Craft business owners on changing direction

Being expert stitchers or a pro potter doesn’t mean you can’t wipe the slate clean and take your making in a new (and more profitable) direction. But would you turn your current business on its head to chase your dream? Meet two makers who did just that…

Most people will change career around five times during their lives and some will have already made the jump from crafting as a hobby to being a full time designer-maker. Craft business owners usually kick off their careers with their first making loves – they know the craft inside out! But what happens when you dabble in a different craft and fall in love, or wake up one day with an idea that you can’t ignore? Would you risk your established business to follow your passion? Find out how two craft business owners did just that.

Finding inspiration

Rebecca Moyster started paper crafts business Biba’s Tea Party in 2010, but when she saw a gap in the market for bespoke balloons she decided to change direction and hasn’t looked back. “After graduating in 2004 I worked in the fashion industry, but in my spare time I started making cards for friends and family and it naturally progressed in to a small business,” explains Rebecca. “It was going well enough for me to give up my full-time job, but I soon realised it was going to be difficult to make a living from it. Just one week into going solo the idea for BonBon Balloons came into my head and everything changed. “I was looking at handmade party garlands on Pinterest and I had these old Tim Walker shots of giant balloons on water in my sketchbook and I thought, ‘Why don’t I put the two together!’ That evening in bed I thought of the name and by the morning I was registering it and planning how to launch.”

Learning a new skill

Michelle Lanstone who runs Auntie Mims and sells thousands of engraved wooden products, originally started her business sat behind a sewing machine. “The first version of Auntie Mims began eight years ago when I started making toy storage tubs alongside working as a teacher, “ explains Michelle. “I really enjoyed coming up with new things I could make from fabric, and I was making a reasonable amount of money.” However, when Michelle and her husband-to-be Peter bought a laser-engraving machine to make items for their upcoming wedding they soon saw the potential to grow the business in a different direction. “After making everything for our wedding, we were left with an expensive bit of kit and nothing to do with it. We had become obsessed with engraving anything we could lay our hands on and knew the machine inside out, so we decided to add some lasered products to the range. “After the first busy Christmas it became clear that we had to decide what direction the business would take. Luckily it was an easy choice because the profit margins for the wooden goods were so much higher and the possibilities much more exciting. We were now a team and within a year we had both bid our careers farewell and were full time Auntie Mimsers!”

Overcoming challenges

Changing up your business obviously comes with its own difficulties and Rebecca is first to admit swapping making styles was a steep learning curve. “I had a few issues: the first being I knew absolutely nothing about balloons – I’d never even inflated one before! I spent the next six months getting the website, images and brand built before I launched. It was tough financially, especially as I didn’t want to get weighed down with loans, but I took it in my stride because I was certain I had to be my own boss. You have to have confidence in yourself or it won’t happen. If you believe in what you’re doing no one will question it.” Rebecca also suggests surrounding yourself with positive people and not being afraid to ask for expert advice. “I have an amazingly supportive boyfriend and best friend who got my business concept instantly when everyone else probably thought I was crazy,” she laughs. “I met my mentor Yvonne at a talk a year after I started the business and I knew I had to work with her. She’s really helped me to grow the business and been a great support. Running a business alone can be quite lonely, so it’s important to have someone to bounce ideas off who knows what they’re talking about.”

Don’t be afraid of change

Starting again can be scary, but the lessons you learned when starting your first craft business mean you’re already one step ahead. However, you still need to keep coming up with new ideas to stay ahead of the game. “Keeping your range fresh – even if this means scrapping products you’re proud of, but which are no longer selling – will ensure your brand has integrity and remains interesting to your customers. If you’ve done it before you know it’s possible,” insists Michelle. “You have to be inspired by what you do. Be confident, be original and love what you are doing, or the tough times will be draining. I’m fully intending to re-integrate the toy tubs at some point, what else will I do with all those piles of fabric!”

Rebecca from BonBon Balloons.About Bonbon Balloons  

Bonbon is a luxury balloon company based in East London who create the most wonderful balloons that you ever did see! Bonbons come in a rainbow of coloured and confetti filled balloons. Each balloon has a beautiful decorative string that has been hand crafted. www.bonbonballoons.com

 

Autie MimsAbout Auntie Mims

Husband and wife duo behind Auntie Mims are proud makers of products that are not common-place and conventional, but unexpectedly personal and sentimental. Find happy, personalised pieces www.auntiemims.com