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Meet the Maker; Fleur De L’amour, Blue Ranchu Designs, By the Sea Designs, Bits and Totes & Surtees and Co.

Meet the Maker

In this week’s Meet the Maker Q&A we discuss selling at and returning to markets, how the pandemic has impacted businesses and what’s to come for the year ahead for this week’s Featured Traders.

Being stuck at home for the better part of over a year has encouraged many of us to give our homes a complete makeover! From transforming bedrooms into home offices to going full DIY in the kitchen, most of us have found ourselves taking inspiration from Pinterest or Instagram for unique and interesting ways to jazz up the duller areas of our homes, which has now paved the way for independent and local designers creating all kinds of wonderful products to brighten up the home. Our five Featured Traders of this week; Fleur De L’amour, Blue Ranchu Designs, By the Sea Designs, Bits and Totes & Surtees and Co. each create handmade and eye-catching products to suit any home.

In this week’s Meet the Maker Q&A we discuss selling at and returning to the markets, how the pandemic has impacted their businesses and what’s to come for the year for this week’s Featured Traders.

Pedddle: What first made you consider selling your products at markets?

Fleur de l’amour: When I started making my pictures, I was a real novice to social media – probably still am 🙈 so the only way to sell I thought was through markets. I started off selling at places like the Cornwall and Norfolk county shows. I do find it really hard to sell online still, I think my pictures are really hard to show the detail so people do not always appreciate the detail unless these see them at markets.

Blue Ranchu Designs: When I first launched Blue Ranchu Designs in 2015, markets were a great way to get my new business in front of customers and get valuable feedback. I was able to grow and develop my designs and products into the business I have now. 

By The Sea Designs: When I started making jewellery it was really just a hobby – it gave me something to do when my little girl went to school. I was sea glass hunting at the beach one day and my neighbour (who I’d never spoken to) approached me and said she’d seen my jewellery and said I should have a stall at some of the local craft fairs. I really wasn’t keen but she managed to persuade me and I gave it a go. My first fair was a turning point – By The Sea Designs went from a hobby to a business.

Bits and Totes: In a previous life I used to be a photographer. I specialised in street art and I started to sell my photographs on Portobello market, exactly ten years ago. I decided to sell my art there because I love the atmosphere of the market, with its mix of locals and tourists from around the world. I had a few years hiatus during which I began to design tote bags, and Bits and Totes was born. I returned to Portobello in 2017 because I wanted to sell my tote bags directly to the public.

Surtees and Co: I was in a job that I felt creatively blocked by and so I started up Surtees and Co (my mother’s maiden name). I decided to sell at markets because I love getting to meet other small businesses and find amazing products to buy. Not only that, but I learn so much from others who are absolute pros at selling at markets. I just think markets are a great opportunity to network not only with other businesses but customers too, virtually or face to face.

Pedddle: What has changed for you and your business during the pandemic – are you offering anything different?

Fleur de l’amour: I think through the pandemic, I was off the mark too slow and didn’t really see all the virtual markets that were going on for probably nearly 6 months. I then did try and do a few, but find sales very hard on them. However, they are good for promoting your brand.

Blue Ranchu Designs: During the pandemic, with markets cancelled and stockists closed, I used the time to set up a new website and online store. This has proved so valuable and important for keeping my small business afloat during very uncertain times. I have also taken part in several online markets and events and these have been great to be involved in – the amazing community of Makers and Artists across the UK has really pulled together during this difficult year to support each other and find new ways of reaching our customers.

By The Sea Designs: The pandemic has made me focus on social media and advertising/selling online. I never really had a selling platform so I worked really hard to get my Folksy page up and running. I’m not a fan of promoting my jewellery on social media so that has been a challenge over the past year – I’m getting there though. 

Bits and Totes: I have focused my efforts on developing my business online, which I found sometimes lonely and challenging. I also decided to take part in online markets and I “met” amazing makers and wonderful market organisers: Geraldine at Bristol Market, Bianca at the Mindful Market. I discovered Pedddle and Nicki when I participated in The Creative Collaborative market in 2020, and I have been a member since then.

Surtees and Co: I am still selling exactly what I started with! Bunting and wall hangings, but with a boom in babies being born especially through this year, it has meant I turned my attention more towards children’s décor. I mainly focus on contemporary bunting for the home not just for children but I love that this brand now has the ability to hit both markets without many changes.

Pedddle: What’s next for you in 2021?

Fleur de l’amour: The year of 2019, I started adding some other bits to my stall to attract other customers, some cushions, lavender hearts etc which worked really well, and I have just added some little Joules baskets to my Etsy shop and website, but my pictures are my real focus and I want to keep making more of these.

Blue Ranchu Designs: New products launched in 2021 include my new range of handmade purses. I make these from my own exclusive fabric designed in my studio and they are the perfect size for your loose change, notes and lip gloss. My latest new design is my Orca whale which features on my range of handmade purses, accessories bags and storage baskets.   

By The Sea Designs: This year didn’t get off to a good start and I spent the first few months homeschooling my little girl, so By The Sea Designs took a bit of a backseat. I’m currently getting stock together as my shop is looking a little bare, but I have been working on some new pieces using resin. It’s called the Ocean Collection, which is coming along nicely. I’m also working on a summer collection using neon colours.

Bits and Totes: I am working on a new model of bag, the crossbody bag. I am also working on adding leather straps to my bags.

Surtees and Co: At the end of May I will launch a summer collection. The flag shapes aren’t just triangular and the colours are bright, pastels and stripes. I use faux leather in most collections and this is no exception!

Pedddle: In-person markets are finally re-opening and there are lots to look forward to. What makes selling at markets so special?

Fleur de l’amour: I love selling at markets for the buzz, meeting and speaking to people and the little communities that form.

Blue Ranchu Designs: I love the buzz of selling at a busy market on a sunny day! It’s so lovely to sell in person to my customers and to spend time chatting to them! It’s also great to meet my fellow Stallholders and be part of that community. 

By The Sea Designs: I love meeting people! It always so nice to see old and new customers. And I love chatting to people and hearing their stories. I especially love seeing all my fellow traders. I’ve missed them so much over the past year. There’s something about getting to a fair in the morning and everyone’s buzzing around getting set up, helping each other out and having a laugh. I can’t wait for those days again.

Bits and Totes: I love the atmosphere of markets, Portobello market has a unique atmosphere. I love the direct contact with customers and the human interaction.

Surtees and Co: The atmosphere, definitely just full of support people and lovely customers. You can’t beat that feeling of being in a team even if you are all separate business owners.

Pedddle: What new skills have you learnt during the pandemic?

Fleur de l’amour: I probably have got better with social media ( a little )!

Blue Ranchu Designs: I’ve spent time focussing on online marketing and creating my new website and online store.

By The Sea Designs: Working with resin. I thought it would be a lot easier than it is! So it’s been interesting learning how to work with resin and incorporate it into my jewellery. On the business side, I think negotiating social media is a skill! Trying to find the right places to advertise and to advertise to people who might be interested in my pieces.

Bits and Totes: I am learning new skills, especially how to work leather. It is very exciting and refreshing to learn a new skill. I have also learned to be more resilient during the pandemic. 

Surtees and Co: My new skill is not professional but personal. I am much more mindful than I used to be, and that has served the business well. I try not to worry about the future so much, although that can be tough running a small business. So staying mindful and being in the moment helps my focus both personally and professionally.

This blog was written by Mehar. Click here to meet the Pedddle team.

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