5 top tips for running a craft business
Taking the plunge and turning your craft passion into a money-making venture can be a daunting prospect. However, as we learnt in the Craft as a Career feature in February's issue (67) of Creativity, with a helping hand, determination and perseverance the dream can become a reality.
Kerry Lord started her textile business directly influenced by her crafting passion. Founded in 2006 straight from university, TOFT is now a leading yarn and knitwear brand, ‘defined by luxury quality yarns in fashion-led patterns and an all-natural colour palette’. Here you can find some top tips and tricks on growing your own business, alongside some valuable advice from Kerry.
1. Make your product easily accessible
If you run a small company selling at craft fairs and haven’t yet made it online, why not start an online store to expand your customer base and reach more people? Sites like Etsy, Folksy and Not On The High Street are great places to get started and have lots of helpful articles on setting up your shop. These include hints and tips on how to list your item and the best ways to photograph it.
Videos and tutorials can help promote your goods as well as giving customers something to refer to. Primarily a knitwear company, TOFT not only provides the physical product but gives free access online video guidance. "Our kits are designed with downloadable add-ons for extended instruction and tuition, which are designed to accompany any printed pattern", all available from its website 24/7, at the click of a button. This makes its product easily accessible to an infinite number of keen crocheters and knitters across the world, creating a complete customer experience.
2. Focus on quality
If you make a quality product, a quality reputation will come with it. Those who buy from small craft brands generally understand the time and talent that it takes, so concentrate on making sure your customers are spending their hard-earned money on something great. "Here at TOFT we don’t believe in investing all your time and energy in making something if the resulting product isn’t of the highest quality. It is a pleasure to make something in a quality yarn and even more of a pleasure to admire and wear the resulting item", Kerry comments.
Using the very best quality raw materials will in turn enable you to create the best quality products, resulting in a happy customer who will go on to recommend your company and product for all of the right reasons. Make sure to never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, it could be the difference between your company thriving or falling at the first hurdle.
Kerry's focus on excellence has resulted in an extremely loyal customer that has helped the company to grow and flourish. Make sure you give your customers a reason to stay loyal!
"... at TOFT we don’t believe in investing all your time and energy in making something if the resulting product isn’t of the highest quality"
3. Get involved!
If you’re the mastermind behind your business, remember that people will often associate your brand with you. Be at the forefront; whether that be selling at craft fairs or communicating with your customers over social media.
Throughout the growth of her business, Kerry has always kept involved with every stage as she explains: "My job is a hands-on process from on-farm fibre grading, spinning method, designs collection and pattern development, through to retailing the product to our customers. What motivates me is a dedication to UK material sourcing and manufacture, and ethical import where overseas manufacture is required."
"What motivates me is a dedication to UK material sourcing and manufacture, and ethical import where overseas manufacture is required"
4. Be the latest thing
Take time to identify viable gaps in the market, and ways in which your product range could fill these gaps. Making sure your product range is new, fresh and exciting is a key way to maintain and grow your customer base, as Kerry proves. In 2012, in the last few weeks of her pregnancy, Kerry taught herself to crochet, and from this Edwards Menagerie was born. It is now an ever-expanding collection of super-cute crochet animals including sheep, dinosaurs, flamingos and sloths to name but a few, and over the past year the kits have become TOFT's number one selling line.
5. Make your presence known
Selling your wares and running demos at craft fairs is a great way of getting your brand name out there. It also helps you get to know your customer better, learning what their wants and needs are and helping you to develop successful marketing campaigns, social media activity, and ultimately products.
Kerry attends lots of different fairs up and down the country, and this week she'll be attending The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show, where TOFT will be installing and holding a yarny Wonderland. "Newbie and seasoned crocheters alike are invited to come and 'sample' a lollipop or two while learning about different natural fibres and how that impacts crochet texture. We will be offering free-of-charge tuition and guidance and hope to build an inspiring space for all to come and share a few stitches."
For more details make sure to visit the Spring Knitting and Stitching show website here.
"We will be offering free-of-charge tuition and guidance and hope to build an inspiring space for all to come and share a few stitches"
If following in Kerry’s footsteps remains an enticing idea for you, make sure to check out the Craft as a Career feature in docrafts February issue (67) of Creativity for further tips and tricks from other creatives.