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Michael Hanley of Upswitch has had a lifelong fascination with old ‘stuff’ that has been made redundant by ever-changing technology and been condemned to the scrapheap.⁠

With Upswitch, he has turned this fascination into a passion: reclaiming otherwise unloved items and giving them new life, in the form of lamps and lighting.⁠

In this interview, I ask Michael to share why he started selling his creations; how COVID has affected what was a primarily market/show-driven business model; how he balances work and a young child; and what marketing channels have worked best to grow his business.⁠

You can listen to this episode below, or on your fave podcasting app!

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Highlights from this episode:

 

  • Michael has always enjoyed tinkering with repurposed materials and began to focus on lamps and lighting. He spent the first two years of his business teaching guitar as his day job and transitioned to Upswitch full time in his third year.
  • Prior to the pandemic, Michael regularly sold at markets. This generated repeat sales and wholesale orders.
  • All of Michael’s pieces are one of a kind and are created around a found, central item such as an old telephone or microscope. 
  • Customers will bring Michael special items to create lamps or request specific items. This allows Michael the opportunity to experiment with objects he may not have otherwise used and collaborate with the customer.
  • “That’s the most exciting and fun part for me—finding new things to create into lamps. Because once you start to work on it, you’re just looking at everything and wondering how it could become a lamp and whether it would work” {Michael}
  • Michael’s work peaks and troughs—around markets he will spend around 8 hours a day preparing. At other times, he can take days off to spend with his family.
  • A regular day for Michael consists of approximately 2-3 hours of admin a day, 3-4 making and additional time for packing and travel.
  • Shipping presents unique challenges for Michael with online sales. Due to the unique nature of his creations, it is difficult to predict his postage requirements.
  • Jess and Michael discuss the challenges of postage rates and setting prices for your work.
  • “It does always surprise me what some people are willing to pay—if they really want something, they will pay the shipping for it.” {Jess}
  • By increasing the price of his creations to include the cost of postage, Michael saw an increase of sales.
  • “We are the creative engines behind our businesses so it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the one part of the business we can’t really outsource to someone else” {Jess}
  • Check out Michael’s work at Upswitch.

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