How I Started a
Handmade Home Decor Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Emma, and I’m the owner and founder of MOO+BOO. I specialise in craft workshops, kits and handmade home decor.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always been artistic and knew from a young age it was what I was good at. After leaving school I went straight to college and completed my HND and BA in Interior Design. For 13 years I worked as a designer and Senior Contract Designer in Glasgow, Scotland. I worked in planning, designing and building CGI images which were great but I was always more of a sketcher and hands-on artist/designer. It paid the bills and I loved my colleagues but it just wasn’t fulfilling enough for me.
After having my second child, I found myself craving creativity, I ordered a small weaving kit and made my first wall hanging for my babies room. It was pretty good for a first go if I do say so myself. It was exactly what I was after and at the time I couldn’t find what I was looking for to dress the nursery, so it made sense to make my own. Surely this was something others were struggling with?!
While on my twelve-month mat leave I created MOO+BOO. Named after my two boys. My eldest is Bailey, who I called Bailey Boo and my youngest Marley, Marley Moo…Hence MOO+BOO. I liked the short simple name so it stuck. My twelve months maternity leave ended and I decided to leave my design job and take MOO+BOO full-time. Eeeekkkk. It’s hands down the best decision I’ve made.
I now work my own hours to suit myself and my family, it can be hectic at times running and building a business on your own while juggling two small kids, but so rewarding and the best thing is, most of the time it doesn’t feel like a job! I love it. After leaving my job I decided to hold workshops and teach like-minded people how to weave.
Workshops were a hit and I loved getting out and meeting new people. I taught myself Macrame and Arm Knitting and started classes for these. I’ve now taught hundreds of people and workshops are selling out.
Working from home in a small house with kids was tough, I dreamt of my own workspace and thought of all the options to achieve it. Extensions, cabins in the garden… But the space just wasn’t suitable. If I had my own space, it would need to be something big enough to run workshops. This would save me travelling and hiring space each time.
In May last year, I stumbled upon an empty unit space right on my doorstep. It had been there right under my nose for a year. I was shown around and instantly knew it was for me. It was bright, big and local. It needed a lot of TLC but this made it even more exciting, I could put my own stamp on it.
My friend was in the same situation workwise so I asked if she was up for taking it on with me, we could share the space and the rent. She also loved it! So we got the keys in June and opened ‘SKAPA‘ in September. It is now our creative studio and event space. We both run our workshops from SKAPA, as well as hiring our space to fellow small businesses and for small events.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Challenges can pop up everywhere when running your own handmade business, sourcing stock is time-consuming and difficult at times to find the perfect product or material. The market is now saturated with weavers and macrame artists which means you need to have your own style and stand out from the crowd.
A few suppliers I have continued to use from the beginning and most are small businesses like myself. The quality of the product is my main interest which can be trial and error when sourcing new materials. I always trial the material myself before using in any of my workshops, kits or wall hangings…which can be time-consuming but worth it to get the best product to suit. Another issue when starting can be pricing, most companies offer a trade discount to small businesses which is great, but you need to order in bulk to get this. You need to spend money to make money, as the saying goes.
Having a good network of fellow maker friends has also been a great support and great for recommendations.
Who is your target market?
My customers range from 9-90! With all age groups attending my workshops.
My hangings are, I would say, a mix of ‘Boho’ and ‘Scandi’ influence and would suit a selection of interior styles. The rustic and versatile cotton ropes and soft wool roving add texture, warmth and interest. They would feel at home in a modern home as well as a rustic farmhouse.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Social media is my main source of marketing, especially Instagram. I started selling on Etsy but just this year I built my own website.
Etsy was great to start out but as most of my business was from social media, it made sense to have my own site. While building my own website I continued using Etsy until I was ready to go live. I now run all sales via my new website.
I’ve also travelled around Scotland taking part in craft fairs, festivals and private parties which has then resulted in further business. I have taken part in the yearly Detox Health and Beauty Festival at Archerfield walled garden North Berwick the past two years it has run, both years were very successful selling ready-made hangings and running workshops through the day, all outside in the sunshine. Unfortunately, it has been cancelled this year.
In 2019, I took part in the Mhor Festival in Perthshire, running workshops and seller handmade hangings. I have also attended a handful of village craft fayres but find the festivals a lot more successful for me. My largest private party was a Hen Party for 25 women at a beautiful private castle on the west coast of Scotland. I taught all 25 to Arm Knit a blanket.
I have also sold my products in a handful of boutiques throughout Scotland.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
I have developed my own style and introduced some new original craft classes, I’m constantly changing and rethinking my workshops and kits to give my customers something new and exciting. Posting regularly on social media and staying in touch with customers and subscribers via my mailing list keeps everyone up-to-date with what’s on and new products being launched.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
As it’s only me myself and I, I don’t work set hours or days but work flexible hours to suit my family. Having the studio really helps with storage, and a quiet space to work.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I’m pretty old school I think, I use a diary, my phone and laptop and the analytics from my social media, Google my business and from my website. I like a good to-do list!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Always be yourself! Don’t look too hard at other successful businesses, you can get swamped in other people’s success and styles. DO YOU! No regrets, other than I wish I had started earlier. But I believe in fate – everything happens for a reason, right?!
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I get to do what I love.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Tax return…I bet this is everyone’s answer. Lol
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I have 2 young kids…whilst I don’t have time for books or podcasts, I follow a lot of inspiring women and small businesses on Instagram, who I interact with daily. One I came across early on was Carrie Anne of Mere Soeur. I found her (still do) inspiring, a working Mum building a business for herself.
Another inspiring woman I have followed from the beginning is Anna Whitehouse fighting for flexible working. I found myself in this situation when I was denied flexible working from my 12-year design job after Maternity leave. It was upsetting feeling undervalued, but I’m so glad it happened in a way, otherwise, I may not have taken the leap of faith of going full-time with MOO+BOO.
Two accounts I love in my field of work are Lindsey Campbell – she is non-stop and has written two beautiful weaving guides. I also love the work of @belensenra. Her work is always unique and original.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Hmmmm, this is a tough one, especially in this crazy time we’re in. I would love for my business to have grown in size and revenue and to have a wide selection of craft kits on offer, as well as a recognisable brand and style.