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Meet the Maker; Smith & Co. & Creative Pickle

Meet the Maker

This week’s Meet the Maker blog is all about our talented home-ware makers within the Pedddle community! We had a chat to Smith & Co. and Creative Pickle about how they started their businesses, the ups and downs they have faced, and what’s next for their small businesses.

This week’s Meet the Maker blog is all about our talented home-ware makers within the Pedddle community! We had a chat to Tori of Smith & Co. and Claire of Creative Pickle– who specialise in creating home products about how they started their businesses, the ups and downs they have faced, and what’s next for their small businesses.

Pedddle: Tell us a bit about your business and how it started – e.g. where did you first become interested in producing your products/learn the skills it takes to produce them?

Smith & Co.: Hi, I’m Tori Smith and I started Smith & Co  in the first lockdown of 2020. I’m a primary school teacher and found that I was online so much of the day, my creative hobbies started to become more important to me. I had always enjoyed experimenting with candles and giving them as gifts to friends but after making a few bigger batches, my then- fiancé said “These are really good, you should sell them”. To me, home is everything. Smith & Co started long before it began, with a dream of a life without waste, a garden to grow all our own food and a big table to share our meals with friends. When we started to make candles, they were just gifts for friends and an easy way to use up the jars we had lying around that I couldn’t bear to throw away. It’s more than just candles though, it’s creating something out of something we’ve already got: learning to mend socks and make our own pesto. And it’s about leaving the world, our home, in better shape than we found it. 

Creative Pickle: Creative Pickle has always been a dream burning away in the back of my mind, one of those dreams that always got pushed to the side because life got in the way! That was until a pandemic hit the world and turned everything on its head. I’m a freelance designer and I found myself without work overnight. To be honest I enjoyed the freedom for a bit (and did the spring cleaning!) but then I found I had the time I’d always needed to start working on my illustrations. My original designs are personalised alphabet posters for children. I wanted to start a range that was fun, bright and engaging but also educational and I’ve begun by creating an animal alphabet collection. This includes personalised and non personalised posters, a full A-Z print and flash cards, including number and alphabet versions. 
I’m currently working on an A-Z of transport and I’ve started to create bespoke posters for both children and adults, plus a range of cards for special occasions. 

Pedddle: Following on from the first question, we’d love to know more about your process, the materials you use and what you’re inspired by?

Smith & Co.: All my candles are hand poured, with cruelty-free ingredients, in reusable glass jars. I don’t want customers to just buy our candles because they look nice, but also to know you’re buying from someone who makes everything by hand, loves what she does and cares a lot about the environment. Until a few weeks ago, all of my candles were made on my kitchen stove in our little flat. I use European 100% soy wax and a wide range of essential oils and vegan fragrance oils to find the perfect scent. I cut and hand tie all of the cotton wicks in my jars and hand make the labels. And at this moment, I’m incredibly excited to be building a workshop! I’ll be moving out of the kitchen at long last because we’ve recently moved into our first house with enough room to make my small business dreams more of a reality. 

Creative Pickle: The inspiration for a lot of my products is my daughter, this was definitely the case with the Flash Cards. My daughter was a bit behind with talking and I wanted to create something that she could learn from, whilst playing and using her imagination. She taught me new ways to engage with the cards, which I didn’t even think about when creating them. Each time we play with the cards she also learns colours and animal noises… children are such a sponge, these are such a pleasure to watch her play with. My background is design, so I’m very particular about the paper stocks I use as it’s ingrained into me (plus I do love all things stationery!). I only use small businesses for my printing, paper and packaging materials and am slowly replacing everything with biodegradable or recyclable products.
I love creating new illustrations and choosing bright and bold colours for the prints. I think the hardest part of my process is creating the full A-Z, I’m working on the transport A-Z at the moment and it’s been fun (and taxing!) trying to find a mode of transport for each letter! I create individual posters first and then when the collection is complete I design the full A-Z poster and flash cards. I get lots of print tests done, as I’m very particular about the print quality… it’s the designer in me!

Pedddle: Do you remember your first selling experience?

Smith & Co.: I remember starting my Etsy shop in April 2020 and deciding to take part in the Makers Market from Home that same month. I was excited to have some friends and family members purchase that weekend but my first sale to a stranger was one of the best feelings! Someone believed enough in my product to actually buy it. My confidence grew and I started to get some exciting emails. I’m stocked in the gorgeous shop The Greenhouse Brentwood, along with being in some online retailers and enjoying dipping into Pop Ups in Tunbridge Wells and Chelmsford. The candle business really took off for me when I started selling at the Pop Up Club’s market in August 2020. I had been married the week before, at a socially distanced event without a reception or my parents and my new husband and I stayed up late in our first week of marriage, putting labels on jars and panicking that we wouldn’t have enough. It all worked out just fine (although tiring!) and we ended up getting a few more wholesale orders and starting to think about expanding production.

Creative Pickle: I remember the email arriving to say I had my first website order, I had to double check it wasn’t just a family member being kind! It was for the Alphabet Flash cards and a lady had found me through an online market I’d previously been a part of, she sent me a lovely comment about how much she loved my designs. I definitely did a ‘happy dance’ that day! This wasn’t my first order, I’d had some from friends prior but there was something unique and special about someone putting their trust in me to deliver something I was so proud of creating.

Pedddle: What challenges did you face when you first launched your business?

Smith & Co.: I’ve faced a few challenges, I think the main one has been the difference in online shopping now that the world is opening up again. But I’ve learned a lot from Pedddle and a few other places that consistency is key. Showing up even when it seems like no-one is listening.

Creative Pickle: I had two big challenges when I started Creative Pickle, I think the biggest one was learning to believe in myself! It was such an odd feeling to be selling myself and my designs, I’m super proud of what I’ve created but suddenly when I’m standing there saying ‘hi, this is me and I’ve created this, I hope you like it’, the fear floods in that everyone will laugh and no-one will like my illustrations. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened!! My other challenge has been Social Media! I’m not a natural and didn’t really use Instagram or Facebook before starting Creative Pickle (I still don’t have a personal Insta account!). It’s been such a learning curve and I’ve learnt so much about posting, algorithms and reels! I’ve also met some amazing makers and creators who are super supportive and are always happy to help answer questions, so that’s really helped. My next challenge is to open a Pinterest account for Creative Pickle, let the next learning curve begin!

Pedddle: What’s next for your business this year – anything you’re planning, looking forward to, are there any new products/ranges etc?

Smith & Co.: I’ve been really fortunate so far, my goal was never to spend more on the business than I earned and it’s been really exciting to start with my little investment last year to grow into a business that supports itself. Smith & Co has been a side hustle which I have been able to keep going while still teaching full time. My husband and I are expecting a baby in September so I am looking forward to a few months of calm before learning how to juggle entrepreneurship with motherhood!

Creative Pickle: I’m always designing new products, normally when the thought pops into my head!
My next main product range is the A-Z transport collection. I have had a lot of interest in it already, I think there’s a few children out there who love trains, tractors and anything with wheels! I’ve created a few personalised posters already and those vehicles will be added to the collection. I am also thinking of Halloween and, dare I say it, my Christmas range!