This week’s Meet the Maker (and our first of 2021!) introduces three Pedddle stallholders who each create beautiful products by hand. After the turbulence, frustration, and downright sadness of 2020, the support of the market community and our customers means more than ever, and it’s so lovely to get to chat to our stallholders and see how they are.
We asked these three stallholders about their plans for the year and how they’ve handled the hurdles of the pandemic, such as juggling running a business with family life and home-schooling, how to be successful online and using social media when you’re so used to in-person sales, and many more. We hope you’ll find something below that you identify with – whatever your struggles right now, you are not alone.
Pedddle: Tell us a little more about your business…
Badger & Bobbins: I’m Helen – owner and maker at Badger and Bobbins. Based in Sheffield, I hand-make a range of eco-friendly homewares designed to replace single-use disposable items, such as Reusable Make-Up Wipes, Paper-less Kitchen Towels, Reusable Sandwich Bags and Bamboo Cutlery.
In 2018, I had some time out of work and started to adapt my lifestyle to become more eco-conscious at home. I made a set of reusable sandwich bags to replace the disposable ones my children were taking their lunches in, and it all spiralled from there!
I believe that making small changes to the way that we live can have a big impact on the environment. Becoming more eco-friendly shouldn’t mean compromising on the look or quality of your household items, so I take great care in sourcing materials that are both eco-friendly, high quality, beautiful and effective.
Thimble & Fabric: I’m Jess, a Surrey based seamstress and mum. I work from a desk in my living room, at my home in Surrey, whilst also looking after my daughter, Florence.
‘Thimble and Fabric’ was first my bridal seamstressing business, but with weddings in the UK on hold due to the pandemic, I recently found time to rekindle my love of hand embroidery.
I wanted to share that joy of creativity by designing beginner embroidery kits, which are accessible to those who’ve never sewn before, as well as suitable for those with stitching experience. My designs are often inspired by things I see in nature whilst out walking my dog, Daisy, and I like to use bold, bright colours.
I love connecting with my customers from all over the world, particularly in customising some of my products for them. I’m really looking forward to developing and growing this aspect of my business, adding new products to my range and reaching out to new customers, alongside resuming work with my brides when the time is right.
Chris’s Fork Emporium: We work from a lovely garden studio in the old Lincolnshire market town of Stamford. We turn antique and vintage cutlery into beautiful, handmade jewellery and other quirky items.
Using the patterns and shapes that are already in each individual piece to inspire the design, some of which has languished in dark and dusty drawers, cupboards and attics for decades, we reshape and polish them, and give them a new life.
Pedddle: Do you have any new year resolutions for your business or new plans?
Badger & Bobbins: I have so many plans for 2021! I have a new range of Reusable Make-Up Pads that I am in the process of listing on my website and plans for an eco-friendly blog to give tips and tricks for making simple changes that can help reduce your impact on the Earth.
I am also hoping to develop my gift sets, with some exciting new additions ready for Mother’s Day.
Thimble & Fabric: My biggest plan for this year is the arrival of my second baby in the Spring! For my business, my first task is to plan how to navigate that at the same time as balancing work, allowing myself the time and space I need with my growing family, but keeping at least some momentum going with my business – not an easy one!
Having said that, so far this year I’ve been working on updating my existing embroidery kits to take on the feedback I’ve received so far. I’ve also got lots of ideas for new pattern designs that I’m looking forward to putting together.
Chris’s Fork Emporium: For the new year I am going to try to improve my product photography and keep plugging away at social media. I keep thinking I must get to grips with Twitter and Pinterest, and start doing Instagram Reels and Stories. I intend to be a more active participant in online things since I joined Folksy, Pedddle and The British Craft House early last summer, and I have learned loads about selling online.
Pedddle: How has your business changed during the pandemic? Have you found it easy to adapt to solely online selling without in-person markets?
Badger & Bobbins: Before the initial lockdown, I had a program of markets booked in for summer 2020, along with plans to work with a local community Arts Theatre to provide a series of eco-conscious workshops. My
business was really starting to centre around in-person events and I was really enjoying developing that side to Badger and Bobbins.
The pandemic has made me refocus on what I can do to build that same community feel online. I have really enjoyed taking part in online markets
and meeting other makers “virtually” and feeling part of an online community. I have also tried to expand my visibility online and you can now buy from Badger and Bobbins through Etsy, The British Craft House and I have just launched my own ecommerce website,
Eventually, I’d like my website to be a community hub of eco-friendly tips and advice, starting with my new blog which I will be launching soon.
Thimble & Fabric: My business was born at the start of the pandemic, because my ‘real’ job in bridal seamstressing is definitely not Covid-proof! I’ve learnt to be really flexible in terms of where and how I sell my products, to cope with the constantly changing Covid restrictions.
I’ve seen such a growing demand for craft kits like mine during the times we’ve been stuck at home. At Christmas I literally couldn’t make them quick enough, and eventually had to shut shop much earlier than planned! As a result, this year I’ve been implementing new strategies to streamline my processes and serve more customers.
My biggest hurdle overall with regard to the pandemic has been acquiring materials, with shipping taking so much longer than usual – I’ve learnt to order a long way in advance of needing anything. Like lots of other small (and big!) businesses, I was hugely impacted by the struggles that Royal Mail faced at the end of 2020, due to the pandemic, which I believe are still ongoing. It’s caused me to completely rethink my shipping, and therefore pricing, structure across my whole range – so definitely a big change!
Chris’s Fork Emporium: I’m trying to sound positive but in reality I’d far rather be making things in my workshop than listing things for sale! I find it takes me longer to sort out the photos and write the product description than to make the item! I think a lot of market stallholders feel this way. I haven’t expanded my product range recently, and only post the jewellery but we do make, however I also sell hooks, hangers, pictures and wind chimes through several shops and at fairs.
Pedddle: A common new year resolution is renewing focus on sustainability. Why is sustainability something you’re
passionate about and how have you carried it forward into your business?
Badger & Bobbins: Sustainability is at the heart of my business. The Earth is near breaking point and we only have a limited amount of time to reduce the harm we are doing to the world before it is too late and the damage to our planet becomes irreversible.
My goal with Badger and Bobbins is to help people make simple swaps with everyday disposable items to reusable alternatives. Deciding to live more sustainably can be overwhelming and many people feel that it has to be all or nothing. But there are small, everyday things that we can do that lessen our impact on the environment without having to massively change
our lifestyles or break the bank. For example, changing from disposable make-up wipes (which are generally made of plastic and aren’t biodegradable) to reusable ones.
I take great care in sourcing materials for my products that are beautiful, practical and high quality, so that they are not just an eco-friendly alternative but are also more effective and attractive than their disposable counterparts.
I also make sure that my packaging is recyclable (and recycled already where possible). I was so excited to have been able to source stickers
that can be recycled – they even come on compostable backing paper!
Thimble & Fabric: It’s definitely something I’ve thought about lately. I’ve been spending some time in the quieter month of January changing up my packaging to be more environmentally friendly, and I’m now really pleased that my packaging is made from recycled materials, and is 100% recyclable. It’s a big improvement from the plastic mail bags I had been using previously.
Chris’s Fork Emporium: Our whole philosophy is giving old and unloved cutlery a new life. Sterling Silver has its own value by weight, so there is no need for it to be upcycled. However, plated cutlery largely isn’t used any more, often it has never been used regularly but kept for best and then thrown away. Or, if it has been used, it has another story to tell.
I am very keen on recycling, saving things from landfill, composting, collecting rain water and growing things myself etc. I particularly love Folksy for all the amazing upcycled things you find on there.
Pedddle: Are you looking forward to getting back to in-person markets and selling face to face, and what do you love most about them?
Badger & Bobbins: I am looking forward to getting back to in-person markets, but only when it’s safe to do so.
I love connecting with people in person. It’s so nice to meet customers and get to know other traders as well. I have some really good friends that I met by simply standing next to them at a market!
Thimble & Fabric: I have no plans just yet, but I’m hoping to get back to some in-person markets at the end of 2021, depending on how things go with the new baby. I did a monthly market with The Pop Up Club in Chelmsford through the second half of 2020, so I would love to be back with those guys perhaps in the run up to Christmas 2021.
At in-person markets, my favourite part is catching up with other traders – I always chat and laugh my whole way through a market day! It’s great to be able to meet my customers physically too – it’s so lovely when somebody says, ‘I saw on Instagram you were here today, so I decided to come down!’.
Chris’s Fork Emporium: I can’t wait to get back to real in-person events and markets. I love what I do and my enthusiasm and all the trivia that I have learned over the years is infectious, I just love to sell it face to face.
Pedddle: What do you love most about online markets?
Badger & Bobbins: My favourite thing about online markets is that they get you to push your boundaries and try things you otherwise wouldn’t have. I never thought I’d go Live on Instagram! Even now, my heart races and my adrenaline pumps when I think about it! But I know I will do it again as it is a great way to connect with customers and other sellers at online events. I love that feeling that everyone involved in the market knows how nerve wracking it is and we are all cheering each other on.
I have enjoyed setting up a stall at home for the online markets and my next step is to try and do a video of it as I’m embracing technology. I enjoyed watching other people’s stall set ups at home, and basically I’ve got to stop being a dinosaur and embrace the 21st century!
Thimble & Fabric: The best part for me is the camaraderie amongst the traders, and the feeling we’re really cheering each other on to do well. Online markets are definitely far less about sales for me (although they’re brilliant when they do happen!), and more about ‘meeting’ new people and discovering other small businesses, and being more visible to different audiences online.
Chris’s Fork Emporium: I think this year is also going to be a challenge for us all. Already a few things as far ahead as July have been cancelled, so we just have to take it as it comes and try new things, get more involved online, keep positive and hope for the best.
My sales November and December online were fab, and any advice on carrying it on for the rest of the year will be gratefully received!
Here at Pedddle we have lots planned for our members in 2021. Aside from launching a brand new new Online Market & Events platform, Tresstle, we’ll also be providing a wide range of tips and tricks for social media and online visibility for small businesses.