A Squiffy History of how it became to be:
🎁🎈🎊🎉A bit of motivational spiel on the run up to my 5th year in business birthday 🎁🎈🎊🎉 *fires a massive confetti cannon*
This blog was actually supposed to be published yesterday, but, being a ‘work-from-home-housewife’ my little boy was ill at nursery so I had to swoop in and take him to the doctors then spend all afternoon wiping tears away and watching Peppa Pig episodes back to back. Anyway, as you were Jess…… ;)
Once upon a time, whilst being barked instructions at by someone no more qualifed nor experienced than myself, a thought manifested in my mind about running my own business, being my own boss and managing my own time. Not only did I hate being shoe horned into a 9-5, there really is only so much you can do when you’re on a capped minimum wage with no scope for promotion. It’s mega de-motivating as well. So I started my own business as a side hustle to earn a bit of extra cash on the weekend.
I started a business about something that I really didn’t know anything about, printing. Actually looking back now, I didn’t know how to digitally design (I knew I could draw though, and I was creative thinker), I didn’t know any printing processes or how they worked, and I knew nothing about marketing or using social media for business. But I did know that I was excited to start and to try. I had nothing to lose. I was never your conventional academic, the memorising of facts and applying them to paper in exam environments is not the way to motivate me to learn. In fact my businesses studies teacher actually asked me why I was hanging out with the ‘clever’ kids. Sixth form, unfortunately for me, wasn’t my time to academically shine. I dropped Business ‘studies’ after the first year. Which seems funny (haha) as one of my Curricular Enrichment programmes I picked whilst at sixth form was a group project where 4 of us decided to advertise local businesses around Clitheroe via leaflets on the run up to Christmas. We went round local businesses selling them advertising space, put a design together & then had them printed. We posted them ourselves around the area. We made money for charity in the process and also kept a bit back for our efforts: I remember going to Trafford Centre after!! Now, looking back, I realised how innovative we were as young people 18 years ago, and I feel it marks a massive flaw in the education system: there was no exam on what we did, so it was never marked down as anything more than ‘group work’. I also remember being hauled over hot coals in the Head's office with regards to how we made the money and where it was going. I was essentially scolded for being innovative. Maybe thats why it took me so long to set up my own business, maybe if I had started something straight out of 6th form rather than being pushed down the university route things would be different. I think we need to inject more innovation & commerce into the education system, maybe even have teachers ‘teaching' it who have run their own businesses so they can speak from experience, before all the innovation is ironed out of individuals. Less stats more creativity.
*lovely soft harp noises*
……...Nearly 19 years later…….
I felt the fear and did it anyway.
I bought myself a heat press & vinyl cutter (from China) on a credit card, and with the help of my long suffering boyfriend, we learnt how to use the equipment & I learnt how to use programmes on a mac book such as Adobe Illustrator (a total foreign language to me) to come up with simple designs. I started printing hoodies & clothing for local businesses with their logos on, this was a total faff as each colour of the logos needed to be cut out separately and then weeded out by hand, then placed by hand on the garment then each one individually heat pressed. Which also didn’t always turn out looking brilliant. But still I persisted, still I used my free time in the evenings and weekends to learn and understand more about how a business works than I ever could in a year of ‘studying’ it at 6th form. I was effectively on-the-job learning. At one point I was juggling two paying jobs and then all the jobs that come with running a small venture. But my little printing biz was growing in popularity.
After applying, and not being successful, to sell on notonthehighstreet.com, I went back to the drawing board and came up with products that would sell on their platform. Bingo. I got on, and within the first 12 months of being on one of the UK’s largest e-ccommerce websites, my products were being featured in their online campaigns, printed Christmas catalogue and the national TV advert. Things got nice and busy, so busy that when I had my baby, the thought of late nights and early mornings printing on the run up to Christmas didn’t appeal to me anymore. I was so busy working IN my business, I had stopped working ON it. I lost a bit of sight as to what I was doing and why I was doing it. My products didn’t inspire me anymore, anyone can buy a vinyl cutter and heat press and knock out personalised goods. I needed to innovate and stand out *scratches head* (not lice).
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
I decided to go back to the drawing board and become more innovative with my product offering, learn more about printing processes and seek out people who could help me grow. Another big thing I stumbled across was MY customer: customer personas have always baffled me, but out of my new products came a very defined customer: mums! I am a Mum, I know what these guys go through having a baby, being up at night feeding, etc (see paragraph in bold at the beginning of this post!) I wear my own products too, its like I’m basically marketing to a bunch of people like me! I found where they hang out: Instagram, and I started tailoring my marketing to them. I found the enjoyment in my business again. I sell more on my own website now than other online curated market places. I have found my voice and I am not marching to the beat of someone else drum, and from that something beautiful has grown out of being a little bit scared at the thought of change).
So fast forward to present day, I only do very minimal in-house printing now (physically it is too much for one person) and I outsource the rest which leaves me more time to market and sell my products, without sales I essentially have no business. I also spend a lot of time doing what I love: designing and interacting with my customers.
Because if you don’t love what you’re doing, why waste your time and keep doing it? If you don’t change something, then nothing changes.
Here’s the motivational bit: you can actually do ANYTHING you want. Its just the voices in your own head you need to change.
Jess :) x
🎉🎉🎉 I've been inspired to write a series of blogs on the run up to my business birthday: on Thursday Squiffy turns a creditable 5 YEARS OLD!! On Thursday I will be sending out an email with a discount code to all the people on my mailing list, do you want to be one of those? If so you can sign up here. Promise no spammy emails, just beautiful things and some Northern humour.🎉🎉🎉