Saturday, November 15, 2014

Part 6 - Product - Designing, Manufacturing and Selling with Laura Clempson of Clara and Macy

In our final blog about selling product we have the lovely Laura Clempson of Clara and Macy fame. 

You can connect with Laura here

If you'd like to read the other wonderful blogs in this series, please click on the links below.

Part 1 with Angie Spurgen - Artwork by Angie
Part 2 with Gabriella Buckingham - MooBaaCluck
Part 3 with Heather Moore - Skinny laMinx
Part 4 with Jamie and Catherine Douglas - Bread and Jam
Part 5 with Jessica Hayman - Rosa and Clara Designs 

1. Could you tell us a little background about yourself and why you decided to sell product?

After working in the animation industry making puppets for TV & films for several years I realised that I really wanted to write and illustrate my own picture books. Two little characters, Clara and Macy, just popped into my head one day but knowing how difficult it is to break into the world of publishing I came up with a plan! I thought that if I could design some products based around Clara and Macy, and get some interest that way, then I could prove to the publishers that it was a good book idea. I was really lucky and the products started selling well - the business became a 'real' business and suddenly it all became so busy that I haven't even had time to contact any publishers!

2. What are the important things to keep in mind when researching the products you wish to sell and why did you choose the particular products that you sell now?

I am a great believer in gut feelings and loving your own products. I don't want to sell any products that I don't completely love. I think researching prices and the market in general is important too but it's not the main focus for me. It comes second. Looking at trends can be helpful too.

3. Which has been the most effective avenue for you to sell your products  and which would you recommend?

Joining Not On The High Street has changed my life. Truly. It is by far my most effective sales avenue and I wouldn't have my business without them. I have been lucky enough to have had products included in their catalogues and promotions, and that has had a massive impact on my success on the website. I also sell via Etsy but it isn't nearly as effective for me sales wise. I would definitely recommend Noths to people, and do quite often!
*NOTHS is Not on the high street - A selling platform in the UK

4. How important is having a business mentor (if you use one) How have they helped you grow your business?

I started working with my business mentor in July and it has been amazing. She has helped me grow the business, and make decisions that I didn't even think were in my reach. I think having a business mentor can be great but finding the right person for you is crucial, you both need to be on exactly the same page with what you're hoping to achieve together. Jenny (Jenny Hyde) has helped my business confidence massively, and has helped me figure out some of the big things like taking on staff, becoming a Limited Company, forecasting sales for 2015 etc. It's been fantastic!

5. How important do you think selling platforms (outside of your own website) are? 

I can say for certain that I wouldn't be where I am now without Noths. I don't currently have my own e-commerce website (it's being built at the moment) and so Noths has been crucial to my business success. They take care of a lot of the marketing and promotion so that I don't need to worry about it as much. Things like SEO can be really difficult to work through on your own so it's really helpful to have some extra help with things like that through Noths. That doesn't mean that you don't need to put any effort in, but it is great to know that you have the support right there.

6. How much has wholesaling been a part of your success?

Wholesaling isn't something I've been actively seeking so far with the business. I've been lucky enough to wholesale to a few great independent shops and places like The National Gallery, but it's not been the focus yet. It is however part of my big plan for 2015 - I'm hoping to launch an entire wholesale side to the business with a dedicated website for it.

7. Looking back, what would you do differently if you were to start all over again?

Ooh tricky one! If I were to do it all again I think I would be braver. I would try really hard to have more confidence in my own ability to run a business, design good products, and make the big decisions. I've spent a lot of time worrying about whether I'm doing things right, but doing it again I definitely wouldn't let myself get so worried and stressed about things. But I'm slowly learning to be more like that!

8. Any extra tips and advice for budding designers who want to sell their own product?

Just go for it! Trust your gut feelings, create things you love first then price them sensibly and do the research to see if you can improve anything to make it more marketable. If personalised products are selling really well on your chosen marketplace, then consider how you might be able to offer that with your own products. It can be great to boost sales with something like that, but equally don't try to force it. A great product will sell well without those extra features.

If you're selling online then I also think that great photos are key. It's really worth investing the time to try and get the best images of your products that you can. Paying attention to the market you're selling them on is really helpful too. Noths for example really like lifestyle shots, whereas other sites like cut out shots. So be sure to target your photos accordingly.

Finding support that you really trust is also key. It can be really hard working running your own business (a lot of people compare it to having a newborn baby and I'd say that's about right!). Having support from people that understand - other people in the same position, a mentor, a forum - can be a lifesaver.

Good luck!

Thanks so much Laura. We wish you all the very best for the future!

We hope you have loved the blogs and have lots of ideas now swimming around your heads. I'm all for sharing what I learn about business as I travel along my journey and up those mountains, so please share, share, share and let us know what you have thought of the series. Has it been helpful to you?

One more huge thank you to all of the artists and designers who have shared their tips and knowledge with us all. I for one really, really appreciate them taking time out from their busy schedules to sit down and share everything they have learnt about selling product with us. Thank you xxx

If you have any comments, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below

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