Loving Local and Supporting Small (1)

1st Blog of the Series!

I moved back to Bristol last week and once again fell in love with the whole atmosphere. Whilst I was away, I realised how much I missed some local businesses and jazzy independent stores that I love popping into and having a nose around. The thing about small businesses is that they create meaningful and personal products that they are actually passionate about – sometimes the things that independent shops make are totally unique and it’s something that maybe we dont think about often!

Supporting small and local businesses is largely free – you can simply just share a post, like a picture and (the easiest part), buy and enjoy their products! By supporting local businesses and smaller start ups, we help make their goals realities.

So I made the decision to make a blog series, titled ‘Loving Local and Supporting Small’. It will focus on local and small businesses, and I will discuss with them their plans and future goals. I want to give exposure to student start ups and jazzy online sellers who deserve to have a spotlight shined on them! I hope you enjoy these mini interviews. If you know anyone who deserves to have the spotlight on them, a small business who shares amazing products and messages, get in contact with me via my Instagram @a_little_inisght so I can feature them in next weeks blog! If you are one of these small businesses – don’t be shy! Let me know if you want to be featured. 

Please do check out all of the people and places listed, full details will be at the end of each section! 

And without further ado, read on for some fantastic creative people talking all things motivation, business and passion! 

Milkman.Store

Milkman.Store is an independent homewares and fragrance company based in Bristol and was started up by a Uwe Bristol Alumni. As a current student, I really wanted to reach out, buy one of their products and see how they have progressed from uni to being a small business in the city!

Milkman have fragrant candles and incence, a collection that is constantly being developed and grown. I bought a 001 Lis d’Ambre candle myself to see the amazing quality, and hands down, it is gorgeous! I absolutely love it and this makes me want to share their business even more, because their craft is so personal and beautifully made with care. I admire the fact that with hard work, Milkman have made their dream a reality and it is growing in the right direction! So, let’s see what Benjy Johnstone (Head Candle Sniffer as he calls himself) said about Milkman and their story.

I’ve read your story on your website about how the idea came to you one night at 3am! It seems like your idea sprouted from your underlying interests and one day just grew into a solid idea – and now you have made this blossom into a reality!

Yeah, I essentially think it was a combination of being interested in design and creation and setting myself a challenge that got us to where we are today. I had always envisioned having space to develop my own ideas and be my own boss, I just didn’t quite imagine it would start from a sweaty night on Stokes Croft!

Do you think following your ideas and passions is important?

I think it is really important. One of the key things I have learnt and continue to learn is that to make a business work, you need to be 100% behind the idea, because if you can’t back your own business how can you expect others to?

What would you say to young entrepreneurs like you about making their ideas and plans a reality in the real world?

Get started and be patient. Just take the first step and let the business grow as you do. We made our first ever candle from the comfort of home and sold it to a close friend, and next weekend we’re heading to London for meetings with people we would have only ever dreamed of working with. My partner always tells me that patience is key and as hard as that can be to remember when your brain is in overdrive pumping out all sorts of plans and projects – it’s true. Sometimes we forget that success takes time, hard work and you often see people give up when they don’t see results straight away. We started Milkman.Store over a year ago and we are still learning, growing and adapting every day.

You talk about always being intrigued with interior design and how objects in someone’s home can reflect who they are. How does your product and brand reflect you?

I think that our brand is currently going through a bit of a transition and that in itself is reflective of who we are. We are growing up and the brand is growing up with us. We had always aimed for it to tell a bit of a story and that is exactly what is happening; we’re evolving and growing as individuals and taking the brand on that journey too. We want to be transparent with our growth and our brand will constantly be fine-tuned as we meet new creative people and work alongside independents across the UK. We want to be more than just another homewares company and instead become a collaborative space for creatives to come together and create together, which I think is the biggest representation of who we are.

Describe your brand in three words.

Collaborative, fluid and honest.

Which is your favourite product that you have released so far and why?

I think it would have to be our 001 Lis d’Ambre candle. It is our original product that took many, many hours of late night brainstorming and decision making and it set the bar for us in terms of the work that needs to go into a product. We are currently working on some new products that we are so excited for and think our customers will love too.

Which part of the process making and developing your brand was your favourite and why?

That is really impossible to answer because each step is so different and I don’t think either of us quite realised the range of skills we would apply to this business. We have been everything from graphic designers to photographers to accountants to copywriters to delivery drivers to packers and the list goes on. Something valuable is learnt from each step and it means we know the business inside out as we have been so involved in the complete process.

Which part of your start-up was the most challenging? Did you learn from it – if so how?

I think the hardest part would be those moments of self-doubt. As mentioned before patience is key and I have worked hard to acquire that mentality over the last year because it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. In those early days when you find you’re making lots of decisions and facing set-backs you need to persevere and surround yourself with people who understand and support what you’re trying to achieve to help keep you motivated.

What is the most rewarding thing about growing your own business?

On the flip side to my above answer, I think that having that perseverance and patience really pays off when things come together. We have put a lot of work into getting to where we are today and hearing positive feedback or seeing a project come together really makes it worthwhile. We started completely from scratch and that makes the small accomplishments even more rewarding.

What is Milkman’s next goal? Do you have any new products coming out soon?

We are working on some extremely exciting things at the moment and working with some really amazing people. We can’t say too much yet but keep an eye on our pages over the coming months to see what we’re working on… @milkman.store.

Go check out @milkman.store on Instagram to see more creations and visit the website to order their beautiful products!

Em And The Little Knot

Emily runs a beautiful little Etsy shop selling dreamy plant hangers and wall hangings. They are all handmade and customs are welcome too! I know Emily through her instagram and youtube channel, and what consistently shines through is her bubbly personality, creativity and plant obsession! Since I first started following Em, I loved her style and the aesthetic of her content and ofocurse her collection of leafy friends! You can see Emily truly loves creating the macramé products she sells and has a real interest in making beautiful yet perfectly practical products! Read on to hear what we spoke about!

Firstly, tell me where this idea began! What made you want to start up your own macramé business? 

It all started on my ‘Make & Do’ Pinterest board, which is where I save all kinds of cool craft ideas. I decided to give macramé a go so I could create some shelf space by hanging up some of my plants and I took to it like a duck in water! Soon I was making hangers for friends and family, then selling them on Depop before finally taking the plunge and launching my own Etsy shop! I had a whole load of spare time to fill when we went into lockdown so it was the perfect opportunity to focus all of my efforts into launching my brand, organising a giveaway and making all of the orders that I was suddenly flooded with.

How many hours does it usually take to make one hanger?

I can make the smallest hanger (Sprout) in about 5 minutes but bigger hangers can take over an hour. More complicated custom plant hangers and wall hangings tend to take longer as I take more time to create or replicate a new design. Even though it takes longer, custom orders are always my fave! I love to keep things mixed up.

We can see you have a love for plants, how many do you have in your collection and which one is your favourite?

I have 20 plants (I think ) and I love every single one of them. Plant parents aren’t really supposed to have favourites but my Monstera Deliciosa (or Swiss Cheeseplant) whom my Nan jokingly named ‘Boris’ is my pride and joy! His name stuck, and he’s such a good grower, always sprouting out new leaves. The collection is always growing though – I have about 5 stems propagating and I’ve started buying plants for my boyfriend’s house so that I have another reason to fuel my plant addiction.

Do you think it’s true that plants boost your mood?

Abso-bloody-lutely! Not only do they make great companions but they bring nature into sterile and lifeless indoor spaces. I always feel more fresh and zen when I’m around plants, which is most likely due to their oxygen production. There have also been some really cool studies into if plants produce fields of energy that interact with our physiology – which basically means that plants literally emit good vibes!

How do you balance all your socials and a business? How do you plan on keeping on top of orders when you go back to uni?

My Instagram and YouTube both follow a schedule which I’ve spent a while getting myself into a routine with, so it’s pretty much second nature now. After I’ve done all of my instagramming and socialising in the daytime, I always leave a few hours in the evening to fulfil any orders that I haven’t done while I’m relaxing in the daytime! I’m not too worried about it being too much at uni, as I can adjust my ‘production time’ on Etsy, which informs my customers that it can take up to 5 working days to be made and shipped, giving me plenty of time to catch up on my orders after class.

What is the most rewarding thing about creating your products?

It may sound silly but the most heartwarming thing is knowing that someone actually wants to buy something you’ve made. They want to fork out their hard-earned cash on something made by little old me! I also like to think that people can tell that lots of love and care has gone into making their plant hangers and wall hangings, which they might not necessarily get from big companies or high street stores.

Have you got any goals set for the future? Any new products or designs in the pipeline? 

There are ALWAYS new designs in the pipeline! Recently I’ve been getting into Wall Hangings so hopefully I’ll be able to add some the fancy new items I’ve been experimenting with to the shop soon. I also do custom orders, so have been looking at adding some of my custom orders as permanent shop products. 
I really hope that the future of the shop can be on the local high street. I would absolutely love to see my designs hanging in the window of a quaint independent shop. I’ve been doing a little bit of research on this so maybe the future is in sight!

Which was the hardest part about setting up your business? 

Honestly, the whole process was shockingly painless! The most painstaking thing (probably quite ironically for a part time Instagram and YouTube content creator) was photographing the products. While I can take decent photos, consistency was the hardest thing as I took the pictures over several days in my little bedroom with natural lighting. In the end they turned out great, but it was definitely my least favourite part.

What would you say to other students or young people wanting to have a start-up company?

Do it. Take the plunge. Feel the fear and do it anyway. It costs nothing to set up a Depop or Instagram account and start listing your products! Etsy charged 17p (ish) per listing, but if you’re confident you can sell one or two items you cover those costs pretty quickly. 
Also, remember that branding is everything. Use apps like Canva to easily create a logo and some matching backgrounds to use for ‘sale’ or ‘price list’ images. Make sure all of your signage matches and that the ‘vibe’ they give off says the correct things about your products.

For example, I wanted to convey the natural aspects of my product (made to hold plants, zero plastic, natural cotton) while also conveying my playfulness and charismatic approach to retail so I designed a pink logo with minimalist green leaf details and an eye catching font. 

Above all, have faith in yourself and integrity with the things you create. Always be looking to improve your product and act as ethically as you can.

What saying or quote keeps you motivated?

I have lots of sayings and mantras that I like to whip out in all manner of situations, but these are the ones I’ve been using a lot lately; 

“If you’re not hurting anyone else, do whatever makes you happy.”

This one has really encouraged me to come out of my shell in terms of fashion and lifestyle. I’ve always been deemed as an ‘extra’ person, and I’ve always felt like I’ve been holding back in my fashion or decor or passions. Recently I’ve just thought, “you know what, why not?” And I’ve started wearing all the pretty dresses I would have previously said are ‘too girly’ and worn heels to the Mall because Why Not? I’ve stopped living in fear of being called ‘basic’ or ‘extra’ (two words I get called so often but that are literally opposites of each other) and just embraced all of the basic/ extra/ pretty/ aesthetic things that I love.

What an amazing way to look forward and ride with your own passions!

You can find Emily’s macramé business on instgram @Emandthelittleknot and her Etsy Shop by searching EmAndTheLittleKnott.

Tuli London

It’s all about the accessories! Tuli London is a jazzy student start up, run by my good friend Tallulah. She is a student at the University of the Arts London (London College of Fashion) studying BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Product Design and Innovation. Her creativity is purely spectacular and if you haven’t already seen on my Instagram, I am LIVING for her gorgeous earrings at the moment – especially her asymmetric daisy designs. I asked her about balancing her creations, where she see’s herself in five years time and the future of Tuli London!

You are a big fashionista, what do you love about fashion?

Probably how powerful fashion is, it celebrates individuality and similarity which can unite people in a strong way. Everyone adheres to ‘fashion’ in some form, even if they don’t consider themselves “fashionable”, that in itself is fashion, it means something different to each person and affects everyone without them even knowing, that’s very special.

Why earrings? There are so many ways to accessorise an outfit – why was this your choice?

I feel like earrings are a really good way of bringing out the best parts of a face, like eye colours or skin colours. And I always feel more beautiful when I wear them, it’s not necessarily about accessorising an outfit, but accentuating confidence, and that’s the best kind of accessory you can wear.

How did you start up your business?

I started making earrings initially because I had left over clay from a uni project and didn’t want to waste it. But after getting compliments and making a few pairs for friends, I decided to have a go at selling some. I sell on depop but Instagram has proved the most important platform, and it allows me to make to order much easier than on other sites, which is very crucial to avoid waste.

What is the best think about handmaking your products?

I think the best part of hand making my products for Tuli is knowing that quality and care has been put into each element of the process, putting it all together at the end to be shipped off and seeing all that hard work and love get put together feels amazing. I also like that as I’m involved in every element of the process, I know that no workers have been exploited like at many shops to create the earrings, they’ve all been made with love and care and safe working conditions.

Are you always going to focus on earrings or are there more products to come?

No I’m not just going to focus on earrings, I have a few products ideas up my sleeve to do with accessories and fashion that will be launching very soon. But they will all follow the same made-to-order process, so that materials aren’t wasted and particular garments can be adjusted for customer sizes or requests. At the moment I am sourcing second hand fabrics to make one off unique pieces. I am intending to use as many reusable or sustainable fabrics as I can.

What was the most difficult part of starting your own business?

I’d say the most difficult part of running my own business is the management side, as a one-woman business I do everything myself, the design work, the making, packaging, promotion, customer service etc … I find it difficult to achieve a balance between work and life when I’m responsible for every part of a business.

As a student how do you balance all of your creations?

Honestly there’s not a lot of balance going on right now, it can get quite overwhelming when I haven’t done any uni work for a while because of the business or visa-versa. I’m working on settling into a better routine and maybe in the future I’ll be able to delegate small jobs to other people.

What advice would you give to other students wanting to start up their own business?

I would say, absolutely go for it, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, uni has to be the priority so don’t take on too many tasks that will see you neglecting it. Keep it simple and you should be able to earn a bit of extra cash to support your studies.

How does it feel when people share themselves wearing your designs?

Seeing people wearing my earrings makes everything worth it, I put a lot of effort into making sure each package is perfect for each customer to open and it makes me feel pretty wholesome when I hear how happy it makes them. ALWAYS send me photos!!!

Where do you want your business to be in 5 years time?

In 5 years, I hope that I’ve managed to keep Tuli going, I hope for it to grow and expand and to be keeping its core values of slow fashion, sustainability and all round positivity. Growing a business to the point where I can live off it without another job and at the same time be able to give back to the community and the world would be the absolute best.

You can find Tuli London on instagram @tuli_london and her Depop is Tuli Earrings.

Yorkshire Artist shop

Based in Manchester, Leia runs a small business selling gorgeous prints including some ditsy floral designs, positive quotes and even sells some earrings with her patterns on them! She says that she was ‘fed up of seeing social media in a negative light’ so started sharing her positive artwork and prints in January. Her Etsy shop is filled with beautiful stock and you can even get custom prints made too.

I love your patterns and prints! Do you think your art represents you?

Thank you! I think my older collection wasn’t as personal as my new designs. The dots and ditsy florals and everything coming now, I feel like it is me on paper!

How did you start up your own business?

I first opened my Instagram account at the end of January to share artwork with positive quotations because I was fed up of seeing social media in a negative light and from there I started creating prints to spread positivity. People started asking me to buy them so I created a digital Etsy so people could download and print but after a while I bit the bullet and actually started printing them to send out. I do it for fun and I love the fact I can mix florals and positivity, plus some of the profits went to mind charity – so if I can raise money for good causes along the way too that’s a bonus! I have just raised £300 for Mind Charity from selling my prints and I am going to continue with that from August onwards!

What was the hardest part about setting up your business?

Trying t find people who will be interested in your work. As an artist there is a lot of other great people creating other things too. If you can help out a small shop in any way, word of mouth really does help – and it’s free, so if you want to support a small business, just share their work on any platform and we will always be grateful!

What is the most satisfying thing about selling your products?

When all my orders are finished after building up, and seeing them all piled up ready to go! Even though it takes a while and I’m a perfectionist and want it to all go smoothly!

Which products are your ultimate favourite at the moment?

That’s hard but I love my mini prints and bookmarks! Especially my new range that starts at £2.50, which makes my shop more available to more people! There is something new coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Is making business decisions scary or does it make you feel in control and productive?

Well, I naturally fell into a business so it wasn’t really that scary. Because it is something I do for fun, it didn’t feel too overwhelming and I really enjoyed it – and it helps pay off some of my student overdraft which is always helpful!

What is one piece of advice would you say to other small businesses or artists who are looking to do a similar thing to you?

Do what you want to do, for you! Do it out of your own passion and not for other people. If you don’t feel passionate about it, try turn it around so you do feel enjoyment from it or don’t do it! As an artist, I go through phases of artwork that I love and then I want to venture into a different style, which is why I’ve brought out a new collection – I want to keep the passion in my work.

I see you do lots of collabs with creators, which collabs have you most enjoyed creating or looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to a collaboration with @georgiejade.fashion because it will be involving sunflowers and I just really love it.

You have recently introduced your earrings to your Etsy shop! Are more products like this going to keep coming out alongside your prints?

Yes definitely! Again, it’s a passion project so Im purely doing it for fun. They will keep coming – probably quite randomly, but more products are on the way.

Tell me about your waste not sales!

I am a perfectionist. There are some prints I see minor imperfections so I’ve turned it into a waste not sale! They are usually at a lower price and most people wouldn’t be able to see any mistakes, but it’s a good way to make sure there is no wastage!

You can find Leia’s beautiful prints on her Esty Shop – YorkshireArtistShop and her instagram is @yorkshire.artist

Loving local shops and supporting small businesses really isn’t that hard, plus with such gorgeous products, like the ones highlighted in this blog, how can you say no? Seeing businesses grow is beautiful, especially for the people behind the products who work so hard at developing and creating them! Be sure to give these small businesses a follow and check out their websites!

Look out for another ‘Loving Local and Supporting Small’ blog next week!

Love, Chlo x

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