Guest Post by Sandra Alcorn.
A Head Full of Ideas & Dreams
When I began petal & pins I didn’t start with a plan – but I did have a head full of ideas and dreams – and if that’s you too, it’s a good place to start! My project manager husband would say it’s an agile approach, responsive to change and opportunities.
I wasn’t new to running a small business, but like all new creative start-ups, I found you bring skills with you, discover ones you didn’t think you had and find new things you need to learn – sometimes quickly and sometimes with a bit (or a lot) of trial and error.
Starting a blog before I had a product to sell was a great way to get feedback and firm up my thoughts on what I wanted to do and allowed me to build up a following while researching the market as well as how I would produce and sell them.
Taking the plunge to get my product to customers, I started with a small print run which I listed on etsy with a link on my blog as well as selling them from my studio.
I soon discovered I enjoyed writing and it has been instrumental in getting featured in an article in Faerie Magazine (Issue 27 Summer 2014) and on other blogs and it also led to my first wholesale customers in Australia and America.
- Blogging takes commitment, you need to do it regularly and if writing has never been your strength get a friend or partner to proofread what you write before posting – it will help you improve your writing skills and develop your own style over time.
- Make sure you put your name/website on images you post so if people share your images (which they will) it leads back to you.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
When petal & pins was still just an idea my father was diagnosed with cancer. Designing and blogging provided a calming positive space for me throughout his illness and I am pleased that before he died he got to see the fledgling beginnings with the launch of the first petal & pins card collections – Spring Gala & High Tea.
The dream was starting to become a reality but I realised to build up sales and a significant wholesale base would require me getting out there promoting, selling and cold calling retailers not to mention more of my time.
My experience is in a studio environment and when I designed clothing ranges in Sydney someone else did the selling so with this side of building the business I was out of my comfort zone. Grief also scattered my focus and I still had other work commitments so for a while I let the sales side just amble along without much pushing.
A year later I applied for a space at a local design market which helped renew my focus and I started the petal & pins Facebook page to work on promotion – it was the beginning of the next phase in the petal & pins story.
- Be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your project – it will influence the time it takes to achieve things.
- Give yourself an objective strength vs weakness analysis and set yourself a challenge to build/work on them.
Time to Dream Bigger
My dreams are now our dreams – my husband Simon has always helped behind the scenes with his IT expertise and he happily stepped out front with me at that first design market, we both enjoyed the face to face interaction with customers talking about something we’re passionate about.
Twelve months on, with a year of design markets under our belt, the addition of art prints to the range and a beautiful petal & pins website (credit goes to Simon!) sales have grown.
I’ve discovered the fun and value of having an Instagram account as another promotional tool and I’m proudly still blogging!
Doing the markets has led to new stockists, new friends, a weekend magazine feature, a wallpaper commission and the confidence to tackle our first trade fair in February.
We have tons of ideas and other plans for 2016 so there are new things to learn, excitement and fear but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
All this from a head full of ideas and dreams … where might yours take you?
- Listen to the Create & Thrive Podcast Episode 5: Tips for Wholesaling Your Handmade Goods with Melanie Augustin
- Trello – a fantastic (free) planning app that is fun and simple to use.
- Keep dreaming – and just make a start!
Sandra Alcorn – Bio
Sandra Alcorn studied fashion design in Sydney and after working for several fashion houses made a sea change to Hobart where she opened her own successful fashion design studio.
Swapping fabric for flowers from her Tasmanian garden, Sandra started creating petite ephemeral dresses and in 2012 launched petal & pins to retail and wholesale greeting cards and art prints featuring images of her garden couture.
You can find Petal and Pins in the following links:
Image Source: © 2016 Sandra Alcorn www.petalandpins.com