In case you’re wondering, they’re not paying me to write this 😛
As a small creative business, you’re always wondering how to grow your business. On the positive side, there is no shortage of resources to help you: events, groups, courses, talks… On the negative, time and money are limited, so which ones should we commit to?! If I signed up for all the opportunities that came my way, I’d have no time to sleep (and be broke)! Which is why I like to “crowdsource” and share the experiences of both myself and other crafters on this blog. (For example, if you’re looking for a craft fair to sell at, I share both customer and exhibitor reviews of fairs on this page.)
Today’s review is of the Country Living Build-a-Business Day which is held throughout the year, all over UK. Living in London, I signed up for the one in Soho last year (super convenient to get to). £100+ is not much in the grand scheme of things, but as a teeny business, I deliberated for quite a while before committing! And I’m really glad I did 🙂 In fact, the first thing I did after coming back from the event was check when the next one would be!
The biggest reason I’m glad I went for the event is that it provided an opportunity to meet other people- women, really- who are interested in the same thing I am: starting their own creative business! Living in a dynamic city like London, there are tons of people with entrepreneurial aspirations. Unfortunately, most tend to be very tech-heavy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to start the next Uber, or the next Air B&B, but when your interest is in building a creative business, it can feel very isolating. So it was fantastic and inspiring to meet other people whose passion is also creativity and crafting. (Your business idea does not have to be craft-related to attend this event- in fact some people were still looking for their Big Idea- but probably due to the demographics of the Country Living readership, craft businesspeople were in abundance 🙂
And hey, you may even meet a future business partner! I met so many makers who were interested in being part of Makers & Friends, a platform for UK designer-makers to build their brands and the lovely Becky, of Bobbin & Belle, even followed us around the UK, participating in both our Greenwich & Edinburgh pop-ups!
Makers & Friends isn’t just a shop where makers can sell their work: it’s a platform for them to build their brand, and we encourage them to share their story with customers, whether by use of photos (as above), a little biography, or even a crafting demonstration!
Some of Becky’s lovely work- her paintings are inspired by her countryside surroundings and printed on homeward. Teatowels were a bestseller in Edinburgh: we even had someone pick some up for a wholesale order!
If you’re feeling lost and intimidated about turning your business idea into reality, the Country Living Build-a-Business day is a great way to get started. It covered 4 main areas, the most useful of which I found to be “Tips to get your business into Country Living” (Duh :P)
- Brand building tips
We were split into groups to work on developing our brands. Everyone had a handout which we spent some time filling out (individually) before going round the table to discuss. If you don’t have experience with branding, completing the hand out- which I’ve shared below- is a great way to organise your thoughts and give you direction. If the handout is nothing new to you, hearing other people’s business ideas is super interesting and feedback on your idea is also a preliminary way to see if a market for your idea exists.
The business plan worksheet included the following:
- Name of Business
- Your products/ services- what you’re selling, who’s making/ selling them and how will you fund the business?
- Customers/ Marketing- who they are (m/f, age, location…), what they want, how will you acquire them and where will you deliver the product/ service?
- What your brand is about?: values & story
- Unique Selling Proposition/ Elevartor Pitch (3Ns: Names, Numbers and Nice Things)
- Where is your Brand located on the Brand Personality Spectrum?:
- Personal/conversational or Professional/Expert
- Spontaneous/ fast moving or Careful thinking/ Planning
- Modern/ high tech or Classic/ traditional
- Fun/quirky or Serious
- Cutting edge or Long Established
- Country/ crafty/ cosy or Corporate
- If your brand is more to the left, your communication style is friendly and approachable.Translate this to colour choices, typography, words and actions.
- If your brand is to the right, your company is fairly traditional with a more corporate, professional communication style.
- If your brand it all over the place, you have a very differentiated brand (good!) so mix & match from the above
- If your brand is in the middle –> rebrand!
- What do you do next, how will you do it and when?
- Social media tips
I don’t claim to be a social media expert and don’t mean to be rude, but this was probably the least interesting part of the day for me. It was very basic, covering topics such as “What is Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Pinterest” and I am guessing is aimed at an older audience who may not have any social media accounts as yet.
- Tips to get your business into Country Living
We started with general press rules, such as:
1. Look at your product & customer and choose the right media
2. Customise your press release – make it less than 1 page covering only 1 product (not a range of products) as well as personal (for example, Anna is in charge of Country Living features); do not copy and paste!
3. Images: embed low-res versions, do not use them as attachments (which are usually not seen)
… before moving onto Country Living specific guidelines. I found this to be the most helpful part of the day. Note, it may not be relevant to all businesses as Country Living focuses on businesses which involve handmade/crafted and locally sourced products.
- Plan in advance: Country Living works seasonally, with articles being prepped 4m in advance. Get in touch in:
- June for Christmas (the shoot is in September)
- August for interiors
- 1 year in advance for feature articles
- When contacting Country Living, include the following:
- Information about yourself
- your website and social media
- a sample (packaging & press release)
- Inspirational talks
We ended the day with inspirational talks by a motivational speaker and Sophie Conran. Both talks were extremely engaging and interesting. However, to be super truthful, although Sophie Conran was very sweet and approachable and spoke very well, her talk wasn’t very useful to me (a sentiment echoed by other attendees I spoke to). She shared about how she built up her business but a good deal of her entrepreneurial journey seemed to arise from opportunities linked to her family connections- for example, she was approached by big brands to do collaborations almost from the beginning- which most of us do not have. I am not saying she didn’t work hard or doesn’t deserve her success- in fact, I admire how humble she is despite her success!- what I am saying is that perhaps due to the way the talk was structured, the takeaways for aspiring entrepreneurs felt limited.
So to sum up a long post, the Country Living Build-a-Business Day is a must-attend for aspiring creativepreneurs because:
- You meet lots of like-minded people who will end up inspiring you and giving you great feedback on your idea
- You may end up working with some of them!
- There’s a lot of information on brand building and social media basics for creativepreneurs who are feeling lost on their journey
PS The food on the day is also very good and you leave with a goodie bag containing a Country Living Bag and their Kitchen Table Talent book, which I looooooovvvee.