This week I went to the RSA to find out more about Benedict Dellot’s research document about how Etsy and online craft marketplaces are changing the nature of business.
In case you don’t know, Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items. Its strength is that it gives designers a cheap, quick and respectable store front for their goods, and shares them with a global audience. To give you an idea, in 2013, Etsy sellers sold nearly 1.35 billion dollars of goods and it has 36 million members in total. We’ve been in talks with the Etsy team recently about how we can work together.
So what came out of the report? Here are the top five findings that grabbed my attention.
1. Women are leading the way I knew it would be high, but a whopping 90% of Etsy sellers are female. While the average self-employed person is male, middle-aged and relatively asset-rich, the typical person selling on Etsy is female, young and without significant amounts of capital to their name.
2. Low risk and low start-up costs Starting an Etsy shop requires little financial outlay. 47% of sellers said they were able to rely on their own savings to get the business off the ground and 40% required no funding whatsoever.
3. Part-time business: the new 5-9ers The Etsy model is very flexible; you can run your own Etsy shop and work in full-time employment (hence the new 5-9ers), or be a stay-at-home mum. Half of Etsy shop owners spend less than 10 hours a week on their Shop and more than a fifth have a full-time day job in addition to their Etsy venture.
4. Boosting your household income For the majority of sellers who work part-time on Etsy, their shops make a modest but meaningful contribution to their earnings. More than half have shops that add upwards of 5% to family income, which equates to £1,150 a year for the typical household.
5. It’s as much about the creative process and camaraderie as the cash Etsy shop owners derive equal (if not greater) satisfaction from the very act of selling. A number of participants spoke of a feeling of ‘validation’ whenever they sold an item and how their shops gave them a sense of purpose that was absent in their day job.
Obviously to a large extent the shop sellers are competing with each other. However, what surprised me was that 47% said that they recommend the products of other sellers to their buyers, while 37% said they will source materials and supplies from other shops on the site. 37% say that emotional support from other sellers is important to them.
You can find out more about selling with Etsy through their Seller Handbook and Etsy School. You can also apply for opportunities to showcase your work, like their art exhibition for London Art Month. Etsy is offering British Library users an introductory offer of 20 free listings for all new Etsy shops. Enter the code: BRITISHLIBRARYFREEat www.etsy.com/promotion.
I met luxury homewares and home accessories designer Hend Krichen at an event in our Business & IP Centre. She was kind enough to give me this interview about her inspirations and challenges as a small creative business owner.
Can you tell us more about your inspirations?
My main inspiration comes from the Yasmin Revolution of 2011, but I also strongly draw on the ties of Tunisia’s history. I look at Phoenician influences, Roman Empire, Ottoman invasion and the French occupation.
I was born in Tunisia and I left at a very young age and was lucky (depending on how you look at it) to have been raised as an expat and lived almost my entire life away from Tunisia, immersed in different cultures.
My project Tunisia Made was built on a lot of passion to help promote Tunisia and its craft industry. My brand is based on little chunks of Tunisian history and culture - it’s like taking a piece of history to your home as well as supporting ethical craft and design.
How much of your time do you spend on inspiration versus business?
I spent the first eight months working on inspiration. Once I had established my group of manufacturers and my concepts and designs were in place, I then began to focus on the business side.
I work on the marketing, branding, networking and PR. Sales take up a lot of my time. Designing, development and manufacturing takes up about 30% of my time and the rest is 70%.
What did you get out of the 'Selling creatively online' event at our Business & IP Centre? (Shout-out to our partner Patricia at The Design Trust who provides practical tips on how to sell expensive crafts online here!)
It was insightful to hear the retailers themselves (notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy) speak about how it all works. Being a designer and a creator, the retail side of business can seem alien at first - how to approach them, how to sell yourself to them, how to negotiate with them. This event helped me focus and make decisions about my business.
What’s been the most rewarding and challenging part of running your own business?
The most rewarding part about this journey is building my brand around me, my interests, my work and my life experiences. When I finally built up the courage to share that with people and the response was positive, it was such a great feeling.
It can be daunting to become an entrepreneur right now. I’ve had to push even when all doors were closed. You just have to keep pushing and take risks, that is the biggest challenge.
Hend is taking part in Clerkenwell Design Week 20 – 22 May 2014 in the Additions show dedicated to small design pieces and interior accessories from international and emerging talent. The Crypt on the Green, St. James Church, EC1R 0EA. Find out more here.
It's always a pleasure visiting Craft Central. The staff are friendly and there's a great buzz of creativity - designers and makers are definitely flourishing at this Clerkenwell spot.
Craft Central's latest exhibition FASHIONED - features fashion, jewellery and accessories made in the UK. Here are my highlights including inspiring British Library collections.
If you're thinking about starting a creative business or if you're already established, the Library has loads of resources to both inspire your next designs and help your business grow. Visit our Business & IP Centre for more information and follow me on Twitter @BL_Creative for updates.
Bridget designs and makes adornments for body and space. Specialising in mixed media and exploring material possibilities, she makes wearable sculptures using mostly hand made multiples. Her work investigates ideas about time and play in design, making and mending.
For those of you interested in fashion, I'm hosting Puttin on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age as part of our Spring Festival celebration of fashion, film and design. Click here for more info.
I've come across a lot of creative businesses run by small teams or one individual. It's a common challenge for these businesses to create new work and take care of the business side.
Elizabeth Carrick, designer of womenswear label Blonde + Ginger, said her biggest challenge is "Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best."
This afternoon I ran into Eleanor Lewis-Bale of letterpress label Marby & Elm. She's been so busy doing business admin like invoicing and packaging that she hasn't had time to explore and be creative. She finally made it to the Library to look at our typography collection for inspiration.
To help creatives get organised, learn business essentials and stay sane(!) we've partnered up with The Design Trust to deliver a FREE webinar series. These are perfect for pre-start and start-up creative businesses including freelancers, sole traders, practitioners in design, crafts, fashion, photography, video and film.
Webinar 1: Create your business plan for
your first year Thu 17 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 You can
write a business plan to get finance or funding, but also to plan ahead and
prioritise your workload. Think of a
business plan as a roadmap for your journey. In
the end you will have the tools to create a business plan that you will be proud of and will be using regularly.
Webinar 2: Your first 10 steps in marketing Thu 31 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 We'll look at how to do practical market research and why niche marketing is essential
for small businesses. You'll get loads of practical tips and
marketing actions that you can use to help get your business started on the
Webinar 3: How to cost and price your work Thu 7 Nov, 11.00 - 12.00 Pricing
your products or services isn’t easy. You might
not know how to do the maths, or you find it hard to put a value on your
creative ideas. This is a step-by-step session on how pricing and costing works. Learn about different models, international pricing, discounting, premiums
As part of London Design Festival, our friendly partners over at Craft Central launched Imprint, a cross-disciplinary exhibition of print design. I popped over last night to have a look. Here are my highlights:
Don't let the rain keep you from visiting! The exhibition is open until 21 September from 10.30 - 18.30 (Craft Central 33-35 St John's Square, London EC1M 4DS. Tube: Farringdon or Barbican)
DesignK's Tea for One Table - "Handmade in England and inspired by traditions like afternoon tea, these cheery designs melt our hearts." I agree!
Katie Brown - Silk scarves designed and finished in Northern Ireland, printed in Macclesfield. On my Christmas wishlist.
Thornback & Peel's shop is just down the road from the British Library. We'd love for founders Juliet and Della to visit the Library and check out our print collection!
Eleanor is behind the Hampstead-based letterpress design studio Marby & Elm. I immediately thought of the Library's Evanion Collection of Victorian ephemera when I saw her designs. The type she uses has a very similar style and feel to Victorian posters and handbills produced for plays, exhibitions and circuses. When I told Eleanor I worked at the Library she squealed with delight and plans to come in and check out our typography collection.
There is so much for designers to be inspired by at the Library. Check out our FREE show & tell of our gorgeous Exotic Prints and Drawing Collection. I could see a lot of the birds and flowers in the collection designed for a scarf, table or wallpaper and hopefully then sold at Craft Central!
This week the Library took part in Hidden Treasures, a national initiative to celebrate collections in UK museums and archives. Our expert curators and conservators selected some unique items to illustrate the variety in our massive collections. It was a very popular event and for those of you who weren't able to join us, here are some photos.
Yantra - A miniature ceremonial bowl used in Buddhist rituals in honour of the deceased. Made of blackened brass, Khom script. Maker unknown, (1916) Shelfmark Or.16864
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Book cover tooled with gold and inlaid with topazes, turquoises, amethysts, garnets, olivines and an emerald. Stanley Bray (1989). Shelfmark C188c27
Goat skin satchel - Storage for a late 18th early 19th century Sub-Saharan Africa Quran. Shelfmark Or.16751
Index - Pop-up book by Andy Warhol (1967). Not yet catalogued.
Bhagavata Purana - Hindu religious text, Sanskrit on silk paper (18th century). Shelfmark Add MS 16624
The Book of the Psalmes - Embroidered silk binding (1640). Shelfmark C143a10 The British Library has a substantial collection of English embroidered book bindings dating from the 14th century to 20th century. I wonder, what is the significance of the severed head? If you know, holler at me on Twitter @BL_Creative !
Kammavaca - Buddhist sacred book in Pali language (Burmese square characters) on 14 sheets of ivory leaves decorated in gold and red lacquer. (1750-1825) Shelfmark Add.15291
These rare and beautiful items are wonderful inspirations for designers and makers. Learn more about researching our collections for your designs at our Fashion Forecasting workshop.
I met designer Eleanor Stuart last week at PopUp Piccadilly where she was selling her Alice in Wonderland-inspired collection of plates, prints and cards. The Library holds the original Lewis Carroll manuscript of Alice in Wonderland and we also have it available online through our award-winning Turning the Pages software which Eleanor used for her research. Here she tells up more about her work.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your designs?
When I first came upon Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland and the illustrations by John Tenniel, I was struck by how
intricate, surreal and detailed each drawing was. What I was particularly taken
with was the expressions each character had that tell a story in themselves;
from the rather angry looking Queen of Hearts to the nervous and very late
White Rabbit to the mischievous Tweedle Twins.
The inspiration for re-working and
adding my own touches to the original work was a feeling that these original
illustrations were being lost in a sea of cartoon versions of Alice in
Wonderland far removed from these wonderful originals. The originals are also
quite small and in black and white, so I felt there was a great opportunity
available to revive the illustrations, bring them sharply back to life and add
colour, quotes and my own little spin to the work.
We love when people use our collections to make something new. Can you tell us about how you used the Library for research?
When researching Tenniel’s original
illustrations, I used the British Library’s online Turning the Pages application
to see Carroll’s original illustrated manuscript. What I had not previously
realised is that Carroll had even illustrated his original work, and it was
interesting to see that Tenniel’s illustrations do bear a close resemblance to
those featured in the original manuscript.
I think the British Library and its collection is an inspiration in itself: knowing all these great works of literature penned by authors both British and from afar are housed within this one huge building full of rabbit warrens and glass columns full of old books where you can find and stumble upon almost anything in the world of literature is pretty amazing.
I like that image - the British Library full of rabbit warrens! What fun! So what has been your biggest challenge as
a small business?
Patience! With my designs and
illustrations completed, and the ideas I always have swimming around in my
head, I always want to realise them instantly which is of course not entirely
doable. Learning to slow down and appreciate the processes involved with
realising an idea has been something I have come to enjoy. For example when I
was in the process of having my Alice Collection of fine bone china plates
produced, it was so rewarding to be able to visit the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent
to see how this traditional British industry is still applying traditional
British techniques and sensibilities to the work they produce, and I feel this
attention to detail and quality of work really shows in my pieces.
What does “Made in Britain” mean to you?
“Made in Britain” is so important to me,
I put it on my logo! Not only am I proud to be made in Britain having grown up
in lovely Richmond, but I love that through the work I create I can support
British industry and help to keep the skills we have in this country alive and
current. I have met such enthusiastic, incredibly helpful and skilled crafts
people in my search for suppliers to help create my products, which is such a
I also feel “Made in Britain” is
important not only to British people, but internationally as well. I have found
when selling internationally and in Britain that the stamp of authenticity and
that relationship between my product and globally recognised institutions such
as ‘The Potteries’ in Stoke-on-Trent is really important to people. Not only
British people wanting to buy British, but international customers wanting to
buy into the quality and skills they associate with the
British craft and creative industries.
I have also found other designers and
illustrators are equally as passionate about that “Made in Britain” stamp of
approval as I am. I have come to know and admire some really great people on my
journey into the world of design and illustration including Jo Robinson from
HAM who creates fun animal themed screen prints made by her own fair hand in
London, Cecily Vessey who designs wonderful London themed illustrations across
a range of ceramics, and Sara Smith (my neighbour at PopUp Piccadilly!) whose
selection of colourful, gilded and illustrated teacups are really rather
beautiful – and made in Stoke-on-Trent.
The shop has been super busy, I hear. What kind of feedback are you getting?
I have had some really amazing feedback;
I would say it has been one of the best things I have done as a small business
in terms of exposure, testing the market and meeting other like-minded designer/makers. (Rupert Laing from Shortbread House has made mine and my fellow designers stay
at PopUp Piccadilly particularly enjoyable with an ever refreshed supply of
delicious shortbread samples to hand).
As a predominantly online business,
coming out from behind my computer screen and meeting my customers, showing
them my products and being able to have them touch and feel the quality of each
item has been a really rewarding experience. I have also had a great response
from potential retailers, so that is an exciting direction I am looking forward
to taking my business in - with Alice and her surreal, mad and late friends in
Entrepreneur and businessman Michael Jacobsen is becoming a regular at our Business & IP Centre, advising creative practitioners on
how to keep rooted in business essentials and inspiring them to innovate and
grow. He is the author of the popular book The Business of
Creativity - An expert guide to starting and growing a business in the creative
sector. Want to earn a living doing what you love? Check out Michael's book. Or come to the Library and meet him! He’s literally mobbed after events – people are so keen to ask him
questions and learn from his experiences. He kindly gave us this interview:
What do you think are the biggest challenges today for small businesses in the creative industries?
Businesses in the Creative Industries need to realise that
they are, in fact, in business. If you wish to make your life’s work your passion
and your passion your income stream, you need to make some adjustments
to your mindset and your structure.
A lot of Creative Sector businesses think they are selling
their soul but the reality is - why not continue your gift to the world and earn
your living from it at the same time? It’s just a mindset shift!
What advice would you give recent graduates from fashion,
graphic design or film?
Don’t leave with an employee mentality. If you want to get a
job sure, that’s fine, but don’t think that is your only option.
In Britain there is so much assistance available to you to
start a business (which can involve being a contractor or freelancer also). Have a good think and work out what you
want to do with your life, but count this as a real option!
Students are taught to get jobs and are rarely encouraged to
work for themselves! This is a mistake!
What is your take on the creative industries sector in the UK? What are
its strengths and weaknesses?
The UK Creative Sector is the best in the world. Look at
William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Indigo Jones and in this century James
Dyson, Jamie Oliver and Simon Cowell.
The business community and the City need to realise that the
Creative Sector is investable, and the reticence to get fully behind it (as
they do the tech sector ) is a weakness
and is hampering the growth of a sector that produces major financial returns
and is one of the oldest sectors in the world!
Which entrepreneurs do you follow?
I love True Entrepreneurs who take risks and are all
consuming passionate about their work. I love Elon Musk, Founder of Paypal, Tesla
Motors and Space X. He is a major risk taker and fervently passionate about his
I also really rate Simon Cowell. He has not only made a
successful brand out of himself, but he has changed the face of television
globally. People may not all like his shows, but the fact is he is a risk taker
and has made a success of it in terms of finances but also in terms of legacy!
You co-founded Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage. Are you a dancer too?
I have a trainer and do Pilates and Yoga also. I think if I
do them daily until 2025 I may be ready to do the Dirty Dancing ‘lift’!
Michael is running a masterclass on his book The Business of Creativity on 26 September at our Business & IP Centre. For more information and to book your place click here.