Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Etsy Awards - One Year On

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I won the Etsy Awards. Time has flown by and my small business has grown so much. Winning the awards has really changed my life and has taken my brand on a journey that’s constantly growing.

There are so many small businesses in the handmade world trying to make it, who dream of having a studio and a small team around them. Sincerely Louise has taken those steps over the last few years and I've learnt so much through my triumphs and mistakes. So I thought I'd put together a list of tips for anybody looking to take this journey and move their crafts from a hobby into a small business.

The first thing you need to know about running your own business is it’s a lifestyle, not a 9 - 5 job. There are times you might end up working through the weekend or night. I remember frantically wrapping orders at 3am (whilst watching live gambling the TV), just so I could take the next day off for my birthday. It’s also hard to switch off, especially with emails and messages come through to your phone instantly.

On the upside you can run your business to suit you and you can go on holiday whenever it suits you. Although I work most weekends, I tend to spend longer visiting family or take a few extra holidays a year. Be prepared to work harder than you would for anyone else, but know the rewards of doing something you love are absolutely amazing .

One of the most important things you need to decide is your target market. Imagine who is going to buy your products, how old are they, how do they dress, where do they shop? Sit down and make a list of all these attributes. You need to tailor each part of your business to this customer, including the social media you use, the platforms you sell on and the craft fairs you exhibit at. It’s also okay to have more than one target customer, or an aspiring customer base. Fun fact, most brands come up with a name for their target customer.
Take inspiration from everywhere, it’s your business and your chance to be creative. At university I studied photography, specialising in fashion editorials, we were always told to not look at fashion images as they would directly influence the work were making. Instead we found inspiration from other imagery which made our work more original and interesting. I try not to look at other knitters work as I know I could end up subconsciously copying them.

A big no no is copying other people’s work. I’m always finding people on Etsy selling my finished pieces, despite having all the copyright information on the pattern explaining that finished pieces are not for re-sale. There are designers out there who don’t mind this and if that’s the case then fab, but remember to respect the designers who don’t allow it.
There are so many places to sell your work and it’s about finding the ones that are right for you. I started selling my finished pieces on Etsy whilst at university and eventually adding my first line of knitting kits in September 2014. A few months after this my fox head kit was featured on the Etsy home page and I couldn’t believe it. The traffic was incredible and the orders started coming in. I continued selling on Etsy because it was a friendly interface and I’d began to build my sales and reviews.

When you start your own online shop start with one platform and direct your customers to it, this could be an Etsy shop, your own website or even a Facebook shop. Building a shop with several sales and reviews entices customers to buy and the more you sell the more likely you could be chosen for promotions within that platforms home pages, social media or email outs.

Recommend Platforms for Craft Sellers:
Etsy, Folksy, Not on the Highstreet, DaWanda, Craftsy, Ravelry (for knitting patterns)
This is a big one! Craft fairs are good to do as they’re a place to test the market and see who your customers are in ‘real life’. When you’re starting your own business craft fairs can be quite daunting, especially when you have to pay for the space, figure out how you’re going to dress it, prepare the stock and get it there, before you even get the chance to worry about making any money. I’ve exhibited at local craft fairs, specialised shows and run workshops at exhibitions too and have learnt so much from doing so.

My first piece of advice is to pick the shows your target market would visit. For me that’s the Knitting and Stitching Show, this was the first show I ever exhibited at. I was so nervous about breaking even, but almost sold out on the first day. From taking a risk at this show I suddenly had capital to invest in my business. Following my success at the Knitting and Stitching Show I decided to exhibit at the WI Fair, I booked a larger space and took more kits, but learnt a harsh lesson, the people visiting weren't my target audience and weren't buying. It was a very different experience from the Knitting and Stitching Show.

My top tips are, If you’re nervous about doing a show or fair, test it out and book a small space or share a space with a friend. If you have an amazing response return the next year with a larger one. If a show is constantly contacting you and asking you to exhibit this can be a warning sign as it means they can’t fill the spaces out organically. Some of the best show I've done are the ones you have to apply for, it can take a little time to fill out all the forms, but they’re worth doing.

When you’re at the fairs it’s really important to talk to everyone. The worst thing you can do is sit and read a book or be on your phone ignoring the people who are interested in your work. Sometimes your customers may be too shy to talk to you, so welcome them with a big smile and let them know a little bit about your product.

Selling it an art form, but the more you do it the more confident you’ll be. It may sound cruel, but you’ll soon be able to tell the genuine customers from the time wasters, “no, I do not want to talk about the types of poo you find in your garden” - yes this conversation really happened.
Like choosing an online platform to sell your work, I believe it’s best to choose one social channel and concentrate on that. The others will slowly follow suit. I mainly use Instagram, I like that it's a very visual platform and has a very engaged community. I also like Facebook as a lot of my customers use it. Twitter I tend to use less, but still post important things on to it. When I say pick one I don’t mean just set up one account on one platform, you still need to post on all of them, just choose one to interact with potential followers and customers.

Again it goes back to knowing who your target customer is and what kind of social media they might like to use. They could love watching Youtube videos, or pinning their dream home on Pinterest. If you take the time to know them and how to find them, they should find you too. It’s important to take great photos and make relevant content for your social channels, don’t just post photos of your dinner (unless it’s a really good dinner)!

Let your followers know a little bit about you, people love supporting small businesses and knowing who they’re buying from. Give a little sneak peek of what’s new, let your followers know if you’re going to be at any craft fairs and most importantly get them involved. Every month we showcase our favourite makers and hold competitions our fans can get involved in. Getting to know your customers through social media doesn't have to be a job or particularly hard, just invest your time wisely.
 Create your own workspace that you can say good night to when you’re finished. For me this wasn’t possible when I first started my business as I was working in my bedroom in a flat share in North London. When I moved south of the river I took over the living room at my boyfriends house which again wasn’t ideal. A spare room would have been amazing, as I could have kept all my mess there!

One of the biggest transitions I took was moving into the SL studio. It was a huge risk at the time as I suddenly had to find that money each month to pay for it. However, taking on a risk means you have to push yourself harder. Having your own space to work in, even if it’s desk in your living room, is so important as it's a space you can designate for working. I think it’s even more important to say goodnight to that space at the end of the day, or you’ll never stop working.
There will be a point in your business that you’ll realise you can’t do everything. I firmly believe that it’s okay to ask people for help, it’s not a sign of weakness. You may not be able to afford to pay someone at the start of your journey, but you may know a graphic designer or photographer who could swap some of their skills with you. Just ask! Another route is asking students, whilst at university we always had brands getting in touch to ask if we could shoot for them. Not only could you be getting some great photos/make up/graphic design you could be helping a student out with their portfolio. Another option are websites like People Per Hour, where you can post jobs and people will respond with a quote. Things like photographs, a good logo and text on your website can really make a huge difference so don't be scared to ask for help.
A really great tip I’ve learnt over the years is to collaborate with other brands. As a smaller brand starting out it’s a good idea to work with other business who in turn will promote you. When I wrote my book I decided to source my yarn for the patterns from lots of different brands. In return for using them in the publication they featured me across their social media and email outs. I’ve also written patterns for magazines and larger brands who have a bigger outreach from me. These jobs might always not be the most well paid, but the brand awareness that you gain from them can be invaluable.

It’s really easy to fall into a trap of complacently when running your own business. For me that was with selling my knitting kits. I began selling so many kits that all my time was taken up with making and posting them. I stopped designing I spent so much time making kits. I took the orders I was getting for granted, instead of focusing on new designs. When I did return to designing in the quiet summer months I found it really tough. So now I set myself deadlines for new projects. Every month I also design a knitting pattern, with the idea chosen by one of my followers, this means I can’t let them down. It keeps me designing, making my collections easier to work on.

It’s the bane of small businesses. The idea of having to spend money to make money can be scary when you don’t really have the money in the first place. Starting your own business from scratch can be tough, you may need to work part time whilst getting it off the ground. You may find you need to have several streams of income. For me that’s selling the kits directly to customers, wholesale, pattern sales, book royalties, commissions, shows and running workshops. Like I said at the beginning it’s a way of life, that changes day to day throughout the year.

You will need capital to invest in materials to move forward. I remember the first time I ordered from my main yarn supplier, the minimum order seemed like so much and it was a big risk. You do have to take these risks when investing in your brand, as you can’t run a business buying your materials from John Lewis! Invest your capital wisely, try and cross reference your materials so you use them in several products or you may end up holding on to stock for years that never sells.

If you are really serious about running your own business I would suggest writing a business plan. They may seem daunting, when I first looked through the online templates I thought it was a waste of time. But then I had to sit down and write one. It helped me research into things like my target market, where my income was going to come from, how much I needed to make to survive. One of the best things it makes you do is to sit down and give yourself goals. It also helps you analyse your competitors and work out your forecasts for the coming years. I try and read through it when I feel a little lost.

Once you’ve written a plan then why not take it to the bank or to a start up loans company. If you’ve been trading for under two years you can apply for a start up loan to help with the capital you need to move your business forward.

I hope you've enjoyed my tips! These aren't formal rules on how to run a business but more advise on what I've learnt from the last few years. I'd love to hear any tips you may have too.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Sincerely Louise Blog is Back!

We're back, baby! Well, if you've been following the Sincerely Louise story on our social channels, you'll know we never really went anywhere. But the blog has been a platform we've shied away from. The advise I always give to other small businesses is to concentrate on the channel you like the most rather than spread yourself too thinly out across several, for me that's been Instagram where we've now reached over 10K followers, yippie! Over the last two and a half years the business has grown so much and I'm proud to say it's no longer run by just myself. There's now a small team behind Sincerely Louise and we're eager to start blogging more about our upcoming projects and adventures.

The blog has had a makeover and we'll be bringing you regular crafty content. Including new kits and patterns, behind the scenes at the studio and news from the whole team. So if you've missed some of our story or our new to the brand here are some of the regular things we get up to!

Monday Makers and MOTM
Every Monday we showcase a 'Maker of the Week' (MOTW). We receive lots of photos from our customers who have knitted our designs and we love seeing them. So every Monday we share an SL maker for everyone to see. We have four MOTW's every month and at the end of the month those MOTWs battle it out to be crowned 'Maker of the Month' (MOTM). Our followers vote for their favourite maker and the winner gets a kit. To enter all you have to do is share your finished knits with us @sincerelylouise on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and make sure to hashtag #sincerelylouise so we can see it. 



Scrap Yarn Challenge 
At the beginning of the year we started a new project called the Scrap Yarn Challenge (SYC). The Sincerely Louise stash takes up almost a whole ikea cabinet in the studio and we need help turning it into projects. So every month we're challenging our followers to come up with suggestions for our scrap yarn. Our favourite idea will be knitted up and the pattern named after the person who suggested it. 


Knit Nights
Every month we hold a knit night at our South London studio. These £5 knit include tuition, wine and a discount on SL products. We're also looking at expanding our workshop programme to include learn to knit sessions too. 



The Sincerely Louise Website
Our website is slowly developing into a hub of products, inspiration and news. Keep your eyes pealed for lots of exciting things coming soon, including our biggest release ever for A/W 17.

That's all for now, but there'll be weekly updates from HQ that we can't wait to share with you.

Sincerely,

Louise and the SL team xx

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Where to find Sincerely Louise this year!

So you don't miss out on our upcoming events here's a list of where to find us this year!

Sincerely Louise Open Studio, Thursday August 4th, 19:00
Join us for an evening of knitting, wine and faux taxidermy at our South London studio for only a fiver. All you need to bring is your own knitting. There's also informal teaching if you'd like to learn a new stitch or two! Book here.

Mystery Market Place, 26th - 29th of August 
We'll be at an exciting shopping event in Central London over the August bank holiday weekend. Watch this space for more details as we'll be launching our brand new unicorn kit here. 

Tent London, September 22nd - 25th 
Visit our collection at the Etsy Award Winners showcase at Tent London, part of the London Design Fair, in East London. 

Yarndale, September 24th - 25th 
Whilst our pieces are on display at Tent London you can also find them atYarndale in Skipton. It's our first year exhibiting and we can't wait. 

Fox Head Workshop, Thursday September 29th, 19:00 
Come along to an evening workshop of foxy faux taxidermy at our South London studio. Accompanied by Brixton's finest brownies, of course! Book here.

The Knitting and Stitching Show, 5th - 9th of October
This will be our third year at The Knitting and Stitching show and we've moved rooms. There'll be a whole new range of faux taxidermy heads, so keep your eyes peeled! 

Please note there may be a few more events added to this list, including an Etsy Awards celebration. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Please Vote for me in the Etsy Awards!

I'm proud to announce Sincerely Louise has been made a finalist in the Etsy Awards! The public decide on the winner and I'm asking for your help.

To vote simply follow this link:

https://etsyawards.com/uk/Finalist-54/SincerelyLouise

Your vote would mean the world to me, as a small business I've grown from strength to strength and I have to credit Etsy for supporting me throughout. I've been lucky enough to be featured on their blogs, newsletters and across their social media. One thing that surprised me was that out of the 60 finalists my shop is only one offering DIY products. The knitting and crochet community is such a big part of my life, I love designing, teaching and inspiring others to pick up a pair of needles. I can't believe there's not more crafty makers like myself in the final.

So this week I'm asking you to spare just a moment of your time to vote for me, it would mean the world and once the voting closes on the 6th of June I can start working on those new designs for you!

Sincerely,

Louise


Monday, 11 April 2016

Sincerely Louise Workshops Launched!



Since starting Sincerely Louise the business has come along way, from writing my first knitting pattern to making the book, I've moved my small wool stash from home and am now running my own studio in South London. Now we're reading to launch our first workshops which will range from teaching students the knitting basics to faux taxidermy classes!

To be one of the first to visit the Sincerely Louise studio we're offering our first class on April the 21st for only £5! You can come and learn to knit and experienced knitters are welcome. You could even bring that friend who's always wanted to learn.

Our studio is located in central Brixton, just a 5 - 10 minute walk from the station and is full of wool and faux trophy heads. The workshop includes all the materials needed and will be run by myself and another knitting tutor. To find out more and to book visit the website www.sincerelylouise.co.uk.





Monday, 27 July 2015

Where You'll Find Me This Year - Shows, Fairs and Workshops

I've already had such a busy start to the year, trading at Unravel and the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show. Giving a speech and running a photography workshop at the Knitting and Crochet Guild convention. Not to mention designing for Mollie Makes, Stylecraft and Knit Today alongside unleashing my latest dinosaur collection. I had a little health blip in between but have recovered well and am excitedly looking ahead to the rest of the year!

And it's non stop, I finally took a big leap and found a studio space in central Brixton. From the 1st of August I'll be moving my huge yarn stash from the living room, and my private stash in the bedroom to it's new home. I'll also be able to proudly display my critters and have my knitting machine permanently set up. It also means I'll be able to run knitting nights and workshops, eek!

Before I open my doors I've got some work to do. But I've got lots of exciting news for the year ahead. Here are some key dates for your diary.

July 28th - The Make Escape 3rd Birthday - Hackney
It's my favourite London craft night! Come along for a night of free workshops at the Hackney Attic. Hosted by the wonderful Momtaz Begum-Hossain (@TheCraftCafe). It's the Make Escapes 3rd birthday and it's Hawaiian themed! I can't wait! 
http://themakeescape.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/coming-up-hawaiian-holiday-our-3rd.html

August 28th - 30th - Frank and Olive Retreat - York
More information to be released soon.

September 3rd - 5th - The WI Centennial Fair - Harrogate
I'm really excited to be apart of the WI Fair, you'll find me trading at Stand A139 alongside running a workshop on Thursday the 3rd. We'll be making mini fox head key rings hurrah! I'll also be releasing my latest collection of kits and scarfs at the show.
http://www.thewishow.com/ 


September the 5th - The Great London Yarn Crawl - London
I won't actually be around for this one, but I'll be there in spirit. The yarn crawl looks really fun, each group has a different route and I'm excited to say that my pieces can be found at both Fringe and Wild & Woolly. Look out for the new ranges there too!
http://www.greatlondonyarncrawl.com/

October 7th - 11th - The Knitting and Stitching Show - Alexandra Palace London
It's the big one! I launched my kits at the show last year so am excited to be back. You can find me in the same hall and in almost the same place. There'll be some familiar faces and some new ones too. I'll also be running a bear pillow workshop too. 
http://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/london/



November 14th - Festiwool - Hitchin 
Last year I was invited to Festiwool and I'm glad to be back! It's only a short train journey from London so perfect for exhibiting. Again there'll be a fresh face of critters and some old friends too. I'd really recommend visiting this one as it has a fabulous atmosphere and friendly traders.

December 4th - 8th - The Clothes Show - NEC Birmingham
This is a show I'm really excited to be involved in. It won't be my usual set up as I've been given a really big space. Here I'll be teaching how to knit in the educational area as well as trading too. I've got some time to get planning how I want the stand looking as usually I'm only in a 2x2m space! There'll be lots of animals here as well as even more new designs. If you're new to knitting or want to learn just pop along for a free workshop! 


I'd love to see you at any (or all) of these shows! And keep your eyes out for Brixton workshops too!

Sincerely,

Louise

xox

Friday, 19 June 2015

Diplodocus Scarf Pattern - Free Until June 30th!

To celebrate the release of Jurassic World I have been having a Jurassic June! Each week I've been releasing a new dinosaur pattern. First it was my Stegosaurs hat, then my Pterodactyl bag and this week I'm unleashing my Diplodocus scarf! If you haven't seen the film yet I highly recommend it. I personally think there's not enough dinosaur knits for girls, so I've used a pastel palette to make them extra cute! They could easily be adapted for boys, but I thought I'd be a little selfish and design them all for me.


I kicked off the month with my Stegosaurus hat, it's knitted in alpaca chunky yarn and has two sets of spikes running along it. You can find the pattern here!


Next I released my Pterodactyl bag, knitted in a lavender DK with amazing dinosaur patterned lining. I added a chain so I can take it anywhere. Find the pattern here


I finally got to see the Jurassic World film this week, as I said before I loved it! So how could I resist giving my followers a little treat. Until June the 30th my Diplodocus Scarf pattern is free and all you need to make it is two balls of DK yarn! It's perfect for knitting days in the sun or a holiday project as theres lots of St st. Next week I'm off to the British country side and have already cast on my next scarf design. 



Finally I've released my Triceratops kit in red and gold. You can buy the kit here. Keep tuned for my final dinosaur announcement of the month. 



Sincerely,

Louise x



Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Faux Taxidermy Knits Competition

It's competition time! I have been busy the last few days, designing a set of patterns that are going to be exclusively available as part of a competition that will be ongoing on the Sincerely Louise blog until the end of this year. If you have been watching any of my posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have noticed these cheeky chaps getting featured as I've been designing them...now you can get your hands on them.
A lion, a meerkat and a hippo!

Faux Taxidermy Knits Competition


Until the end of 2015, the only way to get your hands on these patterns will be via this competition. They've been designed as part of an 'Africa' collection that will be published next year; but until that is available, you will not be able to download, buy or otherwise get them in any way apart from entering. 
Mr Lion - with a possibility of a Mrs Lion too!

How do you enter?


This is primarily an Instagram competition, and entering is super easy. When you upload a photo onto Instagram of a finished creature from one of my patterns, tag it with #fauxtaxidermyknits and make sure to mention me on @sincerelylouise, you will automatically be put into that weeks draw. It doesn't matter when you knitted the project, or whether it comes from my book, one of my free patterns here on the blog, or a digital download or kit from Etsy.
A beautiful pink hippo waiting to be made!

The Winners:


A new winner will be picked each week. The competition runs from Wednesday one week to the following Tuesday, when the winner will be announced on my social media channels with a share of that project, as well as credit to the maker. The winner will then be able to choose which critter they would like to be sent.

With three different patterns to win, you can enter as many times as you like to be in with a chance of entering them all! However, only one winner will be chosen every week, so you will have to make sure you enter each week.
Little Meerkat at your service!

Depending on my design schedule, I will be adding to the collection over the coming months, so even if you are lucky enough to win all three, keep checking back, as I may be introducing more African friends over time.

Good luck and happy knitting!