Getting feedback on your work from shop owners and buyers is invaluable for makers so we were very excited to run a Product Surgery for this month’s Makers’ Club. Makers brought along an example of their work and got feedback from our two fabulous experts – Liz Clamp, owner of Smash Bang Wallop fashion and homewares shop in Crystal Palace and Jane Doxey, retail and product development consultant and ex-buyer for Liberty and Marks and Spencer.
Here are a few photos and some twitter feedback from makers.
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.
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