Thursday, September 15, 2011

Start Your Own....With Patchwork Delights

This is the second in a series of Start Your Own posts.  Start your own what?  Start your own business, silly!  I have planned a line up of guest bloggers who have successfully started their own quilt or craft business including shop owners, online fabric vendors, a pattern designer, two long arm quilters and a entrepreneur selling her handmade goods.  There will be a new blogger every Thursday for the next few weeks, so keep checking back! 

Our guest blogger this week is my very special friend Fiona of PatchworkDelights.  Fi is funny, creative, entrepreneurial and inspiring.  You can learn more about her on her blog where she profiles her beautiful quilts (that can be custom made), mug rugs, pouches and tutorials.  Lucky for us, Fi also has an etsy shop where she sells her handmade baby balls, mug rugs, cafetiere cosies and adorable bookmarks!  Thank you, Fi, for writing such a lovely post for us this week!
 
A Delight to Meet You!

Hello, my name is Fiona and I am the person behind PatchworkDelights, although I should give a mention to my hubby (aka the Creative Designer).  I am a mummy to two gorgeous boys (3.5 and 8.5) and work in an office 4 days a week.

My first experience with patchwork was in primary school when we made a cushion and on the front of it was a Grandmother’s Garden, it was a pink and blue cushion I recall.  Years later my mother showed me how to make a pin cushion and the bug took hold again. I went to some great classes in London, but then work got in the way and I had son #1 so it fell to the wayside. 

Skip along several years I made friends again with my hobby.  In part through necessity.  We suffered job losses and pay cuts and I was looking at different ways of bringing in extra money.  I started making little things like, cafetiere cosies, mobile phone cases and what not and showing them to my friends.  

 

Some of my friends at work really liked them and starting buying.  They are still loyal and regular customers and I am always grateful to them for this.  This was the beginning of PatchworkDelights!  I often ask them for their feedback, only yesterday one of my customers gave me some feedback.  It’s really important to listen to your customers!

Then one of my friends introduced me to Etsy.  


I love it. I love the simplicity of listing your items.  The only thing is that you are a teensy bit invisible.  I quickly became addicted to every morning checking the following:

1. Did I sell anything?
2. Does anyone like my shop i.e. have they added my shop to their favourites?
3. Has anyone favourited any of my items?  

 

I soon learnt that you need to stop looking at this, in an addictive way, and concentrate on making stuff.  Not only that but start getting your name out there.  I went on the forums and hung around them for a while but soon realised I wasn’t getting any sales from this, but plenty of hearts.  Hearts are good but you really want sales.

Blogland

I started up my own blog called PatchworkDelights.  I think if you have the time this is very important, it’s another way of showcasing your items.  Blogs can take a life of their own too!  Remember with your blog, people want to know a bit about the person behind the name too!  


Facebook

I also set up my own Facebook page.  This is great publicity.  You are reaching a huge audience and it’s free!  

Soon I started improving my designs and this came about through trial and error and listening to my customers.  They often come up with new suggestions which is great too.  I politely asked my friends to buy off my online shop where possible and I would chase them for feedback.  This I felt was very important.  No-one knows me from Adam so potential customers really are relying on what other people have to say about you.  

Markets

I participated in a couple of markets this summer.  They were great fun.  I did well the first time and made the mistake of not giving myself enough time to replenish my stock the following month.  I broke even but I won’t make that mistake again.  I won’t go unless I have plenty of stock to choose from.  

 

I loved the face to face contact, and I made a couple of connections through this and a like minded friend who is also a crafter but it’s not her main job.  But wow her stuff is amazing, I am going to help her with her Etsy shop shortly.

What I liked was the personal touch, you could tell people how you made the item, tell them about its selling points, the quality and instead of looking at a photo they can touch the item.  Much better!

Business Experience

I do not have any business experience, I am still learning.  At this point I am still trying to square away my presentation and packaging.  I think the latter is very important.  Of course having a quality item is extremely important and it shouldn’t fall down at the presentation stage.  A local coffee shop has said they will stock my cafetiere cosies so I am working on how to present them to the customer through a shop.  

I really would love to have a mentor, and this is my problem. I don’t have anyone that can give me guidance.  I am unsure what to do about registering my shop etc.  Someone mentioned Enterprise Ireland, so I guess they will be my next stop!

When I am at work my mind is usually drifting off to patchwork and Etsy, I would love to concentrate on my patchwork business and give up my day job but I read somewhere that you should only really do this when your hobby is generating an equivalent income to your day job so er I have a fair bit to go then!  I am afraid to take the leap, particularly in the current climate.  On top of that I have two young children, the youngest will only start going to school next year, so realistically speaking I would not be able to do any “work” as I would also need to tend to his needs and I would feel incredibly guilty “ignoring” him to do some work. At the moment I feel guilty enough as it is and that’s in the evenings when everyone is in bed!  So I now while I have kids at home I cannot do this full time, I would like to review it when he goes to school next year that way I would have free time in the mornings.  

The Future and Expansion

Finally I am also in the process of supplying quality threads. I guess this is an example of where one shop has led to another shop whereby I plan on supplying an intermediary product.  I, and loads of other sewers, am always flabbergasted at the price of thread here, so I have sourced quality cotton threads and plan on selling them through my sister shop which is called Threads2000.   

Thank you Cindy for inviting me to participate on your blog series.  
Fi
 

14 comments:

Judith said...

Great article Fi. THanks for sharing! Jxo

Isisjem said...

Great article. Interesting point about feedback. I was surprised when I started shopping on Etsy to see unlike Ebay where feed back is flagged as essential, Etsy seems to have a more laid back approach. I see tonnes of artists may have made 6000 sales and only have 1500 feedback as many people just don't bother. I always give feed back as I think it's crucial. People buy from people that are reliable and make a good product.

Nicky said...

Great article! Interesting bit about marketing yourself through social media. If you don't mind me asking how did you decide what to make and what fabrics to choose?

Irina said...

Great post Fi! and thanks Cindy for introducing us to all these artists!

Katy Cameron said...

Another great insight, thanks! My main issue at fairs right now (where I sell one of a kind mohair teddy bears) is working out what the customer wants. It's all very well people telling you they love your work, but not if they don't actually buy! I'm having a total rethink on my stuff to sell on Etsy right now, and looking at a local monthly fair as a possibility if I can get it all together. These day jobs do get in the way though! (I will also admit to wandering mind syndrome... ;o) )

The UK has Business Gateway to help with all the setup, including tax (last year I got a rebate, so it's not all bad!), I'm sure there must be an Irish equivalent. Either way, the website for Business Gatweay has no end of useful insight about writing business plans and all sorts of things that you could still access. Good luck with the seach :o)

Deanna said...

Great information. This series is a wonderful resource.

Archie the wonder dog said...

A really interesting post and one I know I'll come back to and read again in the future - thank you!

susan said...

Good information and interesting about the thread. I am constantly amazed at how much it costs too!

Taheera said...

I work with Fi and yes her mind is constantly on PatchworkDelights!! Her mind is always racing trying to come up with new ideas and I have to say she just keeps getting better and better. I love her work because she pays attention to detail and won't sell anything that's not perfect! Plus all her fabric is super trendy and cool. Sometimes she's too hard on herself but that is a quality that she shouldn't lose entirely. If you keep striving for perfection you'll just keep getting better and better. Way to go Fi!! BTY your quilt today with the strawberrys was absolutely fabulous!!

patchworkdelights said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments, thanks Cindy for the opportunity.

RE: Nicky's query, I decide what to make based on my own needs, I have a cafetiere so I made a cosy for it. Fabrics, comes with trawling the web and what I like.

Flying Blind... said...

Lovely to see you here Fi - nice to hear more.
Everyone, Fi is the beady-button queen! xxx

Erin said...

Great to here Fi that you are expanding!!!

Lynne said...

An interesting and helpful article - thank you!

pixilatedtoo said...

What a great article! Thank you for this! ~ Lynda

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