MY SMALL BUSINESS JOURNEY SO FAR
I've actually been trying to write this blog post for quite a while! Lot's of you ask about my business journey so I thought it might be fun to share the path Plewsy has taken over the last 6 years.
I'm Fiona, mum of two young boys aged 4 and nearly 2. I also have a curly cockapoo Noddy and a husband, James. I'm Yorkshire born and bred! And our new studio (soon to be pop up shop!) is in a small market town called Bedale in North Yorkshire.
I guess I've been creative from being young, I always loved art at school. Between that and PE which took up a lot of my time, I studied Art & Design at A Level but for some unknown reason deviated into accountancy after college! This didn't last long but little did I know that the basics of being an accounting technician would come in handy a few years later when I started my business.
After realising numbers aren't really my thing, I graduated with First Class Honours in Graphic Design. I gained some experience in design studios, learning on the job about branding and marketing. I was always illustrating when not at work as I found and still find this really relaxing and a great way to switch off. Combining the graphic design skills with illustration led me to my first greetings card collection and early stages of my own little brand.
In the year before I became self employed I made art prints and sold them along side working part time, I remember it being the Tour De Yorkshire and my bicycle print being featured in The Yorkshire Post. I didn't know it had been included until I was at Glastonbury and my phone started to ping with sales!
So with six greetings cards and an Etsy shop, I joined The Princes Trust Enterprise Course (which I hugely recommend!) a 4 day business booster, from writing a business plan (sounds boring but is useful!) to providing the basic foundation of tools to get things started. I still actually am involved with the trust now, but I've kind of jumped to the other side of the table, I now try to help young people get their business ideas off the ground.
So in 2015 I went fully self employed. It was super scary to be starting out in business full time, I had little clue about what to expect or how to generate any sales. It's one thing designing great cards but it's another thing making a living. I contacted Not On The High Street and was accepted onto their platform, I figured out how to build my own website and carried on with Etsy. Gradually and steadily the orders started to come in. Really unpredictable times, stressful but looking back fun and quite carefree, pre kids and able to go to every craft show I wanted to!
I actually made the decision fairly early on that I wanted wholesale to be a big part of my business. With greetings cards being my hero product I had the margins. I was still freelancing as well as running Plewsy at this point, so I plucked up the courage to book my first trade show; Pulse London 2015 and paid the hefty invoice off in instalments. Of I went to the Olympia to set up, completely clueless but knowing my products well! I managed to secure a number of small orders at this show, some of who are still customers today.
A year or so later I was pregnant with my first son, and if this business journey was a rollercoaster already it was sure to become a lot more bumpy with motherhood thrown into the mix! I quickly realised we didn't have any room in our house for studio space once a baby arrived, so everything kind of fell into place for my first studio away from home. A private rental literally a stones throw from home, a really cute little barn conversion. I felt very privileged to be able to afford this space so early on in the business journey, there were many times over the next few years that I nearly gave that space up because of worries about cash flow.
I kept plugging away with wholesale, exhibited at a few other trade shows in London and Harrogate and secured some more independent stockists. The website side of things was still non existent at this point, I had a transactional website but nobody actually went on it! I then became pregnant with my second son, who was only 6 months when the pandemic started. At the beginning of lockdown I quickly realised that my hard work on Plewsy could be in jeopardy as all of my wholesale customers sadly had to close their doors!
As people started to organically land on my website (as we were all at home scrolling and shopping online), I threw myself into illustrating to deal with the stresses of the news and the awful situation we all faced.
Gradually pulling together a new collection of greetings cards, prints and then my first tea towel collection. I needed to find a supplier, so I spent ages researching and then phoning. I finally placed a tiny order!
I subscribed to an e-commerce marketing course and started to dip my toe into the hugely overwhelming world of facebook ads. Sales picked up on the website and I tried to keep up posting on Instagram, this seemed to be the most effective way of getting my products in front of people. Although it's consuming and addictive, it does work! I've sent freebies to influencers, some reply, some post about the product and a few more people discover my designs.
You guys absolutely loved the tea towels, I was blown away and couldn't keep up! Which led me to invest in oven gloves, aprons and now lovely wash bags, but my hero and all time favourite will always be a greetings card.
It's been such a bloody big rollercoaster to get to this point, there have been literally blood sweat and tears. I've read many a business book (some I'd hugely recommend) but I think overall pure determination and drive to succeed has got me here and will continue to keep me looking for the next step.
In April I moved to a new studio space in the nearest town to home, it is a little bit off the beaten track but has a retail space at the front. I'm actually making a start on putting together a little pop up shop and will be opening in a few weeks time.
It's not easy! If you are thinking about starting your own business, definitely go for it! But just expect to have to work your socks off, pivot, continually be learning and there will be more ups and downs than you feel you can manage. I've definitely wanted to throw the towel in a few times and headed off to LinkedIn to look for a job, but I always come back round after some time out and a little talking to by myself.
Here we are 6 years in, hopefully just the start of things to come. thank you for sharing my small business journey with me!