Ilka Dickens studied graphic design in Melbourne before moving to the UK 14 years ago. She now runs Dickens ink., a small business selling quirky greeting cards, prints, stationery and homewares, which she designs from her home studio in east London. We caught up with Ilka to find out more about her business and how she has managed to combine it with bringing up two small children…
When and how did you set up Dickens ink. and what did you consider before you launched?
I launched in November 2012. I had so many ideas that it was hard to know where to start, but as it was so close to Christmas I started with Christmas cards. Starting a new business can be overwhelming, but if you start small it’s more manageable.
Did you have a business plan? Has that changed along the way?
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I have an A4 business plan that I wrote six months after starting my business and I have never looked at again. I’m waiting until my son starts full-time nursery school to get serious about long-term plans. I need more time in my day!
How do you sell your work?
I have a number of online shops. I also wholesale and I currently have a pop-up shop in the Anchor + Hope in east London. I do a few markets a year but I’m hoping to increase that this year.
What are the good and bad points of selling wholesale in your experience?
Good: Not having to worry about moving the stock yourself once you’ve filled an order. It’s exciting shipping a big box of designs to a new store.
Bad: Getting the right price for your product can sometimes be tricky – especially with a major retailer as they demand tighter profit margins.
How do you price your work?
I did a lot of market research before I started. It’s so easy with access to online shops and sites such as Folksy to figure on what competitiors are charging.
Would you consider doing a trade show?
I’m really hope to find the time for one this year.
Which craft fairs have you done, and which ones have worked well for you?
I only do a few markets a year and only those close to home. Last year I did two on Roman Road in east London and one in Winterville in Victoria Park. They were all very successful and I’d really like to do more this year.
Have you got any tips for other people selling at craft fairs?
Make sure you have a few different price points. I sell two different-sized prints – A4 and A3 – and the smallest and cheapest always sells the best, which is the opposite to wholesale in shops. At markets most people expect reasonable prices and they want something they can carry in a small shopping bag. My cushions don’t sell as well at markets because they are too bulky.
How do you promote Dickens ink.?
I really only use social media – Facebook, Twitter etc. I also contact shops that I find on the web or while I’m wandering around London with wholesale price lists. I look out for industry awards to enter too.
Which social networks do you use, and which of those works best for you?
I use them all but Pinterest is definitely the best social media tool for me. It’s the only site that drives traffic to my shops.
How do you use your blog and do you think blogging is a good way to reach more people?
I have to say that I’ve neglected my blog a bit since Christmas, as I’ve been very busy with markets and Christmas orders, but I’m determined to pick up the pace again soon. It only drives a small amount of traffic to my shops, but I enjoy writing it.
What would you say to any makers just starting out?
Have patience. Start part-time first and build it up slowly. I’ve been operating for over two years now and I’m only now at the point where I can say I feel like it’s a business worth pursuing.
You can get 10% off everything in the Dicken ink. shop until Sunday 8 February with the discount code ‘Dickens10’