Laura After Midnight at Retroville

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I have had somewhat of an exciting time over the last few days.

To tell you the whole story I feel I need to rewind to the beginning of the year, & start by saying that- for Laura After Midnight as a small start up business- I had only a couple of goals for 2012. The main goal was to make an average of £50 a month from my Etsy shop by the end of the year. My first sale was in August & I am now averaging £105. The other loose goal was to stick at it, remain strong & try to grow the business slowly! All of which is very loose I know!!

Because of the above, I had initially decided to wait to do markets so I could concentrate on just one thing at a time & not spread myself too thinly but, as I was smashing my Etsy targets so thoroughly I decided I would choose one Christmas market & use it primarily as an opportunity to advertise Laura After Midnight. To ‘get my name out there’ & introduce what I do, my brand if you will, in to the marketplace.

After a lot (a lot!) of researching & pondering I finally decided upon Retroville at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol. It is an established market, the regular market happens weekly with food, veg and some Vintage and Handmade stalls but for one Sunday of the month it becomes a mix of Retro, Vintage, Handmade & eclectic stalls. They have been doing this for a while now & the reception to it has been fantastic but it still manages to retain a strong air of individuality, which was important to me. I thought Laura After Midnight would fit in well with the feel of the market & because of the buzz, reputation & almost guaranteed footfall I knew I held a strong chance of selling something!

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A selection of the Mini Top hats I took with me including two new ones- the Butterfly is simply divine!

I had been reading a lot about markets & stalls & not a lot of it had been very positive but I had managed to glean a few salient points- always take a decent float, get there on time & set up quick, be friendly, smile & talk about your work etc, but the most useful snippet of information started a thought process. Someone mentioned about carrying smaller, cheaper items to attract buyers who don’t want to spend too much. This started me thinking about my approach to markets as a buyer, & I am so very glad that it did.

I have a very strict code when visiting Vintage Fairs, markets or anything where tempting frippery is displayed in suggestive ways! I take between £30 & £50 in cash depending on the size of the market. That is all. No cards, no cheque book. Nothing. Would I spend that all on one stall? Never. So I needed to think very carefully about what I displayed, & how I displayed it. I wanted to draw people in with bright, shiny, expensive things but keep them there with interest in all the things on the stall, then send them away with something.

Firstly, I decided to reduce the price of all of my items by a fraction- between £2 & £10. This was decided because I don’t have the handling fee I do when selling online- the packaging, the postage, the long queue in the Post Office! Secondly I decided to sell smaller things. This actually made me think about what I am selling on my Etsy store- I haven’t sold any smaller items on there, so I removed them from Etsy & made more of them for my market stall, & they were all priced well below £10.

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A bowl of Vintage trims, Handmade Button display and a slice of the action.

Finally, I decided to take one expensive item- a Corset I had made from an Antique Victorian Silk Scarf- for display purposes only, labelled to inform people they could order clothing & to ask, & fliers clearly stating what Laura After Midnight is, does & could be to the customer.

As ever I also set myself a couple targets. I wanted to talk to everyone about my new Mini Top Hat Kits, but I only wanted to sell two, and I wanted to sell the same amount of the Fascinator Kits too. I didn’t expect to sell any hats as they are a higher end item and start to retail at £25 which is a bigger ask on a market stall, but I did want to sell at least one of every small item I had. All of this added up came to a target of £112 so I split it with my Etsy target & made my target for the day £80 which would cover the price of the stall itself, hot drinks for the forecast freezing cold day & materials used for the extra things I had made specifically for the stall.

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A beautiful Kilner Jar Pin Cushion, the Mini Top Hat Kits, the extremely popular Fascinator Kits and my favorite thing of all (and made by by exceptionally talented brother) one of the mini chalk boards!

Well Ladies and Gents. . . it worked! All of my prep, thinking, scheming & effort bloody well worked!

I sold five Mini Top hat Kits & SIX Fascinator Kits (which were quite the hit of the day) & of the smaller items I sold several rings and brooches. Finally & to my utter shock & pleasure two Mini Top Hats! Displaying the Corset really caught peoples eye, & I had a couple of lovely conversations with people about it & my other work, one of whom has already contacted me about a commission. Everyone who stopped & chatted got offered a flier & many took them away & they were all exceedingly complimentary about my stall, & the work I was doing (except a few husbands who were quite clearly baffled!!).

Keeping it simple & not out-laying too much financially was really important, talking to anyone who stopped & was clearly interested helped me, & taking the time to explain what the stall was about, & what I was selling made the difference to most of those sales. It helped that I had some wonderfully jolly company in my family & fellow stall holders as the day was bitterly cold & I was very tired (having decided at the 11th hour to create the Fascinator Kits), but I am over the moon at how well it all went, the positive response I received from customers, friends and students visiting me, family & the market itself.

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Fliers, my gorgeous bowl of Rose Rings and some of the Mini Top Hats.

I had been endeavoring to keep a very firm eye on all of my family- which had been out en masse to help/support me- to try to see what they spent throughout the day. In thinking back now I am pretty sure they all spent between £30 and £40 each (they were there all day!), at a variety of different stalls so my theory works!

I have been fatally bitten by the market bug & have spent the last 24 hours scrambling to try to book another stall before Christmas. I am currently on the waiting list for The Full Moon Market at Stokes Croft, Bristol for the 8th. I do hope I can sell there as the customer base is very different, it is smaller & more intimate and that area of Bristol has a deserved ‘artsy’ reputation. I also have a stall booked for the 21st for a night time market, but more on that later!

Finally, I am surprised by my continued reaction to all of this. I find myself constantly humbled by peoples kind words & support- to my utter delight several ladies I have taught over the last year came out specially to see me & my stall- & I think in the new year I may have to start believing I can do this!

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Me, hiding behind my stall!

Happy stitching!

Making my soul sing.

My life has always been a little hectic, in the past I have sometimes found it difficult to say no to projects, work & ideas & even now find myself easily distracted when something shiny heads my way! All of which means I can find myself as I do now with many different and interesting projects on the boil, but with little or no time to dedicate to them all!!

The solution? You’ll find I’ll be blogging about costume making a lot more over the next couple weeks, and not my own lovely business as I have been, I shall have to put it to one side for a while in order to complete the following mad selection of costumes: A spandex Spiderman costume for Frontier Costumes, an Edwardian coat, dress & hat for The Little Black Box Theater, men’s tailored shirts for a commission & garment construction for a London based designer who has run out of time herself.

The reason behind my diversity? Money! I think I flat out panicked a week or so ago & agreed to the majority of these projects to make sure I would be able to make rent next month. . . it was about the time I was scaring myself with tax returns & general self employment doubts. The lesson to be learnt is: realize your goals. Stick with your goals. Do not get sidetracked because then your goals get all confused and scattered!

I think I may, finally have learnt this lesson. I have been tracking my shop stats closely & it has not escaped my attention that views are falling & that at least once a week, or even every couple days,  I should maybe have a new thing to add so I can blog this, tweet this & generally reward people for looking & being interested by having something new to look at! It’s the simple principle I am operating under for this blog, & it does seem to be working.

It is probably quite obvious by now that I am making a lot of this up as I go… I am so used to collaborating with a Director, or team of people that striking out on my own has been- & will continue to be- a massive learning curve.

What I did find very inspiring was  a discussion thread on Etsys Business Topics Forum from someone who had recently made her 10,oooth sale. She explained it had been hard, that her business had been growing over a number of years & because of sheer hard work, positivity & determination continues to do so. She encouraged every new start up to ‘keep the faith & and work hard at it!’, be open to new ideas, change & to listen to the Etsy ‘old timers’. I have since read more on several forum threads & now have a clearer plan of action because of this amazing post.

She also reminded me that “it doesn’t take 10,000 sales to be successful. If you are proud of yourself, proud of what you make, and your soul sings, then you’ve reached success no matter what your numbers are.”

I am sincerely thankful I stumbled accross this as I had begun to forget to be happy and proud of who I am and what I am trying to do. I’ve been happier in the last 24 hours than I have been in the last week & I am busy rustling up new delights for Laura After Midnight alongside the aforementioned costume projects. So I only get six hours sleep, who cares if my soul is busy singing?

See the original post here: http://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/business-topics/discuss/10011990/

Happy stitching!