Magpie’s Laundry

17May09

Magpie’s Laundry is my (very) small business. Originally, I was a declutterer and a lot of my work came through local estate agents for people selling their houses. Most of the textile work I did was a sideline of that decluttering / home organisation business – always in demand, but never the main strand of what I did, although I have always loved working with textiles.

Then along came Bellaboo, so I took some time off, and just as I was getting back into it, the credit crunch hit and the property market crashed and there was no more work. People who were selling were trying to minimise costs rather than maximise profit, and were just not interested in spending on what is seen as a luxury service. (I could debate this, but won’t).

So, that particular door seemed closed, and although we weren’t desperate for money, I kind of liked my financial independence and not feeling I needed to account for/justify my spending, so I wasn’t sure what to do next.

Key To The Open Door by Tawheed Manzoor (Flickr Commons)

Key To The Open Door by Tawheed Manzoor (Flickr Commons)

The answer rather presented itself: I’d carried on doing a fair amount of textile work for various friends, family and other contacts whilst I’d had my ‘time-off’ with Bellaboo, because it generated a little income and it was manageable from the home studio space I already had. About that time, and almost by chance, I got hooked up with a pair of craft galleries via a couple of close contacts, and it’s kind of rolled from there. I’m about as busy with it as I want to be, but I’ve recently been going through a re-evaluation of what I want to do in my life as a whole, and where I want to go, and so naturally the whole Magpie’s business has come under that microscope.

It took a post from WAHMBizBuilder about the Marketing Funnel to bring things into perspective for me. Marketing has never been my strong point, mostly because I’m not great at self-promotion and networking – I’ve always relied on recommendations and word-of-mouth, and a small set of good, influential contacts in the past. So, although the Finance and admin sides are second nature and of course the product is just in the blood, I realised I’d been missing a trick.

Because the whole textile business has been rather ad-hoc and haphazard, I’ve haven’t had anything approaching a coherent strategy or marketing plan for it. This all sounds rather grand and pompous for the size of the business I run, but I think that the size is irrelevant. What it comes down to, is that I haven’t been maximising the potential of my business because I haven’t really thought my way through the whole thing. I’ve pretty much been depending on the top-end sales of big, commissioned items like the baby-clothes bed-cover patchworks and the wedding-dress counterpanes, bolsters, screens etc, and seeing the smaller items I do as a result of clearing out scraps and stash as almost throwaway items. In the lulls between the commissions, I’ve made them as and when I’ve got time in between personal projects and experimental pieces and haven’t viewed them as important to the overall business.

That needs to change.

I need to be more coherent about what I’m doing, and I need to focus more on the gallery businesses: to that end, I’m going to put a stop to the Etsy experiment. As things stand, I don’t have the time to promote it to get the best results from that marketplace, so it’s pointless working to supply the shop with enough stock to keep it turning over in the way the successful Etsy sellers do. Added to that, I don’t think my photography skills are sufficient to show my creations to their best effect. Maybe, when Bellaboo starts school and I have more time on my hands (I hope!)  then I’ll come back to it, but for now, I’ll let it run its course and that will be that.

Focus will shift onto the marketing model and the product offerings in the various bands of my ‘funnel’ in the two galleries … and also in working through what me ‘free/complimentary’ offering will be. I’m not sure about a newsletter, though that is an option, possibly on a quarterly basis, but what I do know for sure is that I need to revamp the website and attach a blog to it … content-wise, I think the blog will be mostly ‘new collection’ announcements, gallery events, and perhaps some tutorials, so it’ll not be the most frequently updated of creatures – perhaps linked to newsletter it could work? Needs some more thought, but the clarity is there that it is needed, and must be separate from *this* more widely ranging multi-stranded affair.

I also need to be a bit more structured in my approach to the smaller items, and making sure that I’m keeping a steady supply going for these, making sure the funnel remains ‘stocked’ at the galleries AND that these are more closely linked in terms of styles and colours to the broad fashion themes and colours of the moment in both home decor and clothing. It means less time for my personal projects, or rather a re-prioritisation so that these creations are seen as a central and necessary part of the business rather than optional extras – because they may well lay the ground for more people coming in and commissioning the bigger, custom pieces from me.

I’ve had an initial discussion with one of the gallery owners in the last week, and she seems enthused and supportive of the idea (after all, more business for me helps her out too 😉 ) and suggested that I could offer hand-embroidery on these smaller items as an optional extra – great idea, I have *no idea* why I didn’t think of that myself ….

Another idea she suggested was workshops – the gallery runs sessions for clients with artists, as an opportunity to share skills and spread reputations – which I could do, probably quite easily for some of the smaller items – such as those I’d consider writing up blog tutorials for, but that’s a big step for me because of the social element, so I’ll think on that one for a while. It could be a future option, as is expanding on my projected (unpaid) session at Honey’s school with the after-school art group. Though I’m not sure whether I actually *want* to teach anyone of any age, it’s an idea that’s kicking around inside my head to the extent I’ve got an outline progressive 6-week course for 3 different levels of age/experience which I’ve committed to paper. Location is a big issue, though, because I really don’t think I want my house invading on a regular basis (that would mean I need to TIDY UP 😉 ). Still, it’s an idea, and one that I might find a way to work in one form or another ….

All in all, a fair amount to think about. It’s been a big seismic shift in thinking about the business, and about how seriously I take it – in the grand scheme of “things I want to do with my life”, it’s high up on the list and pretty much as non-negotiable as my writing. In that context, I need to make it a coherent and long-term viable business, and that means making sure I’m doing as much as I can to nurture and maintain it at all levels as I possibly can. If I don’t make it the best I can, no-one else is going to do the hard work for me.

And it looks like a little burst of hard work ahead for me. However, I believe it will be worth it. Wish me luck?

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7 Responses to “Magpie’s Laundry”

  1. Obviously, part of setting up a baby business is about understanding your market and estimating numbers for sales potential. Business Marketing

  2. 2 Erin

    Best of luck. It sounds like you’ve got a good idea what you need to do.

    I went and looked at the Marketing Funnel post, and I can’t say that I agree with her. I don’t have tiers of services. Either somebody hires me to copyedit or index a book, or they don’t, and the price depends on a few different things, but it’s not tiered. If a client likes me, they hire me again to do the same kind of job at the same price range.

    Good luck with the small sales leading to the larger ones, and becoming a more stable part of your income!

    • 3 ellsea

      @ Erin – I guess that’s true at the moment, but you’ve been talking about writing SEO articles etc – wouldn’t they be at another level in the funnel in terms of your time/pricing?

      So although at the moment you don’t have multiple tiers, and its perhaps not as tangible as it is for me where I have physical product, there is the potential for you to add layers to your business and work at different levels, perhaps for different customer sets, and start funnelling income from different sources?

      Just a thought …

      • 4 Erin

        I don’t see it that way. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the metaphor, but to me, marketing funnel implies that you’re catching people with lower-priced enticements and funneling in a certain amount of them to higher-priced work. And my work is more like a tree — completely separate branches with no transfer from one service to another.

      • 5 Erin

        Forgot to say — I do totally believe in the different customer sets, though. That’s why I’ve always offered indexing and copyediting and proofreading.

  3. 6 Marina

    Wow, that does sound like a lot of work ahead — but good on you for taking it seriously and working towards your dreams. Hope it goes well.

    I’m fascinated to hear you used to be a “declutterer”: (a) it sounds like a cool job, and (b) I wish I could hire you! Still struggling with my ongoing decluttering project here …


  1. 1 Magpie’s Laundry

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