Be Inspired: Create a craft business

 
Clare Yarwood-White
Clare Yarwood-White

When I started the Be Inspired section of the blog I never realized that it would be so popular. I’ve been overwhelmed with women telling me about their fantastic businesses. I was so excited when Clare Yarwood-White, 41, from Cobham, Surrey, got in touch. She’s already set up and sold a successful wedding jewellery business and is now in charge of createacraftbusiness.com to help people who want to make money from their talent. She juggles her new business with two young boys and was more than happy to share her secrets.

Why did you set up your company? I ran my own wedding jewellery business, Yarwood-White, for nearly 10 years.  It got quite big, I was supplying department store Liberty, and had stockists throughout the UK.  I had a great team and a beautiful studio in a picturesque walled garden.  I was living the dream, but when my boys were born, with only 19 month between them, I struggled to keep all the plates spinning.  So I made the heart wrenching decision to sell my jewellery business. I’m a workaholic though, so in November 2012 I set up createacraftbusiness.com. It’s great because it allows me to work flexibly without the commitments and overheads I had built up with Yarwood-White.

So what is createcraftbusiness.com all about? Most of my clients are women or mums looking to work flexibly, doing something they love.  I run e-workshops and also mentor clients on a 1-2-1 basis, but I also like to provide lots of free advice through my blog. Blogging is a great way to communicate your brand personality.  People buy into brands, and never before has it been so easy and cheap to reach your audience and communicate your real point of difference. I want people to be able to do something they enjoy and make a living doing it. I love being my own boss. It puts me in control, which works, for the control freak I am.

What does your typical day look like (if there is such a thing)? I get my boys Caspar (4) and Marcus (5) to school, then I go straight home and fling a load in the washing machine while I make some coffee.  Then I’m a slave to the laptop – I hardly budge from my desk all day.  But every day is different – I might be running a telephone mentoring session, planning a workshop, speaking to magazines to book advertising or arrange a promotion, or researching posts for my blog.  I like to get out to events, tradeshows and networking otherwise I’d never see anyone. I down tools at 3.15 to collect the boys, then it’s tea, bath and bed before I get back on the laptop.  I’m lucky that I can work whilst my husband cooks.

How do you balance your business with your family? My challenge is switching off.  I try really hard to forget work when the boys are home, but it’s hard.  I am a compulsive iPhone checker.  Weekends are fun though, we do things together as a family, and I don’t have time to worry about work.

Do you manage to have a social life still? Umm, just about!  I do yoga once a week, and meet up with my sister and girlfriends for some sanity time.  I went to Sketch in London recently; it blew my mind so I realized I need to get out more.  But actually the gentle country life suits me; I like fresh air and a Sunday roast.

What sort of companies do you help? Most of my clients are either at start-up or have been trading for 1-3 years.  They either need help getting off the ground, or help getting to the next level.  They tend to be designer/makers so usually they have a product they are selling online, or through retailers, but I have also worked with other creatives such as copywriters, florists, graphic designers and even a plumber!

Any particular success stories? There are lots of success stories, because every client has a different definition of success, and getting clarity on a client’s goals is an important part of my work. This Christmas, two of my clients were picked for inclusion in the Not on the High Street catalogue, which is fantastic exposure for their businesses.  Another client has just hit the VAT threshold because her business is turning over more than £79,000, and another is in talks with the BBC about a possible partnership.  I don’t take credit for these successes, they have done the hard work themselves, but it is wonderful the share the journey and watch their dreams come true as their businesses flourish!

How do you use social media to your advantage and what are your top tips? I use Facebook to keep in touch with my clients, and twitter for connecting to the wider industry.  I use Pinterest for fun.  I have the apps on my iPhone, and try really hard to check in each day for 5 minutes to do some sharing, liking and posting, but it’s not always easy.  I don’t have much spare time to read my timelines, so I have to be quite disciplined – I take a little and often once a day approach, to avoid becoming addicted and checking constantly.  My top tip would be to make sure you don’t just talk about yourself, you have to be interested in other people for social media to work, otherwise your audience will switch off.

Workshop in action
Workshop in action

What five things should everyone already running a craft business be doing? 1. Getting some simple accounting software and setting a budget (you can see my example template here) 2. Setting aside time to spend on sales, marketing and finance 3. Making sure you have your prices right 4. Adding value to your offering through a strong brand, interesting product features, added-services or other points of difference that will make you stand out from the competition 5. Setting some goals for your business and writing a plan for achieving them

And what about people hoping to start their own business? 1. Don’t let lack of confidence hold you back - just go for it. 2. Don’t ignore the finances. 3. Think bigger than you are comfortable with.

Have you ever felt like giving up and going to work for someone else? No, I have never felt like giving up, but I have evolved the business.  That’s another benefit of being your own boss, if you don’t like something, you can change it.

Is it harder than you’d imagined running your own business? Yes, I think it’s harder than most people imagine.  You really have to put in the hours and commitment, especially in today’s tough market, when you have to fight even harder for every piece of business.  But I think many things worth doing in life are hard work, for example having children or running a marathon.

Do you have any particular words you live by? Turn every problem into an opportunity.  It’s easy to panic when something doesn’t go your way, but if you stop and take a look at the bigger picture, there is often a better scenario playing out.

What are your future plans for your business? This summer I am teaching my first residential workshop at the Marlborough College Summer School, which is very exciting because it is such an inspirational environment.

What inspires you every day? Books.  I have a pile in every room and lots on the go at once.  I’m currently reading Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and she is inspiring me to aim higher.  Rachel Allen’s beautiful book Cake inspired me to bake today, and a trashy novel inspires me to relax more.  The internet is like a busy motorway with information whizzing around everywhere, but I can really lose myself in a book. I will admit that I don’t get a lot of me time, but curling up with a book in a quiet room is my idea of heaven.

feb-workshop-banner
feb-workshop-banner

When’s your next e-workshop? My next Create a Craft Business e-Workshop, starts on 24th February 2014. It’s a business course for crafty start ups which you can accessed via a computer in your own time over a four week period. It’s flexible and easy to fit around other commitments such as your family. There are live ‘chats’ with everyone taking part every Monday – so you won’t be going it alone. The course focuses on business planning, finances, branding and marketing, which are the key areas that many talented creatives fall down in. You know you can make beautiful products but how do you get them out there? I like to give lots of practical advice with lots of real-life examples and top tips. Find out more here.