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A Cuppa on Concrete

I’m sure you know by now that I make coasters, so a cuppa on concrete is not an alien concept. But what about having a rhyme on your coaster too?

A while ago, a lovely talented lady from Rhymes to Remember wrote a rhyme for my business. You can read here. Recently she has been exploring the idea of ‘paperless poetry’. Poetry definitely doesn’t have to be limited to paper, and actually it can be very interesting in different forms. We have therefore collaborated again and bring you a rhyme on concrete. Click here to read the entire blog post. The photos below show our finished products.

a cuppa on concrete

Sally from Rhymes to Remember writes some beautiful poetry about all sorts of different topics from weddings, family and love, to business, memories and sadness. Why not get in touch with her for your very own bespoke poem? She also has a number of generic poems as well.

“I put into words what others struggle to say to make sure that a new mum hears she is doing great. That a bride and groom share vows on their wedding day that are perfect just for them. That a teacher or colleague knows they are appreciated. And that a family member or friend is told how special and loved they are. Never underestimate the power of words!”

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Diversifying my product range

For quite a few months now, things have been going on in the background at Concrete Gems HQ, which could mean some very big changes coming this way soon. I am diversifying my product range.

When you set up as a small business, there are so many pieces of advice thrown at you, but one of the biggest ones is to find your niche! In other words, don’t try and make everything, but concentrate on one area or one type of product. And I think I’ve done that quite well so far! Concrete home décor is definitely a niche area and one that some people love (yay!) but some people hate (boo!), like marmite!! It is a material that not many people think of for products, and something that can be versatile, beautiful and totally unique. Unfortunately, concrete is also something that you wouldn’t buy repeatedly, unlike food or wax melts for example, and this means that returning customers are less likely.

Having said that, all of the advice suggests that the only way to be a successful business owner is to niche down. If you’d like to find out more about niching down, check out this blog. Maybe I haven’t quite found my product yet!

Another thing that running a small business requires is constant adaptation and change, usually achieved through trail and error. Which products sell, which don’t. Which platforms are best to sell on, etc. etc.

And so I came to my decision! I’m going to go and do the exact opposite of niching down and instead diversify into a new product line! Eek! This is quite a scary prospect and I haven’t quite worked out exactly how everything is going to work. Do I set up a separate business or run everything together as one? Do I use the same name or a separate tagline, or something completely different? Should I set up separate Facebook and Instagram pages? Or combine everything. I don’t want to confuse the customer. But I also don’t want to give myself extra, unnecessary work to do, especially at the beginning.

Please don’t worry though, I’m not giving up on the concrete at all. All of my products are and will still be available over at my shop. I will also still be making more. You will just find some other products also appearing alongside them, which I really hope you will also like.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this. After all, you are the customer and I am here to serve your needs and wants. The images below will give you a little hint about what I might be expanding into. 😉

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Christmas Fairs (Real and Virtual)

Shirley (aka Grandma’s Corner) says:

When I was young one of the highlights of the year was an annual fair held in the local church hall. My parents were involved in organising the event, and for months before we would be making things to sell. Knitting egg cosies and hot water bottle covers; decorating jars for baths salts; padding coat hangers; and nearer the actual day, baking. I remember the joy of seeing someone buying something that I had help make.

With this in mind I love buying from a small maker because I know that my purchase will make them happy.

If you are looking to buy gifts try to find time to go to a Christmas Fair and buy something from a local crafts person. If you aren’t able to physically go to a Fair there are virtual fairs you can join in. Now I have to admit, I don’t understand how these work – so I am hoping Gemma is going to add a bit below to explain to us how they work!

Remember when you buy from a small business you make somebody really happy!

Gemma (Concrete Gems) says:

There are lots of online craft events happening this year. The ones I am involved in are on Facebook and Instagram, but I imagine other social media channels also run them.

On Facebook, an event or group is created and images of products are uploaded with details of prices, sizes etc. On the day of the event, often a password is provided and you would use that password to comment on the item you would like to buy. The seller then contacts you to arrange payment and delivery, which can be through their website, PayPal, etc.

Instagram works in a similar way, except the items are just added as images to the business feed.

Online markets that are coming up as as follows:

Facebook Snowflakes and Keepsakes Christmas Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/516451422527464/

UK Crafters Online market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/459309824617879/ on Facebook, or https://www.instagram.com/ukcrafters_marketplace on Instagram

Facebook Stocking filler frenzy: https://www.facebook.com/events/336409273668553/

Concrete Gems will also be at the following actual Christmas markets:

Norden Farm Night Market, Maidenhead, Fri 15th November 5-10pm.

Willowbank Junior School Christmas shopping event, Woodley, Reading, Fri 29th November 6pm-9pm.

Etsy Made Local, ST Laurence’s Church, Reading, Sat 30th November 11am-6pm.

Reading University Christmas craft fair, Thurs 5th December 5-7pm.

craft fair virtual or actual set up at maidenhead

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Getting the balance right – running a business from your phone

I’ve recently had a painful, but insightful experience. I fell down the stairs and my phone bore the brunt of it (luckily I wasn’t hurt). But this meant, I had to send it off to be mended (for a lot of money) and I was left for four whole days with no phone. No instant access to email, no access to my Etsy or Amazon seller apps, or my website. No instant access to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. And no camera to snap product pics and life pics. Each time I wanted to check anything, I had to log into the laptop, and if you’ve ever used Instagram on a laptop, you will know, it just isn’t worth bothering. Not to mention the annoyance of no one being able to call me either.

Balance

Anyhow, this experience got me thinking about my phone usage. Getting the balance right is a tricky business. If you are running a business from your phone, modern life dictate that customers want instant responses, and an active presence on social media is essential. And so, I do use my phone quite a lot. But sitting there with your nose stuck in your phone 24/7 is also no good. Firstly, for actually producing your products; and secondly for the rest of life –  family, hobbies, partners, friends etc. They are not going to be impressed if you are constantly on your phone.

Phone-free time

I realised from my four days phone-free that I love my phone and everything it provides me in terms of speed and ease of running my business, as well as camera quality, keeping in touch with people, looking things up on google, tracking my fitness, etc. Conversely though, I did partially enjoy being without it. I had more time for other things and gave me a feeling of freedom. I enjoyed just watching tv and not scrolling through my phone at the same time. However, I just couldn’t quite shake the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) on orders, conversations, news etc. etc.

Getting it right

So is it really possible to get the balance right? I think that it is. In reality, the length of time it takes to reply isn’t going to make or break a sale, I don’t think. People will wait a few hours for a response. Actually it may also be quicker to do all your emails in one go, rather than constantly checking them throughout the day. The same probably applies to social media too. Less of the mindless scrolling and more intentional interactions.

A few hours a day phone free is definitely recommended anyway and I plan on trying harder to organise my time on my phone better. Less procrastinating, and more productivity. Saying all that, though, it’s so easy to fall back into the same old routine…

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Too early for Christmas?

There’s a lot of debate in the crafting world around when the best time is to start advertising and selling Christmas products, and I don’t think there’s a right answer.

Concrete Christmas star

I had a sale of a Christmas decoration in February, and that couldn’t be much further from the next one.

Generally though, I don’t think people start buying Christmas stuff until after a specific date, such as Halloween or a birthday. For me, is after my birthday in October. However there are, increasingly more it seems, people who like to get organised and start stocking up throughout the year.

So what’s the best way to capture these sales but equally not annoying the people who don’t want to think about Christmas until at least the autumn.

From my limited experience, I think the products should be available from July/August time but posting about them should come slowly. Maybe test the waters in August, but don’t go full on Christmas in every social media post until October.

That said I know of some who have already been making Christmas orders, so who knows really. Let me know what you think!