Friday, 16 November 2012
Tea and a Chat with Sarah Ashford of Quilt Candy
Look who's popped in for a tea and a chat... come and join us and find out more about Quilt Candy!
Hello! Good to see you, the kettle’s just boiled – what would you like to drink?
I would love a cup of tea. White no sugar, thank you very much!
So, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
My name’s Sarah and I live in Jersey, Channel Islands, having moved here last summer from the UK. I have been quilting for several years, and sewing for as long as I can remember. I am a Primary School teacher but I took a career break when I had my 2 children and now I have changed paths to pursue my real passion, which is quilting.
Quilt Candy makes vintage and modern style quilts for babies and children using the latest designer fabrics. We offer a commission service, where we will consult with the customer to produce a quilt to their specification. We will discuss who it’s for, colours, design, personalisation, style and make a quilt accordingly. For example, it might be for a new-born boy who has a jungle themed bedroom. It’s a very personal service and we aim to give customers exactly what they want. We sell a small selection of quilts, which are available on our our website. We also make custom made bunting, which can be for any room or occasion, with the option to personalise it. Finally, we have just introduced blankets for toys; these are miniature patchwork blankets perfect to make your child’s favourite doll or toy even more special.
What inspired you to start your creative business? How did it all begin?
I decided to set up Quilt Candy because I saw a gap in the market here in Jersey; while there are many other high end locally made products for babies and children, as far as I am aware there is no one making quilts. I thought it the perfect opportunity to work doing something I love and am passionate about.
People are really starting to move away from mass produced items made in a factory. They don’t want items that everyone else has got. The trend now is towards handmade, which is brilliant for the craft industry! Customers want something unique, local and beautiful. Quilt Candy hopes to be all of these things. I really want people to own a quilt that is bespoke, special and that can’t be found anywhere else.
What was the inspiration for your brand?
I love fabrics with a vintage, whimsical feel, and I think this style really lends itself to hand made products, particularly quilts. In this modern age that we live in, so much of life is digitalised and looking to the future. Quilt Candy has a distinct vintage style, harking back to times gone by, but with a little bit of modern thrown in for good measure.
What are the main ways you promote your business?
As with many companies these days, a lot of my business promotion is online. It’s largely free, quick and instant. It makes it easy for people to quickly get a sense of who you are and what you are all about. I have a website, facebook page, twitter account and blog, in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. I also have promotional postcards; I want people to see examples of my work so I have pictures on the front and the text on the back – they are literally like holiday postcards but with my quilts on them. I have them on display in a couple of baby boutiques and an art gallery. They are also on noticeboards around the Island where they run mother and toddler groups. Anywhere that mums go, I put my postcards! I have spent quite a lot of money on them as quality is important to me; it supports my brand and conveys a message that I pay attention to the smallest detail.
What are the best and worst bits of running your business?
Running my own business is perfect for me as I can fit it in around my children and family life. I love that I can run with my own creative ideas whether it be how I want my website to look or how I design a quilt. It is really empowering having a small seed of an idea and a few days or weeks later seeing it come to life. That’s how all of this feels to me at the moment. But the down side is everything takes a lot of time. For example, while having an online presence is great and I love it, it does require constant attention. It would be easy to spend all the time on the computer and not do any sewing! I have to be strict with myself and say ‘tonight I am going to update my facebook page/blog/twitter etc, and tomorrow I am going to make a quilt.’ I have so many ideas for quilts, I can hardly keep up with them. My work so far is just the tip of the iceberg. So ultimately I think careful planning of limited time is the best way to work effectively.
What tips can you give to others who run (or hope to run) a small creative business?
I think you need to be business savvy. You have to be clear who your target audience is and how you are going to market to them. You have to make them want your products. For me, I have tried to create a ‘brand’ rather than just a product. You also have to exploit all the free advertising opportunities that you can, and that means being up to speed with social networking sites and putting yourself out there as much as possible, whether it be online or in the places that your target audience go. You need to be visible and desirable.
What are your hopes, plans or ambitions for the future?
I have so many ambitions for the future. I have just started contributing to Patchwork and Quilting Magazine, writing articles and a quilt-along feature, both due to be published next year. I would very much like to continue writing for quilting magazines, it’s such a thrill to see my name in print. I would also like to run workshops teaching quilting. But my ultimate aim is to write a book, bursting with designs and inspiration for quilts for children.
Finally, where are the places we can find you online if we want to partake in a little friendly cyber stalking? (shop, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc)
Luckily I have followed my own advice and made myself contactable in several ways!
Thanks so much for stopping by – it was so nice to be able to take the time to chat with you!
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely sharing Quilt Candy’s story so far and I do hope we meet again to catch up soon.
If you also have a story to share and would like to pop in for a virtual tea and a chat, email me: email@example.com