Sally Haysom aka myBearHands is an illustrator-turned-jeweller based in Bristol. Her work and brand are instantly recognisable, and we wanted to know more about how she developed such a strong identity. While we were at it, we drilled her for information on lots of other business matters too, including the method she uses for pricing her work, if selling at festivals has worked for her, and why Instagram has taken over from blogging…
When and how did you start your business?
I began by transferring my illustrations to products as a trial, which I sold at tiny local markets, and then got picked up by a couple of shops one Christmas. I’d been working in a full-time job and also doing freelance illustration for a while to save some money, so I was able to stop working and focus on building my business after that.
How did you develop your brand identity?
It has developed over time I’d say. I began with the bear paw when I came up with the name, but my branding was a lot more fussy initially. I’ve pared it down gradually and now have a simple logo and colour scheme, with a couple of type faces I use for everything to keep continuity. I did do some research about business and branding along the way, so I’m sure that helped too.
How and where do you sell your work?
I sell online through online marketplaces, as well as in ‘real’ shops, and shows and fairs. I used to do a lot of local markets, but have found over time that it’s much more worthwhile to focus on a few bigger ones throughout the year.
How has selling wholesale to shops worked for you?
It’s been good in the main. Although they do take a large cut of the profits, it’s really good for getting your products seen and your name out there. It does mean you have to re-evaluate prices though – you can’t underprice your work.
You’ve had stalls at festivals too. In your experience, are festivals good places to sell?
I’ve only sold as part of a group at festivals. Personally they didn’t work out that well, but perhaps would be better if you had a stand by yourself. I think if you sell large glittery things it would probably be a better market for you!
Have you got a method for working out your pricing?
Yes. After buying a number of books on business, craft and jewellery, there is a formula that seems to work well: work out all your costs including time, x 2 for your wholesale price, x 2 again for your Retail Price (RRP). This may seem like a lot, but if you only pay yourself for materials and time, you aren’t making any profit, so can never move the business on. I have a worksheet for each product itemising these costs and amounts.
How do you promote your work?
Social media is a must these days. I’m not a natural, but there’s lots of ways to make it easier. I tend to use my Facebook page and Instagram most, but I have linked them together along with my Twitter page, so anything I post gets tweeted too. It’s important to mix up your posts, to include posts about other people work as well as your own, interesting bits of news relating to the creative industries and anything inspirational you come across in daily life. I do draw a line between personal and professional though and try keep them separate.
Which of those channels is your favourite and why?
Probably Instagram at the moment. It’s just so easy to snap a picture of whatever you’re doing or see that’s interesting, and you can share it with your Facebook and Twitter followers at the same time! I guess it’s taken off so much now we all have great cameras on our phones.
Who do you follow and who do you think does social media well?
On Facebook I follow ArtPeople Gallery who post loads of really interesting art (great for re-posting!), Sarah Fordham Needlepoint gets a lot of interest, and a friend of mine Red Bird Makes has a really good social media ‘voice’ and formula that works well. There are too many to mention them all, so that’s just a few!
You have a blog. We’ve found a lot of makers have stepped back from blogging recently and are using Instagram more instead. Is that your experience too?
Absolutely! It’s so much more effort to sit down and compose a full blog post than to just quickly upload a picture or sentence. There’s so much competition now as well that you have to keep your posts fresh and frequent or they get lost.
Do you do your own product photography? What do you think about when photographing your work?
Currently I’m just sticking to ‘cut to white’ images, but I need some more ‘lifestyle’ shots. Cut to white is a must for jewellery particularly, as this is usually what people want for websites and promotion. I try to have a good close up, show every aspect of the piece (front and back), and if possibly show it in context to something that shows its size. I should be doing lifestyle shots as well though. That’s a job for the New Year! Ideally I need a better camera though… or a real photographer!
Finally, where would you like to be in five years’ time?
I’d love to be able to outsource some of the making part of the process so I can focus more on the design and business side of things. Doing everything yourself does inevitably mean there is less time to focus on the parts you want to. In my dream world I’m running a small design studio where I design and work on prototypes, with some lovely people working for me doing all my marketing, admin and production… Well, a girl can dream ☺