While our current popular #SupportSmallBizUK contest for British small businesses, accountants and charities runs in its last week we wanted to make sure that some of the special winners and businesses from our last competition aren’t forgotten.
Our first contest, named Love Our Local Business, ran last year November and December. Eleven UK-based businesses won cash-prizes up to £5,000 and one of them was Notthingham-based Jen Thomas, who runs craft business Jen Made This who bought a new embroidery machine with the prize money. Here’s here story (and a great picture):
On hearing she had won a £1,000 grant for her business, Jen said:
“I am unbelievably excited, and enormously grateful for everyone that took the time to vote, and to Intuit for choosing me as a winner. It means an awful lot to have that support. The grant meant I could purchase an embroidery machine, plus digitising software to enable me to create my own designs, and personalise bags, aprons, prints and more. It opened up a whole new scope for the business.”
Jen told us more about the story behind her handmade business.
Success for a newbie!
“I’m a veritable newbie – believe it or not, I only received a sewing machine for Christmas in 2012! I attended some fantastic sewing classes at The Craft Studio in Nottingham and fell in love with sewing and stitching something new. I designed a bag with a skull knuckleduster clasp for a friend’s birthday, everyone loved it and I started to receive emails asking to buy one. In July 2013 I set up a website with an online shop using Create.net, signed up for a Facebook page, and the rest is history! My first orders came in that week, and through constant social media interaction it has just snowballed from there.
“Prior to this I was a freelance journalist. It’s me, myself and I at Jen Made This. I do the social media, the web design, and hand make everything. I commissioned the talented illustrator Katie Abey to design my logo, headers and business cards, and Emma R Photography to do some promotional photos. All based in Nottingham, so keeping it local!”
Unique products from a unique business
Jen explained how she creates a brand for her small craft business.
“I put a lot of myself into the brand – it features my name after all! I try to do things differently – I have brightly coloured hair and tattoos; some of the highest ranking social media posts have featured me getting a bunny tattooed on my arm! It’s about offering something unique, and individuality is at the core of what I do. Everything is custom-made – in an era where people can buy disposable fashion for pennies, I think people like being able to choose their fabric and have control over the outcome of the design. It’s about having something that screams ‘you’, that you won’t see on someone else on a night out.”
A balancing act
Running a business and working full-time is tricky but it can be done. Jen explains her approach.
“I still work full-time in my day job, so it’s been a case of balancing my workload with day-to-day life! Christmas was a whole new experience – I had to close my order books in November as the response was incredible! I made sure to give a lot of notice for people to order well in advance due to my lead time. I also took a week off work at the end of October to get as much done as I could. I then spent 37 hours sewing over a weekend to create non-bespoke items to sell at an online ‘market night’ for last-minute Christmas gifts so nobody missed out.”
“Create something that you love”
Jen was kind enough to share her top business tips.
“I’ve been lucky enough to know some fabulous business women, the incredible Janine Basil, Sarah at Sugar & Vice, Sophie at Crown & Glory, Tracy at Mini Geek Boutique and fellow Intuit winner Gemma at Newton and The Apple. All of these talented ladies have been simply invaluable. Whether it was just being able to message them over Christmas and see that we’re all in the same boat, or meeting for a coffee and them lending me business books in the first weeks of starting, the support network is fantastic. There’s no rivalry – help one another and you will receive it back ten-fold.”
“Create something that you love. Every bag I make is something that I would wear or want myself, the same with my fabric choices. I made a handful of items in more ‘traditional’ floral/twee fabrics for the Christmas market night as an experiment, and they didn’t sell. I was pleased in a way as it meant I’d figured out my market properly! Be yourself, and talk to people on social media, not at them. Interaction is key.”
You too could win £10,000 for your business. Enter the Intuit QuickBooks competition now at www.SupportSmallBusiness.co.uk and receive a free marketing guide plus the chance to win £1,000 every week or the grand prize of £10,000.
To learn more about the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Local Buzz campaign see our other #SupportSmallBizUK blog articles, the press release or enter with your business.