? I had no idea of the journey I was about to embark on!
Did you consider your brand identity before you opened your Folksy shop?
My brand identity evolved along with my patterns. With my design background I wanted to create a cohesive overall look. This was quite important to me.
How and where do you sell your work?
I do craft markets and have my Folksy shop.
Do you ever develop pieces with a particular customer (or event) in mind?
Well, a friend of mine wanted some green tea towels and apron for her kitchen, so that’s how my green range came about. For Mother’s Day I thought I would put together a gift set of an apron, tea towel and card. I’ve also had quite a few enquiries for tablecloths, so that is my next design project.
What’s been your best-selling piece so far?
My blue striped tea towels and aprons.
Have you got a method for working out your pricing?
I checked out my competitors’ prices, looked at how much my materials cost to make each product and went from there. In theory, I should charge more for my products because my fabric is expensive to buy in small quantities. I’m hoping I will be able to work on a larger scale soon which will be more cost effective.
How do you promote your work?
When I do craft fairs I encourage my customers to sign up to my newsletter. I have a Facebook page and I’ve just joined Twitter. My next goal is to get Chez Beccy featured on blogs.
Has blogging helped your business?
I’m hoping it will do. I will be approaching bloggers and asking them to feature my products.
Do you do your own product photography? What do you consider when photographing your work?
Yes, I do all my own photography and I always find it a challenge. As when approaching any design project, I do my research. So, for example, the apron photographs that my sister modelled for me were the last ones I did. So I looked on the internet to see how other people had done theirs. I manage to find a couple of photos that I liked elements of. I also looked at other product photography that I liked and tried to analyse why. So now I try to photograph the product in the right context – napkin with plate/table etc – and use uncluttered and simple compositions that show off the product. If using a model, I find it helps to take lots of shots so you can get good facial expressions. I should have taken more shots on this photo shoot, but it’s all a learning curve!
What’s the hardest part about being a maker?
That’s a difficult question. It’s all hard! I don’t mean that in a negative way because when you have any success running your own business that buzz is incredible. I’m also loving learning about all aspects of how to run a business. I think determination is key! I was very naive when I started – I knew about design but in actual fact I spend very little time designing. I had no clue about marketing, writing press releases, social media, product descriptions, product photography… There’s never a dull moment!
Where would you like to be in five years?
In five years’ time I would love to be able to run my business full time. That’s the dream!