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Instagram: March Meet The Maker

March Meet The Maker 2018 on Instagram

Last month I took part in an Instagram hashtag challenge run by Joanne Hawker called “March Meet The Maker”.  Designed to take a peek into the lives of creatives, which, apart from being a little nosy (and aren’t we all from time to time), helps to get to know the person behind the wonderful creativity you see popping up in your timeline.  It’s also the perfect way to find new people to follow and interact with.

The idea is to post a daily photo that is relevant to the daily challenge title.  Finding a window in the day to prepare, photograph and post each day was fun (I did get a little behind at times and even had to miss a couple of days) but I actually miss the relaxed discipline of taking a daily picture and adding it to my Instagram feed.

Each daily pointer gave the viewer an insight into how the maker started their craft, their routine, their down time and all the little ins and outs of creating and running a small business.

Of all the daily titles, the following three were my favourites:

Day 14 Dreams & Plans – where I shared my dream of owning a bricks and mortar shop.
Instagram March Meet The Maker 2018 Dreams and Plans

Day 22 Sketchbook & Lists – photographing my 90s Filofax which holds all my notes, supply information and new idea lists and sketches.
Instagram March Meet The Maker 2018 filofax and creative work in progress

Day 29 Community – a chance to thank my online community for their support which is a vital and necessary part of running a small business.
March Meet The Maker 2018 - Community

You can see the photos of all participants by clicking this link: #marchmeetthemaker – I hope you get inspired as much as I did when viewing the amazing array of photographs.

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Carrot cake

homemade carrot cake

Flo and Daisy, our two hens, have returned to laying after their little winter break and they seem to be on a mission as we are inundated with eggs and I’m trying hard to keep on top of the supply.  The one excellent thing this leads to is cake baking – you can’t go wrong with homemade cake and a nice cup of tea.

I thought I’d share this recipe for carrot cake which was given to me by a friend when I worked in London about 25 years ago.  I distinctly remember her saying it was a healthy cake as it has carrots and sultanas in it!  I think I’ll take her word for it!

The original recipe made a big cake (she was from a large family), so way back I wrote half quantities of ingredients in the margin.  I had a little snigger to myself seeing I’d written 1/2 of a 1/4 teaspoon of spices – obviously my maths wasn’t up to much back then (I’m proud to say it’s now improved)!

150g (5oz) soft light brown sugar
125g (4oz) butter or baking margarine
grated rind of an orange
2 eggs
200g (7oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/8 teaspoon mixed spice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
250g (9oz) carrots, peeled and finely grated
85g (3oz) sultanas (optional)
2-2.5 tablespoons milk
Icing sugar and orange juice (optional)

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carrot cake ingredients

Preheat the  oven to 180 C, gas mark 4 (recipe was pre-fan oven so adjust accordingly!).  Use baking paper to line the base and then grease a 1.5 litre (3 pint) loaf tin (or equivalent round cake tin).

Cream together the sugar, butter/margarine and orange rind in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, gradually beat in the eggs.  Fold in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices, a little at a time.  Fold in the grated carrots and sultanas (if using) together with the milk.  If the mixture seems a little stiff, stir in a little extra milk.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf/cake tin and cook for 40 minutes or until firm and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cooked cake comes away clean.

carrot cake 1

Place on a rack to cool.  If you wish, when the cake is cool and has been turned out of the tin, mix a little icing sugar with orange juice to form a nice consistency and spoon over the top of the cake.

carrot cake with icing

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Winter’s behind us, Spring is here!

 

hand sewn accessories for Spring by Ellie's Treasures

Well … hopefully Spring is here!  The last couple of days have been considerably warmer here in South Lincs., so I really hope we’ve seen the back of the snow and biting strong winds and we can look forward to more cheerful days.  The daffs are beginning to bloom and the grass will be getting its first cut this weekend – all positive things to lead us into warmer climes.

With Easter next weekend, there’s still time to purchase gifts that are either alternatives to the traditional chocolate, or a little something to complement the traditional chocolate.

There’s a selection of suitable pretties available online at Ellie’s Treasures with an Easter/Spring theme – all items are posted 1st class within the UK.

I hope you enjoy a well deserved break from work and the norms next weekend.

Thanks for dropping by.

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Tips and ideas for Craft Fair Vendors (part 4) – handy checklist

To finish my “Craft Fair” series I thought I’d put together a little checklist of, what I feel, are necessary items to consider taking with you for the event.  You will, I am sure, need to add things to it, depending on what you intend to sell, but it’s a starters guide and I do hope it will come in handy.


necessary business documentation (insurance/hygiene)

completed risk assessment (if needed)

copy of fair/market rules should you need to refer to them


marque and all fixings and tools (if required)

cardboard to stand on (experienced sellers say it keeps the damp from rising)

table(s) (unless supplied)

chair(s) (unless supplied/if allowed)

table covering(s)

table display items, decorations and signs, blackboard and chalk

batteries for table lights

large overnight covering for your table, should the fair be over several days

fixings for table coverings and display items

shop banner and fixings


storage boxes for your equipment that are easy to carry or pull along

stock

inventory and price list

peelable stickers for pricing items

packaging

business cards

promotional information – sign up to email newsletter/sale notice

custom order sheets


cash float

cash box

charged portable credit card terminal

charged smartphone (for credit card terminal)/phone

charged power bank (to keep everything fully charged!)

pens, pencil, eraser, sharpener, scissors

sticky tape and Blu Tac

notebook

calculator


camera (to take pictures of your stall and others, with their permission)

personal cash

flask (sugar/sweetners/milk/spoon)

bottled water

food and snacks that are easy to eat and cutlery if needed

bag for rubbish

tissues

wet wipes

warm clothing, including hat, scarf and gloves (fingerless if that’s easier)

warm and sturdy footwear


Let me know if there’s anything you feel should be added to the list – would love to hear from you.

I hope these four blog posts have been helpful and if you have booked to run a stall at a fair or market, I hope you have an enjoyable and successful time.

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Tips and ideas for Craft Fair vendors (part 3) – run up to and actual event

In the third part of this blog series, I’m writing about the lead up preparations and the actual event.

Give yourself time to gather stock!

stock prep

If you’re aiming for a Christmas fair, it’s easy to think November/December is way off having applied for the fair 10/11 months earlier!  Easier said than done, but try and be disciplined in building your stock during the free months as it really isn’t much fun having that last minute rush as the weeks, days, hours and minutes start to decrease quicker and quicker.  Leave plenty of  time for organising packaging, pricing up items and keeping a written or computerised inventory of your stock.  I was amazed this took me so long to do!

Aim to have a nice selection of items on your table at varying prices to attract all customers.  It’s good to have some stock behind the table to fill any gaps that appear after all the sales you’ll be making, but if you do run out of something that someone is after, offer to post it on to them or hand them a business card so they can order from your online shop (or get in touch with you).

My mini brooches were selling like hot cakes on the first and second day of a fair at Christmas so I found myself making more in the evenings, staying up to the early hours and finishing off the items once I’d reached the fair the next morning.  It wasn’t nice, and I was pretty tired with just a few hours sleep.  I found changing my table display on the 3rd day helped customers focus on different items, so the minis weren’t so popular (and saved my poor fingers and mind for additional stress).

hand sewn jewellery gifts by Ellie's Treasures with packaging

Practise your table layout.

My previous blog post talked about table layout ideas, hopefully by the time you’re ready for the fair you’ll know roughly how you’d like your stall to look.  If you can, it’s a good idea to have a practise run at setting up your table.  Use a table around the size you’ll be using on the day so you can see if everything works well together.  Try out everything – the lighting, the signage, how you’ll display your goods etc.  As you start to assemble your stall you’ll start to think of things that may need to be altered, or added.  Take pictures on your phone when you’re happy so you can remind yourself of how you’d like the table to look when you’re setting up at the fair.

Price everything!

You may decide to put labels on all your items or have a board showing the costs of things but I’ve found people prefer to know exactly how much each item is, so perhaps pricing each and every item is the best way to go.  It also helps if you need to have a loo break and your stall neighbour looks after things while you are away.  They won’t know your pricing and you can bet the very item that isn’t priced is the item someone chooses to buy when you’re not there!

Cash, credit cards and keeping stock of your money.

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You’ll need a substantial float for your cash payments.  The chances are your first customer will use a £20 note for a £2 item so you don’t want to be drained of spare change at the start of the day.  If you can afford it, and the fair you’ll be attending has its own internet (or strong 4G signal), you may want to consider buying a credit card machine.  There’s several to choose from – two I know are Paypal and iZettle.  I love my little iZettle machine and it’s actually secured a couple of sales from cash-less customers at my last fair.  These machines are linked to your smart phone to do all the recording of sales and are very easy to use.  You set them up with an inventory of your stock and it happily works out what you’ve sold to give you a clear record of all transactions when you’re home and ready to see your takings.  The iZettle can also record cash payments (free of charge) so you can have a complete record of everything you sell on the day – this was a real help when it came to cashing up at the end of the fair.  For cash-less customers without a credit card, it is worth investigating the nearest cash machine (or shop that does cash back) so you can pass this on.

Be friendly and welcoming to your potential customers.

This can be really difficult if you are a shy person and I must admit I found it very hard to know what to say when I did my first fair.  At this particular fair I had a husband and wife team next to me selling coffee goods and they were obviously very seasoned sellers.  The wife would be out front hovering around the stall ready to help any potential customers and the husband was behind the stall ready to take payment and wrap goods.  I was impressed when one lady approached the stall looking as she waited for the rest of her family to catch up and the stall holder started chatting to her about coffee.  The lady was quick to say she didn’t drink coffee at all, not interested in anything coffee, to which I would have smiled and moved away.  Nope, the stall holder managed to turn the negativity around by enquiring if other family or friends liked coffee, how it’s a great Christmas gift to give, especially as it’s their own beans and nicely presented etc., etc. and the lady purchased two bags of goods just like that!  I’m certainly not quite in that league yet but luckily, for the fair I did last December, I had amazing stall neighbours who were very friendly and chatty and I picked up a lot from them just by listening to how they started conversations and interacted.  Once you start to realise it’s really not too bad at all, and people start to ask questions about your business and generally be very friendly, you’ll be off with no turning back!  It’s not all about the selling pitch either – here’s some examples.

  • Say “hello”, “good morning”, “good afternoon” confidently with a warm smile to those who approach your stall.  Most will respond, a tiny handful will not (so you know they want to be left alone or just didn’t hear you).  From this greeting you will begin to work out who then wants to browse on their own (they’d briefly look up to say hello then busy themselves looking at goods without any further eye contact or even move on) and those who may be up for more chatting (they don’t bury their heads in your goods after greeting you, but pick things up and generally seem relaxed to linger, or even chatter to their partner).  At this point you could ask if they’re having a nice day and enjoying what they’ve seen so far.  If they’re showing lots of interest in your items, ask if there’s something in particular they’re looking for.
  • If potential customers approach the stall and look determined to ignore you, my neighbour would say “I’m just here if you need me” and quite often they would look up and acknowledge her and that would relax the atmosphere.
  • Come out from behind the stall if people seem chatty – it’ll break that divide between buyer and seller and make it more personal.  Try and be natural too.  I was a bit stressed about using the iZettle as it was a new toy and I’m not brilliant with tech, so whenever someone wanted to pay by card I’d say “hopefully this will work, I’m not a very techy person” and the customer would always be understanding and patient.
  • If dogs are allowed at the fair they are a real ice-breaker – give them a stroke (with the owner’s permission) and strike up a conversation (“aww, so sweet”, “what breed?”, “there’s so many dogs here today, it’s lovely to see them”).  Dog owners love to talk about their pets!
  • If you make a sale, thank them and say you are popping a business card in the bag because you have an online store (of your own, with Etsy, Folksy, etc., etc.) that they can purchase from at any time.

The more you start to chat, the more you’ll become aware that those visiting your stall are interested in your goods and generally want to know more about the process of making the items – it’s actually really lovely and a great boost to your confidence.  Unfortunately, I have heard a few stories of people being mean about items for sale at craft fairs – usually about the cost compared to items on the High Street, or how they could make it themselves.  As much as it is upsetting and uncalled for, try to remain professional and stay calm.  Explain in a friendly way how your item is made in a different way to those on the High Street and the cost reflects that, or offer them a business card, should they decide to purchase (rather than make it themselves) in the future.  You have to remember that these people are definitely the minority – the majority will appreciate your work and the time put into making each item.

Accepting custom orders.

If you decide you want to offer the option of a personalised order during the fair, then have a sign that states this and plan ahead a typed or written sheet that can easily be filled in by the customer.  Other than recording the specific details of the item you have been requested to make, make sure you have customer name, address, phone number and email (get both if possible in case the email doesn’t work!), and any deadline for making and posting the item.  Also make a note of payment (in full or deposit) as it is quite easy to forget once the fair is over and you start to work through everything.  Give the customer a business card or your contact details in case you are unable to contact them, they then have the option to try and contact you.

Get to know your stall neighbours.

You can learn a lot from them if they are have been selling at fairs longer than you, as well as swap nuggets of information, pass on details of other good craft fairs to attend and look after your stall when you need a little break! I was really lucky last December to have very friendly, approachable neighbours that I now keep in touch through social media.

Stick to the event rules and clear everything away afterwards.

Event holders will send out a list of rules and regulations before the day – it is good practise to read them and stick to them so the event runs smoothly and hopefully you’ll be invited back!  Keep your stall area tidy and pay attention to potential health and safety issues to avoid any disasters.  It is only polite to take all your rubbish away at the end of each day and ensure your pitch is left as you found it when you first arrived.

The final part of this series, there’s a checklist of things to consider taking for a successful fair – you can find the post here.

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