Makers’ Club: Pitching to shops and press

Last Wednesday was our August Makers’ Club on the topic of ‘Pitching to shops and press’ held at the lovely venue of Brixton Impact Hub. We chose the topic of pitching because, although it seems far away, it’s around this time that makers need to begin thinking about Christmas if they want to make the most of the opportunities it offers. Persuading shops to take your work and being featured in press and on blogs are two ways to raise the profile of your business.

Our two speakers this month were Binki Taylor and Kim Winter. At the meeting these expert speakers gave tips on how to approach businesses, journalists and bloggers for collaborations, sales opportunities and features.

RunnyCustard: Makerhood: Makers Club: Pitching 13/08/14 &emdash; Makers’ Club: Pitching to shops and press 13 August 2014

There was a great turn-out of makers for the meeting – even though it was August and the height of the holiday season! It was fantastic to see old friends and meet new Makerhoodies and non-members, and hear about their experiences and adventures in making. Makers were at all different stages of their journey, from not selling at all to supplying independent shops and even a small supermarket chain.

Our speakers personal and professional experience as maker, independent shop owner, coach, editor and south Londoners shone through as they advised makers on questions about following up on positive press leads, how to pitch over the phone and when the time is right to speak to large stores about stocking your work.

It’s not all about the speakers though and it was great to see makers who live and work locally in Lambeth get together, meet one another and talk about their experiences. Who knows where that might lead!

Thanks again to our fabulous speakers, Binki and Kim, to the wonderful Brixton Impact Hub for hosting us and to the lovely Lenny of RunnyCustard for her photography skills.

See you all in September!

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About our speakers

Binki Taylor is a coach-mentor at the School for Creative Startups and co-founder of Circus, an art and vintage homeware store at the heart of Brixton Village Market. Binki is also one of the people behind the launch of the Brixton Design District in conjunction with the London Design Festival which runs from 13-21st September 2014, London wide.

Kim Winter is a director of Makerhood and set up her editorial consultancy Write Expression in 2009, specialising in building WordPress websites for makers, sole traders and small community groups. Kim’s own blog, Flextiles, charts her experiments in textiles, especially wet felting and natural dyeing.

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About Makers’ Club

Makerhood’s Makers’ Club supports makers who live or work in Lambeth by offering the chance to meet other local makers and businesses at talks, business development workshops and social events. We also organise and advertise local selling opportunities. Membership costs £25 a year. Find out more here: http://www.makerhood.com/join-makers-club

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Perfect pitching

Does the thought of asking a retailer to stock your products bring you out in a cold sweat? Or do you want to email a journalist about featuring your work in a magazine but just sit there staring at a blank screen?

Then you must sign up for our Getting to grips with pitching workshops. These three  interactive workshops are specially designed for makers with no or little experience of pitching to help you develop your  pitching skills.

The written pitch
Wednesday, 26 September, 7-9pm, led by Kim Winter

This workshop will help you craft the perfect written pitch that will grab the reader’s attention and make sure she doesn’t hit the “delete” button. We’ll show you how to highlight your unique selling points and tell your story in the most appealing way. And we’ll discuss the importance of getting the tone right too.

Preparing to pitch to shops
Wednesday, 3 October, 7-9pm, led by Carole Mourier and Jane Doxey

So your product is ready and you’re raring to go and sell it to shops. But when you’re there, what do you say about your product and how will you present yourself?

This workshop will prepare you to successfully pitch your product to retailers, identify potential buyers, and present it in an engaging way. From packaging to questions and answers, it’s all about first impressions.

Pitching with confidence and calm
Wednesday 10 October, 7-9pm, led by Tanya Shoop and Andry Anastasiou

Have you noticed that some people seem so confident when pitching and selling, yet you just feel nervous? So what’s the trick? It’s all about preparation, learning how to manage nerves and working with techniques to create presence and confidence.

Explore how to present yourself with confidence when pitching to buyers or promoting your products. Learn techniques for managing nerves, good body language and staying grounded and energised. We will draw on and practise methods from the Alexander Technique and from a whole-person coaching approach.

We’re offering all three workshops for a discount price of £25, or individual workshops for £10 each. If you book early, you get all three workshops for just £20. You can book on Eventbrite, where you’ll also find more details on each workshop and the facilitators .

http://pitchingformakers.eventbrite.com/

See you there!

The lovely drawing at the top is by GOLDTOP.
The photo is from our Product Surgery event in June.

Bridging the gap between making and selling

Many local makers who are Makerhood members are either thinking about starting their own business or are at the early stages of selling their work.

One of the key aims of the project is to support these efforts by exchanging expertise and knowledge locally, and by helping makers talk and share the excitement and challenges of running their own businesses.

Our latest event in the business support series was a product surgery on 13 June. It was an opportunity for makers to bring a product or idea and get feedback from business experts in arts, crafts, retail and food. They also got to listen in and learn from the advice given to others.

Thank you to Jane Doxey, John Price, Binki Taylor, Anne Fairbrother and Medeia Cohan for volunteering their knowledge and expertise!

It is not easy starting your own making business. A creator who is intimately involved with making a product and a salesperson who is marketing and selling the result can seem like two entirely different identities – yet makers have to master both, and learn to move seamlessly between them. Advice from specialists who have many years of experience in the field can be great support, and help you avoid common mistakes.

Below are some examples of questions that were covered at the event.

Q: How do I approach shops to get them to stock my product?
A: Be bold! Do your research and visit places where you think your product will fit in. If you feel it’s the right place for you, contact the manager, send photos of your products and a link to your website or Makerhood stall and then give them a call. The most important thing is to do your research and start to build a relationship with the shop.

Q: Should we contact a shop again when they say they will get back to us and they don’t?
A: Absolutely. After you’ve tried three times, though, don’t work too hard at the relationship – just send them an email every now and then to tell them what you’re up to and move on to finding new contacts.

Q: We’ve been selling our goods at markets and initially they sold well. That was between September and December, but it’s really tailed off since February. Why do you think this might be?
A: It’s the pattern of gift purchasing. September to January are good months for selling gifts. People think January won’t be good for sellin,g but people have often got money for Christmas and are still looking to buy. But February and March are always very flat; then it tends to pick up again from around May.

Q: Is it worth doing trade exhibitions as a small maker?
A: No. Far better to start by looking at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills or British Council websites, as they give grants and opportunities to new makers.

Q: How do I price my products?
A: There’s a lot of material out there nowadays on how to think about pricing. The thing to remember is that your time has value – make sure you build it into the price. Many makers and artists don’t: they assume their time is free. And then work from the other angle – what are people likely to pay for it (remember this might differ significantly depending on where you sell, too). The aim is to find a happy balance between the two, and where you can’t find it, consider not taking the product forward.

Q: How do I present my unique items made from recycled clothing so my market stall doesn’t look like a charity shop?
A: You need to create a story for your products that comes through in your presentation and packaging. When everything is unique it’s also really important to have some kind of consistency to your designs. This is very difficult when every piece is unique, but it might be consistency in the sizing or the packaging.

Q: How do I decide which of my art-based products to focus on?
A: Look to develop a style. Often new starters have a lot of very different things they try to sell. What is sometimes lacking is a strong, unique identity that comes through the products. Try, experiment, and see what works for you.  Carry out research – which of your pieces do people most like and connect to? Which of your creations have intrinsic value that is just about you?

Our next event will build on the lessons from the product surgery. One of the common challenges for makers is around pitching their work – whether in person or in writing, to markets or shops, or in social media. We will address this at the next workshop in September, which will focus on how to pitch handmade products.

To hear about it first, sign up to our mailing list by entering your email on the right-hand sidebar.

We look forward to seeing you at future events!