Friday, 21 October 2016

Small Business Owner Q&A

Custom pieces make my soul sing
My small business SPOOK & SIREN has been live for a few months now, and I get a lot of questions about how I manage my business, where my inspiration and motivation comes from, and how I schedule my time. Now that I've hit a rhythm and started getting more custom work, I figured it was time to answer some of those queries!

So... why flower and seashell crowns?

I used to run a small jewellery business while I was at uni, and my friends used to ask me to help them make bits and pieces for costumes. I also did a little bit of hair/costume/props/makeup work for different productions at uni, and I really loved it, as well as trying some hands-on DIY/upcycling stuff with various items of clothing and furniture. Thanks to my reputation as an artsy-craftsy kind of person I ended up being given lots of odds and ends over time, like fabrics and paints, and someone gave me a massive box of fake flowers, and I started making flower crowns.

My whole mermaid schtick is a story for another time, but long story short I've always related to mermaids and loved the beach. So really it was a natural progression for me to try and incorporate my love of mermaids and the sea with my crafting passion. After a lot of experimentation and product development I ended up with my current method and general aesthetic for creating seashell crowns. Each one is completely unique, and when I'm creating ready-to-wear pieces for the store I let myself get inspired by the shells I'm able to find. If I get a commission I'll take into account the requirements and requests of the customer.

Is it your full-time job?

I wish! I have a day job working in digital marketing, which is my main source of income. I don't do any sponsored work or ads on my blog because I don't have the time to devote to doing it properly, and I wouldn't feel right accepting work which I couldn't put my whole heart into. While I'm getting more interest in my commission work, it's certainly not enough to sustain myself as a sole source of income.

How do you balance your time?

This is a very good question... the answer is NOT VERY WELL. I work 9-5, Monday-Friday, and as well as SPOOK & SIREN I also run the Blogger Beauty Box, am the lead singer in a band, have pets, write for my blog and I'm also about to start an art foundation course. This is one of the reasons I don't have a lot of ready-to-wear pieces in the shop right now; I only really have time for my commission pieces! If any of you have any advice for organising time when you're a busy human, I'd love to hear from you! 

Does your health make things more difficult? 

In case you don't know, I have kind of a weird cocktail of mental and chronic illnesses which I'm currently coping with. As well as Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, which are currently managed with medication, I have Hashimoto's Disease (an autoimmune disease affecting my thyroid) and am currently dealing with Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (a consequence of having Galndular Fever towards the end of this summer). Between them, these illnesses made me feel physically and mentally exhausted very quickly and can make it difficult to stay focused and motivated. I love creating, so generally my passion carries me through when it comes to encouraging myself to sit down and do some crown work, or to develop new products. I also find getting positive feedback hugely motivational, and it can massively help me to continue making new things. 

What I generally find most difficult is the official stuff, like accurate pricing, paperwork, tax returns and marketing my own work, which I'm sure you can all appreciate is not ideal! All this official stuff needs doing, but if I had my own way there would be some kind of goblin or elf who would do the nitty-gritty day-to-day stuff. Maybe one day I'll be making enough to justify hiring an accountant to do my least favourite part of it all. Oh, and my workshop is a borderline-dangerous mess. Mustering up the physical strength and mental motivation to tidy is almost impossible.

Which other small business owners do you emulate? 

My products, and the way I conduct my business, are a little unusual so it's a little tricky to directly emulate anyone, but there are a handful of people who I find inspiring and whose work ethics are something to look up to, like Jemma from Dorkface, Other businesses I love include Jewellery Box, Awesome Merch, The Wily Fox and Little Doe.

What has been your biggest setback?

While not a setback as such, I am slightly frustrated by the financial side of things. I have no partners or investors, so if I take a gamble on a new product or have to invest in new tools and materials I have to bankroll it myself. I like making my products really affordable, but that means that sometimes my profit margins are pretty small, and I reinvest everything into the business right now. Effectively, if you buy something the profit goes right back into making and testing new products. This means it can take time for me to get the cash together to make new things, and I can get a bit antsy when I have ideas I can't immediately act on.

What's next for SPOOK & SIREN and Blogger Beauty Box?

As you can probably imagine, seashell and flower crowns are more of a spring/summer thing! What's more, Post-Viral Fatigue is a real nightmare and is making my body shut down, so physically I'm not as capable as I'd like to be. What this has done, though, is give me plenty of thinking time and that's meant that I've made some big decisions.

The first one is that I'm going to make the Blogger Beauty Box seasonal. The last box was called "The Summer Box" and at the time that was mostly because we needed time to pass the torch from Vix to myself. However, on reflection, making the box a seasonal thing makes the most sense. There are so many great subscription boxes out there, and I want to bring you something original and exciting every single time. I'm really looking forward to putting out four amazing boxes a year.

For S&S I have some new product due out very, very soon, and if you were at Bloggers' Blog Awards I may have drunkenly gushed about some of them to you! Keep your eyes peeled, all will soon be revealed.

Should I start my own small business?

Maybe! DO you have a really cool idea, or a wonder ful skill? If you have the time, the passion and the patience then absolutely, why not? Just remember to keep records of everything you spend and everything you earn, and do be sure to be above board. It's better to be overcautious than under prepared!

And finally, what advice do you have for people starting out? 

Dream big, work hard and admit when you need help - usually the people around you are more than happy to lend a helping hand. Don't struggle in silence, and be honest with yourself about what you can achieve, and never let jealous people prevent you from aiming high!

If you want to contact me about commission work, or anything else, you can do so through my Etsy store.

1 comment

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