In this Meet the Maker Q&A, two of our featured stallholders this week chatted to Pedddle about starting their small businesses, inspirations and selling at markets. We spoke to Ffion, owner of Dŵdl Designs, a North Wales based clothing business all about and Abi of Abi Through The Ears, an eco-conscious business offering reusable products for more sustainable living.
Read on to learn more about these fabulous small businesses and what they’re all about!
Pedddle: Tell us a little bit about your business!
Dŵdl Designs: My business will be turning 1 on the 1st November. It started as an idea during lockdown to keep my mind occupied when I wasn’t working. I always wanted to improve my drawing and design skills, so I went and bought myself an Apple Pencil and took it from there!
Abi Through The Ears: I’m Abi, a qualified Geography Teacher turned teaching assistant and after a dip in my mental health, I decided I needed to do something, and in March 2020 Abi Through The Ears was born! I turned to my mums sewing machine and whatever fabric we had in the house to make things. It was an 25 year old Brother machine that missed stitches and constantly chomped up the material but I found so much pride when I finally got to the end of a make. I invested in a new machine and started sewing at every spare minute I had. My business now means so much to me, it’s not all about sales but the warm feeling I get when anyone shows me any type of support. You guys mean so much to me. I love seeing how happy my business makes you whether that be in person at the markets or through Social Media.
Pedddle: What inspires your work, and how do you make your products?
Abi Through The Ears: I mainly make things using my trusty Brother sewing machine and my best seller has to be my scrunchies. I watched countless YouTube videos to start with because I was useless and although I was proud of what I had made, they were no where near the quality they should have been. I spent hours perfecting whatever I made and I’m now happy to say that everything I make is to such a high quality which I pride myself on. I use various different fabrics to make my products from velvet to bamboo towelling so there is choice for everyone. It is amazing how you can turn a metre of fabric into some beautiful creations that people can actually use – I love it!
Dŵdl Designs: My main inspiration comes from positivity. I am all about having fun, giving out positive vibes, self love and appreciation and general niceness! As you can see on my shop, the majority of my products have the Welsh language included in the design. Being from North Wales, I wanted to bring some of that into my designs; people wear French or Italian on their clothing, why not Welsh for a change? I start with a basic idea, quote or image in my mind and think what that means to me as a customer, then look for colour palettes, fonts etc and after lots of tweaking I set the final design and use mainly transfers for my designs. I have used embroidery for a few as well, as I feel they give a more ‘luxury’ feel, but I would ideally like to make more products this way.
Pedddle: Have you been out to any in-person markets recently? What do you enjoy about them?
Dŵdl Designs: I love the atmosphere of markets! They are a great place to get networking with other small businesses, learn some new tips and tricks from experienced makers and of course, get your name out there. I have been at (almost) every one in my local area in the last few months, but would love to get exploring further afield when I have broadened my product range to appeal to more Welsh learners or non-speakers and fit a wider audience. It is really helpful for my business to be at a market when possible as people get to see the materials used, the sizing of the clothing and where electricity allows, I can make things then and there in front of the customer so it feels a little more special! I’ve also found that when people see me in person, I get more enquiries about personalization, big commissions or some corporate orders, which is great.
Abi Through The Ears: I took part in my first market in May 2021 and LOVED it! It was the best experience in the whole world, meeting actual customers in person and seeing people admiring what I made: I was bursting with happiness and pride. Markets are such an amazing environment to meet people and promote yourself, there are so many people there that wouldn’t always look online for your products but once they see them in person they become a customer! I have people that come back to me every month now and seeing them means so much. It seems like customers at markets invest in you so much more! They check how I am every month, see if I have anything new and give me ideas on what to do next and I don’t think that is a feeling I could ever replace. I’ve got to say, if you are a small business owner but feel like you aren’t confident enough to get out to a market you need to get out there are do it! Everyone is so lovely and it has honestly changed me as a person and I’ve learnt so much about myself.
Pedddle: Why should we encourage shopping small?
Abi Through The Ears: Shopping small is amazing! Imagine the feeling of happiness you give to someone when you shop small, the happy dance they do when they here that ker-ching noise, it’s a feeling like no other. From a customers point of view, shopping small means that you are inevitably going to get a high quality product that has been made from scratch more than likely from someones spare room! You’ll get your items properly packaged and receive incredible customer service because after all it is someones dream and they don’t want to let you down or themselves down. Shopping small also means you are going to get a product that is unique, it is something that you went searching for and found because of its sparkle and that’s so special.
Dŵdl Designs: Shopping small isn’t just about buying something, its about the experience. Knowing that someone has put a lot of love, care and attention into a product made especially for me is what brings me back to shopping small time and time again. Nothing beats it! I would much rather spend my money on a product for a small business, knowing its gone to help pay their bills, take their family away somewhere or pay towards Christmas than putting it in the pockets of some big-wigs, who already have plenty!
Pedddle: Did the pandemic bring any big challenges for your small business?
Dŵdl Designs: As I am a pandemic business, I hadn’t experienced a massive change until quite recently. I found that when shops were more accessible, people could go for days out etc that the traffic and exposure my small business had before wasn’t hitting the same, as people are now busier.
Abi Through The Ears: I set up my business just as the pandemic started, so haven’t really had the opportunity to see the world of business without it! I set myself up an Etsy page to give my business presence online and in the past year have sold over 800 items which still seems crazy to me. I’ve now set up a website but in all honesty, I find this really difficult to push because people seem to prefer to use Etsy because all of their details are saved. I’m trying to find new ways to make my website easy to use and have changed it so many times but I think I’m finally happy with it!
Pedddle: What are you planning next for your business?
Abi Through The Ears: I’m so excited to say that I’ve got a pop-up shop at the Hanley Potteries Centre during October Half term, which is a massive step for my business and although I’m so nervous about it, I’m so excited to meet new people and get to showcase my items in an actual shop! I’ve also recently started creating some homeware out of a product called Jesmonite which is similar to resin but is an eco-friendly version, which kind of looks like concrete but better. At the moment, I’m getting ready for Christmas and am planning to make some little gift boxes that are already wrapped so perfect as a gift for someone. My dream is to carry on growing my business in the hope that one day it can become my full time job because I tell you something, I’ve never felt so much happiness as I have creating and running my little business!
Dŵdl Designs: I have been in talks with another lovely small Welsh business and we are collaborating on a Christmas jumper design this year, which I am really excited about. It is in the early stages at present but I am so excited and can’t wait to share what we’ve come up with! I am also looking to expand my size range, as a plus size woman myself I do find it a shame when I can’t find something I love in my size, so I do try my best to be as inclusive as possible. I am hoping to get an embroidery machine of my own in the next 12 months so I can do more embroidered items and custom embroidery – fingers crossed it can all go ahead!