Wednesday, October 17, 2012

{Cheeky Pickle} Supporting each other in the handmade community


My story... 

When I first started my business it was out of necessity rather than love. When our second child was born, we couldn’t afford childcare (still can’t!!), my husband worked long hours and being from the U.K, we had zero family support. So me going out and getting a “normal” job was not a good move. Going back to my Textile Design roots seemed like a great plan, I could work from home and be there for my children.   I had a general idea as to what I wanted to do, but had nobody to bounce ideas off. I was a bit nervous about announcing to the world that I was starting a business for fear of failure, which at that point in time was rather huge. So I plodded on. I had no idea about the business side, so tended to hide my head in the sand with regards to that side of things and carried on creating pretty little pictures that I thought might sell and help us make some much needed extra income. It was a very lonely, frustrating and rather unconstructive period.  

Support from markets stallholders... 

My initial dream at that time was to sell at markets, which I eventually did. The first few markets I did were horrendous on all sorts of levels, but the general feel I got from the other stallholders was one of suspicion. I certainly didn’t come across many friendly and supportive faces back then.  The turning point for me was when I did a market featuring children’s, handmade goods. All of a sudden I was surrounded by gorgeous, lovely, kind and very supportive ladies. All wanting to give me advice, answer my burning, business questions, pass on their e mail addresses and then the biggie......introduce me to the land of social media and networking. Somewhere I could share my ideas with like minded people and get some much needed advice!! It was all there, in one place, everything I’d been dreaming of.....facebook!  

Hello Facebook...  

Once on Facebook, everything changed, but it took a very long time. When I first stepped nervously in to the land of FB, I felt awkward and very much like the new girl. Everyone seemed more confident and knowledgeable than I. Their businesses looked sleek, well branded, had fabulous photography and wonderful products. They all seemed to know each other and I must admit, it seemed a little bit, dare I say it, “cliquey” back then.   The big pages with the big numbers stuck together and didn’t seem to acknowledge the newbie’s in town. But I suppose this is normal. You have to gain the respect of others and this encourages you to up your game.   

Gaining self confidence and making friends on FB... 

As the months went on, I gradually moved away from stalking the bigger pages, trying to nudge my way into their clique and accepted it was never meant to be. I slowly started to get to know some of the other page owners.  I was making my own friends who were likeminded, struggling with the first steps of running a handmade businesses. We were chatting more, supporting and encouraging each other. It felt great to finally meet people like me! I, personally think it is really important to form strong bonds/friendships in business. At the end of the day it’s just another aspect of networking, which can only be a positive thing.  

Moving on... 

I think the Facebook of then has moved on. Facebook within the handmade community is now a vibrant, friendly place. We welcome new pages with open arms and are there to help out and answer questions. But mainly we are there to support and encourage each other. I know that my business, for sure, would not have lasted as long as it has if it were not for my handmade friends, especially my pals on Facebook.

Source: The Writing Bureau
Jo from The Writing Bureau wholeheartedly agrees with me “Since leaving Art College I've always said the biggest thing I've missed is the lack of conversation with other creative’s. Yet, just reading your post I've just realised that I don't say that anymore! It's not because I'm suddenly surrounded by artists and designers in my real world (I assure you I'm not...I'm a stay at home mum who only moved to this area a couple of years ago) it's because over the past 12 months I've made lots of online friends through twitter and facebook who I go to for advice and to bounce ideas off and I've never had a real life conversation with any of them. Yet I do feel really supported through these social networking sites” 
Source: roslyn mitchell desings

Rosolyn Mitchell designs adds this “The support I've had is fantastic, whether it has been other designers sending people to my page or being there when I've needed advice. I've made lots of new friends, some of whom I've met & don't live too far away & others who are 'down south'” 

Nicola from Enoch and Plonk agrees “It's the spirit of community I love, which is so lacking in other areas of our lives.” 

So why is it so important to support each other? 

Look, we are all pretty much in the same boat aren’t we? Most of us are young mums, trying to juggle being creative and running a business from home. Our daily task list can involve creating/designing/making, thinking up fabulous, new ideas, marketing, promoting, tax, visual merchandising, blogging, photographing products, websites, e mailing customers, markets, orders, deadlines, children, housework and walking the bloody dog!!! Phew...I would also say that the majority of us (who haven’t given up) do it alone, without any support and that can be extremely lonely and frustrating, if not downright depressing.  

Nipping (o.k. it’s never truly a nip is it? Usually more like a lengthy browse) on to FB for me, seeing how others are running their business, chatting, exchanging ideas and resources is a massive part of my day. When I make “virtual” contact with my business FB friends, it’s like having a shoulder to lean on and after chatting with them, I feel so much more confident in the business decisions I make. 

Finally, an idea for you... 

After starting the Cheeky Chats earlier this year (FB forum, open to anyone, where we held discussions about handmade and all things business) I realised just how much I and other businesses needed that daily support. Rather selfishly, I decided to create my own small group and invited a few of the most dedicated “Cheeky Chatters” to join me. The ones who came to every Cheeky Chat session, showed the most interest in what I was trying to achieve and chatted the loudest basically!  

Not knowing how it would work, but having a gut feeling that it WOULD work, I put together a group of seven ladies, including myself.  At first we chatted via e mail, but then one of them suggested setting up a closed FB group. This is a secret group that you can set up very easily and it is totally up to you who you invite along to join you. 

Life saver... 

All I can say is that for me this little group of women have been a huge boost to my business and my sanity. I have also met seven of the most lovely, supportive ladies I know. We have gotten to know each other very well and if we have an idea that we are unsure of, or a question that we want to ask, we just ask the group. Someone usually knows the answer and if they don’t, they are there with kind words of encouragement. Our only rule from the start was to be 100% honest with each other. It works and it’s brilliant. 

Why don’t you do the same? I love the idea of these little support groups popping up all over the place. Think of a few pages you admire and who you have become friendly with recently and then form a group, it’s really very, very easy.  

An elephant never forgets... 

 And now that my business has grown and I am a bit bigger than I once was? Well, I am a bit like an elephant and I will never forget those rather unsupportive people I met in the early days. “Think on” as my Gran always used to say. 

About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for the mention Ali...

  2. As a newbie(4 months and counting...) just entering the greeting card industry I can totally relate to everything you have said. Great article. x


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