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[47] How a Photo Can Make You Famous with Cath of My Bearded Pigeon

My friend Cath Young started her second handmade business – My Bearded Pigeon – in late 2009, and has sold almost 6,000 of her designs on Etsy alone in this time.

She has been an Etsy featured seller and is also on the Etsy Seller Advisory Board this year.

I invited her on the show because I’ve known her online since before she started MBP – and I’ve been watching her business grow since the beginning.

She’s a fabulous example of someone who ‘learnt the ropes’ via her first biz, and then knocked it out of the park with her second one – applying all the lessons she learnt first time around to launch a new – and fresh – idea to the world that took hold quickly – with the help of some fortuitous PR driven by a now famous photo!

Cath is also a mum to 2 kids, still works part-time as a social worker outside of her biz (because she loves her work), and is as down-to-earth as you can get – not to mention hilarious – we laugh a lot in this one!



Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Cath started her journey with her blog back in 2007 and loved the community feel that came with it.
  • When Cath’s daughter was born she started sewing as she had trouble finding really good quality clothing for girls.
  • This evolved over time to homewares and came up with her idea for map cushions.
  • Cath decided that the new line of homewares needed a new name so she started a new brand: My Bearded Pigeon.
  • Check out the awesome photo of Cath’s daughter laying on the World Map Floor Cushion
  • The above photo was one of hundreds and Cath knew it was the one to use to market her homewares.
  • ‘Have a point of difference, even though it can be hard to find.’ {Cath}
  • Within weeks of this photo being published it was featured on Apartment Therapy, which was a huge boost to her new business.
  • Cath had an onslaught of orders following this and had hundreds of orders to fill, as well as custom orders for other maps.
  • In 2011 the head stylist at Real Living Magazine contacted Cath and has been featured multiple times, including on the cover.
  • Cath has been approached regarding her price point but she held firm and made sure she let people know the benefits of buying quality handmade and ethical products.
  • ‘Don’t be a commodity. You need to be a brand and stand out in some way and that’s why people buy from you.’ {Jess}
  • Cath still works outside of her business and enjoys the contrast of doing both.
  • My Bearded Pigeon is a great example of a business that is succeeding because of great PR.
  • ‘You need to grab opportunities as they come up.’ {Cath}
  • No day is the same for Cath but that is the way she likes it. She likes not being on the same schedule day in and day out.
  • With magazines they will want you to work quickly so Cath learnt to jump on these as they came along.
  • Cath’s Favourite Quote: ‘Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.’ {Ira Glass}
  • ‘If you know what’s good you will keep pushing yourself until you reach the point that you are making something that’s good.’ {Jess}
  • FURTHER READING: Cath wrote this post for us a few years back – ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Successfully on Etsy
  • You can find Cath and My Bearded Pigeon at her website, Etsy store or Instagram.


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Van Den has written 318 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



I love that comment from Cath about things never being quite as good as you’re hoping but you know they should be better! I’m at that stage – I know what I want, but I’m still learning the most efficient ways of doing stuff – I KNOW things can look better, but I’m having to find out for myself how I can achieve that. Just popped over to read her Etsy selling tips – learnt a few things I’m going to implement there! Thanks!


I agree with Clare, Kath’s favorite quote is one my favorites too. I think I first read it in Ben Arment’s book “Dream Year” and I think about it often. It helps me get past the moments when I’m not happy with my own work. You just have to keep working. Thanks for a great podcast!!!!

What say you?