Friday, 24 August 2012

Tea and a Chat with Kirsty Devine

Hello Kirsty!  Good to see you, the kettle’s just boiled – what would you like to drink?
 A cup of good old Yorkshire Tea please!

So, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.  
 My name is Kirsty Devine, I’m 27 years old and run my business Simply Divine Things, from Haworth in West Yorkshire. Pretty much everything that I sell is handcrafted by me, and I love coming up with new ideas, and learning new crafts. I am proud to say that I am the only company to make ceramic wall tiles and light switch plates in Cath Kidston designs (amongst many others).

What inspired you to start your creative business? How did it all begin? 
 My business began in October 2011 really after a fall earlier in the year had resulted in a disability called osteitis pubis, meaning I could barely walk, and outside the home I was confined to a wheelchair. At the time I was doing all my Christmas shopping because I had all this time on my hands, so I could really look for meaningful presents. I wanted a picture for my four year old son’s bedroom in Thomas the Tank Engine, but I was struggling to find anything nice, so I decided to buy in the things to make my own. With a lot of help from my boyfriend, a canvas picture was made with the famous train on. At that point, I decided that as I couldn't find anyone really specialised in children’s art that was affordable, then I could do it myself, and my business was born. I also started making personalised bookmarks for children at that point as I had made one for my son and his interest in learning to read took off!

 light switch covers

How has your business changed and developed since it started?
 My product base has changed massively. At first I only catered for children, and now I cater for everyone, and I no longer make bookmarks. I released my wall tiles in January, and shortly after a whole load of new shabby chic things for the home like pan stands and magnets. Very recently I released my light switch plates.
I have learned so much, and my skills have developed hugely, for instance, I can now hand sew quickly and neatly, which I had to learn as I can’t always sit to use a sewing machine. I also have a website now, and don’t just trade on Ebay!


What are the main ways you promote your business?  Which methods have been the most successful for you?
 I started at first on eBay as I was already very familiar with the site due to having run home based businesses before through there. I still sell a lot of things there, and despite the fees, I still find they provide a good flow of customers. I will look to move away from them eventually though as I  think they treat small business owners poorly.

I love spending time on Facebook, using networking pages such as Mums Who Make and Supermums’ Craft Fair, in order to meet like minded people and showcase my wares. I am now at the 600 “likers” mark and spending hours trawling through as many pages as I can to advertise on, it is finally starting to pay off and I got my first sale a few days ago! Like most others, I expected instant sales through Facebook, but it doesn’t work like that. Just like when you first get a website, it is really hard work driving people to it, and it takes time.

Other places I go to are forums for crafters where I don’t directly advertise, but instead have my website address visible to other users and I just like to help and share knowledge. I like Money Saving Expert too and go on their Up Your Income and Small Business forums regularly in order to help out those looking to start up their own business.

On top of that I have just got into Pinterest, which I use not only to show some of the things I make, but the things I want to make, or buy, or wear.

I started a blog to share more of my personal crafting, but I do include links to my shop and sometimes share new products. I’m always trying to find ways to use up my fabric scrap stash, so I share tried and tested guides this way too.

I also spend a bit on advertising. I have a set budget every month that I spend on Google Adwords. I don’t spend much, so I always put my ads up during the last weekend of every month as I find this to be my busiest time. Then last but not least, whenever I go out I talk to people. I will talk to literally anyone, and I always tell them what I do and have a business card on hand!

 start them young!

What’s your workspace like?  Can we have a sneak peek?  And do you have any workspace organisation tips for the rest of us?
 My workspace is my lounge, with a little table, and a sofa. I bought a storage unit from Ikea earlier in the year that has eight very large boxes. Four of them are rammed with fabric, and four are for my son’s toys. Then I have two further boxes, one rammed with scraps and another with other accessories in, like ribbon, appliqués etc. Trust me, my organisation leaves a lot to be desired! In the next year we are planning on moving and getting a house big enough for me to have a room all to myself, but for now I just have to make do.

What are the best and worst bits of running your business?
 The worst bit has to be the hours I work. I start at 9:30 and finish anywhere between 10-11:30pm. I spend a lot of time networking, as well as fitting in research, and of course orders to fulfil! I never stop, pretty much seven days a week, and on the days when I do go out with the family, my mobile phone is permanently attached to my hand so I can carry on working while travelling. I drive my partner crazy!

The best bit though is that I love what I do. I may work every hour but I get to work in the same room as my partner and son, and despite my disability, I have never been happier!

collection of wall tiles

What other small (or not-so-small) creative businesses do you admire? 
 Cath Kidston is the business I admire the most. Cath started with very little and look at her now! It just shows that if you want to be successful you can, even when you start small.

What tips can you give to others who run (or hope to run) a small creative business?
 Research, network and tell every single person you meet about your business, never under value your work, continue learning, be prepared to work very long hours and don’t rush as Rome wasn’t built in a day, and building a business takes a very long time.

What are your hopes, plans or ambitions for the future? 
 I am hoping to have recovered from my disability in a few months, and plan to start up local craft lessons for adults and children, and also work on my offline presence. I am aiming high and my ultimate goal is to be a known brand one day.

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!
 It is nice to be able to share my story with your readers and inspire (hopefully!) others to get/keep going with their business. If I can do it, anyone can. Running a business is really difficult, but I absolutely adore doing what I’m doing, and wouldn’t change it for the world. My partner is extremely supportive and I couldn’t do it without him (he helps with packaging and does the Post Office run every day), and I think that a supportive family is a definite requirement. Just don’t take them for granted and make time to spend with them, away from your business.


Unknown said...

Very inspiring and going to have a look at Kirsty's web. Agree with the hours! I am having my first free weekend and cannot wait.

Unknown said...

Just been over to the web for another look at the light switch plates. It's something so very different and I bet they sell well.