I've been running Oakapple Haberdashery for over four years now, but this year is proving more challenging than most, and I'm sure it's not just me feeling the pinch.
There must be many reasons why this is, and there are two that I can do nothing about, several years of austerity and the uncertainty of Brexit I don't think are helping.
I've set myself the task of working out how I can improve things, and the first step of this is to put my thoughts here in my blog.
I've started by looking at what I'm selling. Over the years I've tried various things, and one area I've tried is cross stitch and embroidery kits. I love doing these myself, and I've found some brilliant ones, but being realistic, I can't stock enough of a selection to make it worth my while, so these are all being gradually added to my sale and I'll put it down to experience. Business is a steep learning curve sometimes!
I've decided that I will concentrate on fabric and my subscription boxes, and I'm looking at changing my strapline to reflect that.
Finding my place in the market
This is evolving constantly. I started by buying just what was to my taste design wise, and I've largely stuck to this. I felt I was finally getting somewhere recently, when at my last show (Sewing for Pleasure, NEC) quite a few customers said that they liked my modern and bold fabric choices. This has made me think ,yes, this is the direction I'm going!
Going back to basics
I've had a couple of very helpful books, both written by Fiona Pullen, and they're specifically aimed at people running a creative business. I have spent a couple of days dipping in and out of her book, and I've found it to be very helpful.I'm still struggling with google analytics though!
I'm also meeting with my IT go to person with the hope that we can get the website looking tidier and more user friendly.
'Have confidence in your prices!'
This was a piece of advice given to me by another trader at the NEC. I'm still quite a newbie on the show circuit, but it always amazes me how helpful people in the craft industry can be. I've had so much help and advice, not to mention cups of tea and toilet break cover!! One thing I have learnt, you can never compete on price, so try another angle. I've tried to go for giving the best and friendliest customer service that I can, and by rewarding my loyal customers with discounts or offers. I was especially pleased when one lady came up to me recently at a show, and said she just wanted to thank me for the helpful service I'd provided to her. That comment made my day!
This is me so far! Being a sole trader is incredibly hard work. I don't often take a step back and look at the business as a whole, but just plough on regardless, so I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on what I'm doing, and hopefully I will find the best direction for my business to go.
You can find Fiona's book for sale on Amazon
You can find me at the NEC Birmingham, 28th, 29th & 30th June 2019 at The Creative Craft Show. I do have a few free tickets, so please message me if you'd like a couple.
Thank you for reading!