How I Started an Alternative Art,
Jewellery and Home Decor Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Charlotte Clark, and I run a business, Forever Irregular. I sell alternative homeware, jewellery and art. I currently don’t any employees, although I do rope my husband in from time to time to help with the post office runs.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
My hobbies include spending time with my family (we have three children who keep us busy most of the time!) I love going to gigs, watching movies, the usual things; although nowadays I spend every minute of my spare time working. I spent 16 years working for an energy company which I loved. There, I was able to progress up the ladder easily and the money was fantastic; I had a good work/life balance.
I got to the point though where I wanted more creativity and I was constantly racking my brains into wanting to work for myself, to fit around our three children and their routine. There was a gap in the market for good, quality alternative art, jewellery and homeware so I used Instagram to market my new idea.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I faced lots of challenges. One of the main ones was trying to stand out from my competitors. I very quickly found my style, now it comes natural to me. I’ve never really looked at another business as competition as such, as I sell so many different items that can’t be copied. I try and switch off from comparing myself to others and focus completely on myself.
Social networking has never been a problem for me – in my previous role I ran the Social Media team so I am familiar with how engagement works so I utilise these skills daily. I have developed a weekly routine (it’s taken over a year!) where once a week I do a stock take and update where necessary. I have never found it difficult to research into my niche as I’ve always been into this style, so it’s almost second nature to me.
Who is your target market?
My target audience used primarily be people from the gothic culture; now, since I’ve expanded into vintage art prints and homeware, it really attracts anyone which is what I absolutely love about my business! I’m not stuck to one particular ‘type’ – which is awesome.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
For marketing, I mainly use Instagram. I sponsor one of my posts once a month, but apart from that its all 100% organic growth. I really do spend a lot of time talking to my customers, building up a relationship and listening to what they want, which is in my eyes what makes for a really reputable business.
The conversions from the sponsored posts I have only really started monitoring as I’ve been having a few spouts of Social Media training but they always seem to do really well at the time, and I get at least four times the number of website clicks when my sponsored post is active. I’ve noticed that some competitors sponsor posts more often than I do, but I’m hoping to advertise more in the future (Facebook ads, Pinterest etc) to boost our growth.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
What I’ve found is the more I talk about customers, the more I post customers photos on my Instagram feed, the better response I get. People want to feel appreciated. I always shout out customers too. They are literally at the forefront of everything I do!
I try and source products that are really unique, to keep that added special feel to my shop. When I speak on my Instagram stories, I show my face to show that I’m a real person. It helps massively. When I post a picture of me, it does so much better than a photo of a piece of jewellery.
When I’m real and honest about a subject, people love that I’m a real person behind the logo.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Seeing as its only me, I don’t have a problem with this. I always work in a serene environment with no distractions so I can focus entirely on giving my customers the best packages.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
The most important thing I’ve learnt is never to compare myself against someone else. That’s when you go off track and stop focusing on yourself. I’ve had a really easy year with regards to my business, I’ve adapted to self employment smoothly which is really lucky.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I am my own boss! I decide what I sell, how my website looks, I pull the strings.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The least favourite thing about being an entrepreneur is that if the work doesn’t get done on that day, or you have a day off, it’s there waiting for you the day after. No one else is going to jump in if your off sick, its completely down to you to keep your business boat afloat.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I have listened to a few podcasts. Jenna Kutcher‘s The Goal Digger is one of my favourites because she’s so real and down to earth. I also follow a few Instagram accounts which inspire me daily, like THECOVENGIRLGANG. They’ve helped me empower myself and to carry on when things got tough.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Well, seeing as I started with a bag of charms and a dream, now I have a workroom with over 400 products and ever-growing business. Who knows?!
I’m really hoping my business blooms into something beautiful. My ultimate dream would be to have a storage unit somewhere so that another employee and I could work 9-5 and expand further.