Crafting a Business

Image of lake at Parc Calon Lan

Did you know that most people have an attention deficit after about 6 seconds?  This basically means that when you are trying to attract someone’s attention on social media, through an advertisement or by email, if they haven’t been hooked within those 6 seconds, you might as well give up because mentally they will have wandered off and be chasing butterflies through a cornfield.  You may think that 6 seconds is a bit speedy but anyone wanting to try and get my attention has to contend with the fact that – thanks to a surfeit of university education – I have learnt to speed read.  Also as I spent the last 10 years of my NHS career scanning written medical notes looking for tiny snippets of crucial information it means that the usual 6 seconds is about 5 seconds longer than I waste on anything.  Which is why I almost missed the thing that made this week very interesting.   Last Saturday I wandered down to the Bridgend Craft Collective Fair (http://craftbridgend.org.uk/) which is held monthly in Bryngarw Country Park.

Hand made teddies
Hand crafted is best

Sue of The Sand, the Sea and Me reminded me about a seminar which was taking place in Margam Park.  Being organised and hosted by the lovely people at Agora (https://www.menterabusnes.co.uk/en) was a seminar/workshop confidently titled “How to Make Money from your Craft Business.”  I recalled seeing the details pop up on one of my social media feeds but whilst it may have snagged the people with a 6 second attention span, it had not survived my very cursory glance.   Thanks to Sue I went back and took a longer look and I was glad I did because the event proved to be one that was full of useful information not just for crafters or micro enterprises, but for anyone who sees the virtue in building resilience and self-reliance into small, local communities.  Apparently I’m one of a minority of people who find radical economics exciting but the speakers at the seminar ensured there was something to interest – even inspire – everyone who turned up.

Chapter House
Grounds of Margam Park

The day started off with a presentation by Jill Davies of Made It Markets who gave lots of useful advice particularly when it comes to pricing hand-crafted or hand-grown products.  From working out who your target market is and getting to know your customer profile to identifying your USP(unique selling point), Jill’s information came from a long experience in a range of design activities.  I particularly enjoyed her discussion around the conundrum that so many makers face – the difference between pricing from the head and pricing from the heart.   According to Jill  it is only by believing that what is made has value will the maker feel entitled to charge the price they deserve.  She concluded her presentation with a useful list of jobs to be done as homework – a task that betrayed Jill’s previous career as a teacher.  These included:

  • Identify your product market
  • Work on your USP
  • Develop a focussed product range
  • Identify your ideal customer and where you will find them
  • Try out different costing and pricing formulae
  • Consider your branding and display

ruin at Margam Park

Before becoming an MA student at the Royal College of Art, Emily O’Reilly (https://emilyoreillytextiles.wordpress.com ) was involved in a project called “Gwlan to Oo” which looked at the way in which the wool industry of the Shetland Islands had become a successful enterprise not just because of the quality of its products but also as a result of developing an innovative approach to forging links and connections with other disciplines.  For me, one of the most interesting ideas she explained was the potential for economies to become circular and self-sustaining.  This was embedded in every aspect of the Shetland Islands Wool Project from using locally sourced  materials and selling goods with an authentic provenance to making sure that there was, in effect, no end of life for the items made.

Tulip Garden

Welsh Lavender (https://www.welshlavender.com )is a successful business which began in the kitchen of a hillside farm and now employs around  20 people.  It came about because of a chance remark when Nancy and Bill invited some neighbours over for a glass of wine.  That led to a successful grant application and the planting of one field of Lavender followed by the realisation that something would need to be done with the harvest.  Nancy’s entertaining presentation (including getting everyone in the audience to sample her product) made some useful points for any entrepreneur:

  • Grant funding is a great motivator
  • If your branding doesn’t work, change it
  • Much success will come from face to face contact
  • Believe in your product
  • Local provenance will sell
  • Be prepared to move away from people and businesses that don’t fit your ethos

Welsh Hillside

The last speaker of the day was Claire Carew of Visit Wales and she wanted the audience to understand that local craft and produce businesses were part of the overall attraction for visitors to Wales, helping to make places become destinations rather than points on a route.  She had this advice to offer:

  • Be authentic
  • Understand what influences your customers
  • Use all of your local expertise
  • Make the most of your tourism community
  • Create relevant content in your website and social media posts
  • Look beyond your crafts and produce
  • Do your research and connect with other people
  • Tag your images

You’d think that would be enough but after a very nice lunch and a lot of networking, everyone had the opportunity to take part in a one to one ‘meet the buyer’ encounter.   I was lucky enough to have 10 minutes with Nia Evans of Bodlon and explain to her the thoughts behind my next project Y Llwybrau Digoll (The Unlost Paths).  I’ll give a taster of what this is about in my usual blog next month but until then here’s a little hint of what’s to come.