Friday 22 June 2012

Tea & a Chat with Becky from Dots and Spots

Today we're having tea (or perhaps coffee!) and a chat with Becky from one of my favourite creative businesses: Dots and Spots.  I just love Becky's bright, fresh designs - and you really should check out her blog if you don't already know it.

Hello there Becky!  Good to see you, the kettle’s just boiled – what would you like to drink?

I’ll have a black coffee please!

OK, that's easy - make yourself comfy. So, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.

I’m a 41 year old mum of 2, living in Somerset with my fabulously supportive husband Jeff. I used to be an Early Years Teacher but finally gave up my part time teaching job a year ago now, to concentrate on the business full time. Dots and Spots is a stationery company producing unique, contemporary, hand collaged printed designs. Every design is produced by me, collaged by hand in my studio at home, then printed locally as much as possible or elsewhere in the UK. We produce cards, postcards, party invites and thank-yous, gift wrap, tags, decorative sticky tape, notebooks, stickers, mugs, magnets and more!

What inspired you to start your creative business? How did it all begin? 

We had lived in school boarding accommodation with my husband’s job for a number of years but bought our own house to use as a weekend bolt hole about 10 minutes away, 5 years ago. I had space there to have my own studio and a place where I could play and design whatever I liked. From my teaching days, I enjoyed working with paper and so my collage designs developed from there. I took them to my local printers to see if a good quality print could be achieved from my original artwork and went and asked a few local shops whether my designs would be something they would buy if I got them printed. It was ‘Yes's’ all round, so I took the plunge to get a set of designs printed and haven’t looked back!

How has your business changed and developed since it started?

My business has changed very much so, since the start– but I have taken very considered small steps as the business has grown. It was really doing our first trade show in July 2010 that the business leaped to another level. As a result of such a successful show, we moved the business out of the house into local, rented work premises and I took on some part time help to ease the workload. In the beginning we had a mix of printed, personalised and hand finished products on offer but had to give up the hand made things sadly, when the trade side of the business grew- we now stock 400+ trade customers. We are in a sensible position, in that we only do what we can pay for. We took the decision to not take out any loans, build the business at the pace with which we could afford to do so. If everything went wrong tomorrow, all we would have to find is money to cover the rent on the premises.

What are the main ways you promote your business?  Which methods have been the most successful for you?

Trade fairs are expensive to do but have been by far the most successful platform for the business, coupled with the various social media outlets like blogging, twitter and facebook.  It is important to have a good website as this is the best way to show off what you can do. Alongside it, I use twitter and facebook daily to share what we are doing and in more detail, blog 3-4 times a week about me, the business and other things Dots and Spots related.

We have been lucky enough to have our house featured in the February edition of Ideal Home magazine and often receive valuable editorial in trade magazines which helps spread the word.

What’s your workspace like?  Can we have a sneak peek? 

I have a studio space at home in the conservatory attached to the back of the house – it has fantastic natural light but can be extremely hot in Summer and freezing cold in the Winter. It works having my studio at home as I often work on designs in the evenings and during weekends and holidays . It’s a space I can dip in and out of and I don’t have to be constantly tidying up after myself if I have a project on the go. Ideally I would like it to be bigger, double the size, but it works for now. 

 The main stock and business bit of Dots and Spots, is housed over in the Anglo Trading Estate, about 5 minutes drive from the house. This is where we pick and pack all the orders and store all the stock. Having the space to have everything organised and laid out meant the business could move forward and more products could be developed and added to our growing range.

What are the best and worst bits of running your business?

The worst has to be the worry whether or not people will continue to buy your things, the unpredictability of all retail in this current climate – choosing to start a business as a major recession hit wasn’t the best planning but I believe if we can keep our head above water now in these difficult times, we should hopefully do well when we come out the other side!
Time and money are also 2 major factors when running your business – there are never enough hours in the day to do want you want/ need to do and there is never enough money to do everything you want to do.

The main positive for me running my own business, is having the flexibility to work alongside the needs and wants of the children – I have a 12 year old and 9 year old and am lucky enough to be able to drop everything if something is going on in school or not feel guilty about not working if they are ill. Yes, I work long hours and sometimes I can be so busy I want to run away and hide but the vast majority of the time, I’m in the enviable position of being my own boss and choosing to do what I want, when I want.

What other small (or not-so-small) creative businesses do you admire? 

I do admire a number of small businesses, many of which I have met through twitter. Gabriella Buckingham of Moobaacluck  fame is a very talented and honest lady, creating the most wonderful hand painted wooden products. Giddy Kipper  another company who paints wooden products on a slightly bigger scale, is also a real inspiration. I love the work of Cornish based artist Kirsty Elson who makes wonderful pieces out of driftwood she finds on the beach. Two stationery businesses I like and admire are, Aianna  who are just starting out and who I met at a London Trade Fair in January and the Little Paper Company  who is based in Guernsey.

What tips can you give to others who run (or hope to run) a small creative business?

Be honest, be prepared to work hard and develop the business how YOU want it to be and at your own pace.
It is always very tempting on twitter and facebook to see this person or that person doing this and that and getting caught up in doing what you think others want from you and not doing what you really want to do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see what others are doing and you should be aware of what is going on around you but you may need to grow your business in a different way or at a different pace and you need to remain true to this.

What are your hopes, plans or ambitions for the future? 

I hope to still be here in 5 years time and more importantly, I hope to still be enjoying what I do. I think the minute that stops, then you are doing the wrong thing and you need to reconsider. I have lots of ideas I want to see achieved and lots of new products and designs I want to develop but in relies on time and money so hopefully in the future, I may be able to see some of these ideas realised.

Finally, where are the places we can find you online if we want to partake in a little friendly cyber stalking?

Thanks so much for stopping by – it was so nice to be able to take the time to chat with you!

Before I go can I just give a little mention to the fabulous Swans of Wells Jubilee Art project that I am involved with – 60 swans, decorated by different artists will be on display throughout the Summer in the city of Wells, Somerset. My swan Royally Dotted and Wells Spotted  - collaged by hand using our spotty paper designs, will be on display in the Market Place, Wells from now until the end of August. It will then be auctioned off with the rest of the flock in September to raise money for local charities.

It's a pleasure Becky!  Lovely to have coffee with you!


Maz said...

What a lovely interview and so much of that I can see in my new business
Love, Heart, Home

Pickle Lily said...

Lovely interview - I'm a great fan of Becky and often buy her stationary ( have to support a fellow Somerseter!!!. Jo x

Kitty said...

What a great interview and so interesting! I have been following Becky's blog only recently, so it's lovely to find out how it all started and how she's approached the development and growth of her business. Kitty x

Kitty said...

Sorry...a bit new to this.. have added a link address to my new business: for reference!

Highland Monkey's said...

Love that swan, it's amazing. Hope it doesn't get damaged by the rain again.

Fiddly Fingers said...

Was very interesting to hear how Dots and Spots started. Good luck with your business in the future and I absolutely love your swan!

milly and pip said...

Lovely interview. Becky at Dots and Spots is a real inspiration

Lynne said...

Inspiring, lovely interview. Hope you continue to live the dream, Becky, you deserve success with all your hard work.

Handbags by Helen said...

Lovely, lovely stuff.

Jo + Adam said...

Really inspirational - thanks for sharing and good luck in the future :)