How I Started a Successful
Handmade Homewares and Accessories Side Hustle
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Chelsea Purcell and I run Purcell-Green Studios. We specialise in handmade homewares and accessories. Currently, I run this business by myself with the occasional help of my partner who does the post-run and accompanies me to The Makers Market. I create and design everything myself in my home studio in Cheshire, UK.
We specialise in handcrafted concrete homewares including coasters, plant pots and tea light holders. I also create a range of jewellery storage, and we are well known for our ever-popular concrete ring holders and clay trinket dishes, all of which are hand-painted. I am heavily inspired by nature and bring an essence of that to all that I do, mixing this with urban aesthetics, giving Purcell-Green Studios its unique, signature look. My shop also stocks a range of prints and cards, including my newest collection – plantable greeting cards!
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always loved designing and have a creative flair. At university, I studied a graphic design course which specialised in publishing. During my time there, I had my artwork, which at the time was illustrations, prints and cards stocked in a local art shop. Alongside this, I occasionally ran a stall at the local market. After university, I took a job at a wedding stationery company where I worked as a designer. I now work full-time in marketing as a designer and run Purcell- Green Studios as a side hustle!
Having a project on the go was exciting for me and it is the main reason I started Purcell-Green Studios. I wanted to pursue my own ideas and create in my studio without the constraints of company guidelines. Eventually, I started experimenting with clay and concrete to create homewares that I would like to have myself, and my hobby evolved from there. I opened up an Etsy shop and Instagram account, where I discovered other independent makers and it slowly grew to what Purcell-Green is today!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I had not worked with concrete before, so it was a real challenge finding the right formula to enable me to create my products. I spent a lot of time researching printers and suppliers, and sourcing materials to make my crafts. The biggest hurdle was sourcing materials which were both high quality, yet affordable.
Managing my time has been quite challenging. When working for yourself, you have to be very self-motivated to finish your products. Not only that, but you have to spend more time taking pictures of products for my social media profiles and Etsy. Additionally, time needs to be dedicated to applying for events and markets to be able to physically showcase your work. Networking online can be time-consuming too. Although very much needed to engage with potential customers or other independent brands.
Who is your target market?
My target market is women aged roughly 20-40 years of age, who are either buying for themselves or gifts for others. I also look for stockists, particularly florists and small independent art/design shops, or other homewares shops. We receive a lot of orders from worldwide, although most of my customers come from either the UK or USA.
At present, I am stocked in a floral boutique by Bournemouth in the UK.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I predominantly use social media, in particular Instagram for my marketing. I post daily to keep my presence known to my followers. Through the use of social media, I can also engage with potential customers. Whilst I occasionally use paid promotion posts to gain followers and orders, I have found it to be an inconsistent approach in terms of sales and do not do it regularly. I occasionally collaborate with influencers or bloggers on Instagram whose pages fit with the type of product I create.
I routinely attend artisan markets. As well as a good place for direct sales, it is an opportunity to market my homewares business to those who attend to support small businesses, and other home-based artists and craftspeople at very little cost. This largely contributes to word-of-mouth sales and helps me to find a wider range of potential consumers who might not otherwise come into contact with my business online. By attending markets regularly I gain further publicity from the organisers’ platforms who have a broader reach.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Regularly posting on social media is a pretty good way of attracting and retaining customers. At markets, I have business cards at my stall with my social media handles and Etsy link, and I include one with every purchase. New customers can then follow me and keep up-to-date with any new product launches or offers.
Those who buy online receive a thank you note with every order which tells them a bit about me and my business. This attaches a person/name to the brand and makes the purchase more memorable for the customer.
Regularly releasing new products is a great way to keep customers engaged and attract new potential customers. Creating a variation of a best seller, for example, changing the colour or shape of a product works very well too. That way, those who have brought your existing product will most likely come back to buy the alternative. It’s important to know your style and market and keep within that aesthetic too.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since I work alone, I don’t have a culture per se. The closest thing would be that I like to have a clear separation between my work and my home life. I use my spare bedroom as an office/studio where I make and design all my products. I find it useful to only undertake my product work in there. This keeps the rest of the house as my home, and sets boundaries between ‘working hours’ and rest!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I use Adobe Creative Cloud for most of my design needs. They have amazing design applications but also type kits with various fonts for commercial use and stock photographs. My favourite application would have to be Illustrator. It’s great for drawing vectors and shapes as well as typesetting. I pay monthly for the whole Adobe Creative Cloud which is about £50 a month. It sounds a lot, but I’m my opinion is worth it.
I use Etsy for online sales, I find it really easy to navigate and it is a trusted established website.
When I’m at markets and events, I just use a notebook to record all my sales and update my stock levels on Etsy accordingly. I then use the Makers Yearbook 2020 to record my sales throughout the year. I can track how much I am making and what is selling best.
When taking photographs for Etsy and Instagram, I use a tent and light. I also use wallpaper samples as backdrops for my photographs, which is a cost-effective way to have different and stylish looking backgrounds for your shoots.
What are the most important lessons you have learned on your business journey?
You need to be proactive! The success I have had is down to hard work and I’m still building it up today. It’s vital to think about what you want to achieve before starting. You need a clear goal in mind! I have spent a lot of time creating a brand identity and style, with my audience slowly growing alongside that.
Lastly, it is really important to have a strong brand identity or logo that people can become familiar with. Try to avoid constantly reinventing your logo or ethos as it will just confuse your followers. If you can’t do it yourself, I would advise hiring a graphic designer or professional who can bring your vision to life.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The freedom of creating what I want. I still have a full-time job, but it’s so nice to be able to do other creative things for myself. I also love the feeling I have when I receive an order. Even now, I still get that feeling of excitement! Seeing everyone else enjoying my creations is a great feeling too, and it’s amazing knowing something you’ve made now sits proudly in someone else’s home!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Business admin! I must admit I’m pretty slack on this. Keeping track of expenses and orders is difficult. I also find invoicing for orders tough, particularly when it involves wholesale pricing. I’m a creative person and that’s what I love doing so it’s difficult to sit down and sort out all my paperwork. That said, it’s necessary, so it has to be done!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
The Makers Yearbook 2020 has been a lifesaver for me! It breaks down the administrative side of your business into easy chunks. It allows you to track your sales and expenses each month, social media followers, mailing list subscribers and helps with setting goals.
I’m also part of some Facebook groups of makers and creators, including ‘Fabulous Flatlays‘, run by Jacquie Lawes, another small business owner. Not only is this a great way to meet people but also get advice from others in the same business. We use ‘Fabulous Flatlays’ as a forum to discuss and improve our product photography skills. We share tips and tricks and offer advice to one another on setups and editing too.
I’m also part of Facebook groups set up by the events and markets I have attended. The Makers Market, for example, has a group for traders specific to your area, and allows me to network and ask for advice. You don’t need to have been a stallholder at their events to join their group either!
I really value these groups, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic where small businesses are supporting each other like never before – whether it’s through online markets or just a simple gesture of sharing each other’s posts.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I would love to be able to pursue Purcell-Green Studios full time, but I’m realistic in thinking that is yet a long way off. I would, however, like to keep it a small business.
Having previously worked for a ‘small business’ with around twenty employees, I noticed that the owners were so detached from the day to day operations of the business and that is something I would never want. Hiring a few employees would be great, but I would still want to be getting my hands dirty, designing and creating!