So yesterday saw me heading back over the border into Yorkshire to talk to some first year students at Leeds Met all about setting up your own business and social media. I only had a sheet of notes with rough ideas to talk about but I surprised myself by talking for nearly an hour. Luckily I was helped by Esther who is the students tutor as she kept asking great questions that allowed me to clarify what I was talking about! The students had some good questions at the end too so all in all a good day out. Of course it helps that the charity shops of Headingley are good for a wander round!
Random photo but you can't have a blog post without a picture!
I recommended some links to the students yesterday and said that I would share them on here rather than have handouts - they may be very helpful for other small businesses and my readers so feel free to share (with links back though please!)
I've curated this board on Pinterest with various pins for small businesses. Some link back to a talk I've given before about social media that you can find here (or just click on the link from the Pinterest board) I also spoke about Craft Soup on Facebook. We have a public page that everyone can view and a private group that if you fit the criteria, you are more than welcome to join!
I also asked Craft Soup group members if any of them had advice that they wished they had been given when they started out in business and here's what they said.
Corinne said 'To believe in myself more and not be so scared of looking at my finances properly. To dream big and not believe that everybody knew more than I did. Part of the fun is to make it up as you go along!' Oh and 'And to actually set targets with time scale!'
Barbara-Anne said 'ask more questions and listen to the answers!(take notes or use a Dictaphone)
*do a decent business plan(wish I had in the beginning)
*wish I hadn't listened to the 'friend' who told me I wasn't good enough
*learn all you can and never say you don't need to learn more - I have had a baptism of fire on social media and computer technology and I am a million miles away from understanding it all
*makes sue you know the rules & regs that cover your particular thing ... don't wait until trading standards tell you you got it wrong
*believe in yourself and your product/business'
Jo said 'Keep a tight rein on the finances (mine used to be a MESS) that old adage - take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves is so true!'
Andrew said '1. As above, but to realise that making a business and making things to sell are not the same thing and are not always compatible with ideals.
Decide and plan what you want and keep track of it, but don't be afraid to change or modify it as circumstances change.
2. Spend time learning the skills of both in the real world first before making your own way. Both to understand what's required and to actually have enough cash to make it work.
Kirsten said' All of the above, and above all, LOVE what you do'
Liz added '1. Don't try to reinvent the wheel - use all the help and advice you can.
2. Make it easy for your customers to buy from you. Try to put yourself in their shoes and realise that what's important to you may not actually matter to them. (ie they may not care about the elaborate technique or process you've used - they just want to look good at the school gate or make their best friend happy by giving them a lovely gift).
3. The one I still need to keep telling myself - Be confident in what you do - (or at least try and seem like you are) if you believe in it, so will the customers.
4. Practise what you preach! And definitely be realistic about all your overheads (like I'm not!)
Christine said 'Try having a part-time job that pays regular income whilst you become established
*Do your research and see if others see making similar things and then try and find something that makes you unique.
*Make better records of money!
Sarah said 'Just from a design point of view...go with your gut, make what you love not what you think you should make. If you love what you do it will shine through in your work'
Jane said 'Don't be afraid to change, diversify and try new things. As you grow as a person, so should your business grow with you. And network, network, network!
Corinne came back and said 'Just thought of another one! Value your time! If you spend 3 hrs making something this should be included in your costs otherwise you don't have a business!!!! Materials+ overheads+ labour+ PROFIT ( yes the big scary word) make a business. Wish I had understood this much earlier!'
Heather said 'Get in touch with a small business advisor and find a mentor. Learn about tax and vat, it's the boring side of the creative industry, but I would have taken a lot less years to get where I am if I had gotten help.
Build a brand. I'm most impressed by the people who have good logos and packaging and presentation, nice tags, stickers, good photography. Look professional. I'm still working on that one!
Lynne said 'I spent so much time on getting my branding right that I didn't have time to make enough items for my first fair. My husband said to me 95% of your customers won't even notice, if they like your product and it looks good they will buy it. But to me it was the most important thing. I now realise he was right (but of course I won't tell him that ) it is important but should not take over your time so it becomes your only focus. The first item I sold was a Gothic skirt so I got the bag and the girl said have you not got a plastic bag so I can shove it in my bag. I had spent time and cost to make these bags so different that everyone would know she'd bought from my stall and come rushing over to buy something so my advise to anyone is yes get your branding but don't get bogged down with it it more important to you than most of your customers.'
Phew - long post! If you are a student who is reading and I said I would mention something in particular and it's not here, just leave a comment and I'll answer :)