Business Profile: Wicker & Weft

Author: Katie Lee

I obviously don’t get to meet all you amazing Small Indie Businesses, how good would that be, travelling the country to meet you all!

So when I first read the answers to the SIB questions it’s so lovely to get a little insight into your world and your business.  I asked Mim from Wicker & Weft to take part in our business profile and what amazing answers we got.  So honest and insightful and I think I can say this for a lot of us, it all rings true.  The love we have for what we do and the daily juggling that goes on to keep everything moving forwards and all the balls in the air.  In my house it also involves ” oh go on, you can go on your I Pad for a bit”  Then manic emails, blogs and editing get done…anyone else? Or am I the only bad Mum?

So here we go, a definite must read and thank you Mim for your wonderful answers.

How long have you been here, what’s your story? How did your business come about?

After having my two girls, I think I’ve become increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of our behaviour as consumers and my own conscience as an individual when shopping. I’m a Primary School Teacher and am constantly frustrated by our Education System for its marginalisation of the Arts. I feel creative skills and talents are being lost and under appreciated in favour of the more academic. We might end up with generations of children who can reel off times tables, but who will make the music we listen to? Who will paint the art we hang on our walls? Who will write the hilarious or heart-breaking novels we read? As a self-confessed Pinterest addict, I came across images of these gorgeous baskets that were everywhere in the US and Australia but not here in the UK. Once I looked into them and their origins in Ghana, I fell in love with them even more. I joked with my husband that I would love to have a website selling traditionally made items that celebrate the amazing talents from around the world, but never expected it to happen. Little old me? But he encouraged me to look into it. As with anything, there are always people who exploit Artisans and make huge profits but it was important to me to source through a Fair Trade organisation that deals directly with the Weavers. I wanted to be sure where the money was going and that the Weavers were being paid fairly – not out of charity – but as a reflection of the time and skill involved in their work. My husband is an accountant and one evening, over a glass (or three) of wine, he asked me to come up with a name and logged it with Companies House there and then. There’s no way I would have had the confidence or knowledge to take the plunge without him. I began trading just under a year ago.

Is it difficult to run a small business?

 

Yes and no. In some ways it’s a lot easier than I thought. Instagram has been my main platform. I loved it before and now I get to develop my photography and styling skills, and connect with other like minded people. The start-up costs were mainly for stock, branding and admin. The hard part has been trying to grow the business while maintaining my other roles. I find it really hard to dip in and out of tasks and get things finished. I’m full of so many ideas and never feel I have enough time to see them all through. It’s a constant juggle between maintaining house, being a Mum and running the business…and I don’t think I’ll ever perfect the balance! Imposter Syndrome is also a challenge for me. I’m a Teacher with a mental health background; this is not my field! Self-doubt can be debilitating when you’re working alone, but there’s a fantastic support network via social media. So many wonderful people have taken the time to send me encouraging messages, offer to meet, give advice, and most importantly, let me know I’m not alone in the challenges I face. Libby of @Hobbs stocks my baskets and has given me so much incredible advice – she’s a constant source of inspiration! So when I feel those niggly thoughts, I have to step away and distract myself. Nothing awful happens; everything is still as it was when I return. My other ideas will just have to wait until I have the time they need, and that is ok. I heard Annie Sloan speaking at a workshop recently and she described experiencing the exact same dilemmas when she had a young family, so that made me feel better!

 

What’s the best bit?

For me, the creative outlet. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to just do what I love. There is a tremendous creative community out there of makers and photographers and people with skill and flair and I just love being immersed in that world. As a stay at home Mum, life can be isolating and I’m now increasingly meeting up with other small business owners and makers and it gives you a buzz. I’m providing a gateway for a product that I love and am passionate about, which in turn provides some much needed income for a group of talented women and preserves their traditional skills. And I get to be with my children and feel like I am using another part of myself that was fading amid the nappies!

What’s the future for your business? Where to next? What’s your goal.

 

Ooh this is scary! I don’t like committing in case it never happens, but I have several other products I want to introduce to the website. I have the materials ready and the sewing machine but just need to find the time. I really want to have more of a creative input into the products I sell. I’m already requesting specific colourways for the baskets to reflect my love of nature and natural earthy tones. Next is more of a textile focus. And then eventually it would be amazing to actually travel and make links with Artisans myself and have a design hand in helping their traditional products reach the UK. It’s not about the figures – I think any small business owner will tell you that – it’s about the love and the passion for what you are doing. So we shall see once the children are older.

If you could give one piece fo advice to someone strating out with their own business what would it be?

Don’t let doubts hold you back – just go for it. Start small; get your start up costs together, your margins planned and just jump in. I think, and from talking to others, it can be better to start small and do one thing well, rather than try and tackle too much. Keep a note of any other ideas and plans and then when you’re ready, you can do them. A long-term plan will keep you focused on where you want to go but I think if you’re really passionate about something and know who your market is, then that’s half the battle. I spent six months planning and rejigging my logo and wouldn’t launch until I had this sorted. In hindsight, this was silly and I could have easily begun just with handwritten notes and a photo on my Instgram profile, but I was so caught up in wanting to look professional and not like a complete amateur. Actually, it’s the personal touch that people want from a small business, so trust that you and your passion are simply enough. And keep your books updated regularly!!!

Why do you like the SIB feed/hashtag and do you think you’ve seen any benefit from using it?

 

The SIB hashtag has helped me to connect to other small businesses, for advice and inspiration and also in terms of aiding collaborations (some exciting things are in the pipeline now). It’s also a great way for consumers to track down certain types of products and access this niche of small businesses. I think more people are beginning to question where the things they buy come from, who has made them, and where the money is going. This niche often allows you to see the answers to these questions and to see passion and skill behind what they are buying.

Thank you so Mim from Wicker and Weft

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