Ceramics

5 tips to start an online business, by Natalie of Sugar & Vice

Natalie van Dijk (nee Vice) of Sugar and Vice, always knew two things: that she wanted to run her own business and that she wanted to incorporate her creative talents into this business. The impetus to make this happen eventually came in the form of her retrenchment from a comfortable marketing job in 2014. Rather than acknowledge defeat, Natalie saw this as an opportunity to reinvent herself and make that business idea happen!

Sugar & Vice was started without any funding, handouts or loans. Instead Natalie relied on tenacity, hard work and an uncompromising commitment to her vision to build the brand. All Sugar & Vice products are handmade in Cape Town. The growth and development of the local creative industry is of key importance to the brand.

Starting and managing a business has been a steep learning curve for me and I am always happy to share my experience and learnings with friends, family and acquaintances. The thing is though that it is a very complex question to which the only short answer is, it is complicated and a lot of hard work. But I’ve given this question a lot of thought and condensed it into five points, which I am happy to share here.

Note that this is by no means the comprehensive guide to starting or running a business. This is merely my experience on my particular kind of business (an online shop in the creative industries with a wholesale element).

Over the years I have invested in my own professional learning, growth and development by, among others, doing a mini MBA course in business management, various kinds of training with the Craft and Design Institute (CDI), and courses in graphic design and interior decorating. I’ve worked in marketing, sales and admin roles and all of these have added to my experience in various ways.

1.    Do (A LOT OF) research
This is so important, because you need to know where in the market to position your product or service. Make sure you have a unique selling point – so that you know exactly what sets you apart from similar brands. See what similar products are priced at. Get quotes from all suppliers. Don’t forget about packaging. Find out how much the initial out lay will be and think about how you are going to finance this.

2.    Draw up a business plan
No, you won’t stick to it exactly because theory is one thing and practice is something completely different, but this is an important exercise to get you thinking about your business and how you are going to make it work. Write down your vision and mission statement. Note down what you want to achieve with your business. Include how you will finance things and what your marketing plan is.

3.    Start small
At the beginning I went a bit bananas with the variety of colourways I made my products available in. I should’ve chosen just two colourways to simplify things and to establish my brand. Also, don’t go overboard with spending too much money on stationery and equipment, only get what you absolutely need. You don’t want your cash to be stuck in objects, instead of being available for spending on suppliers/couriers. Don’t make your range too big. I’d advise starting with between five and ten to test the market, and gradually adding on from there.

4.    Do market research
Delve deep here. You need to make sure you know who your customer is, what they like, when they buy, how they like to be communicated with etc. If you do this properly then you will be able to market your products more effectively.

5.    Professional photos
The need for professional photographs cannot be stressed enough. This makes the world of difference. I have uploaded photos of my product to social media that I’ve taken myself and no sales, but as soon as I uploaded a professional photo of the same product, I made a few sales of that item the same day. Photography is definitely worth the financial investment.

This blog post is one in Hello Pretty's guest blog series. Each post is written by a person who is running their online store though South Africa's favourite art, design & craft marketplace.

If you'd like to more view guest posts in this series, and other posts where we interview local businesses, click here.

Wanna write a guest post on Hello Pretty? Email us at info@hellopretty.co.za to find out more.

Hey 👋 HP Seller, Clay Creations 56

Hi my name is Debbi Radomsky and my business is Clay Creations 56 where I make and sell beautiful unique ceramic pieces, ideal for home decor or serving delicious meals and snacks. My multifunctional pottery pieces can be used for jewellery, sweets, condiments, tapas, salads, fruit or just to simply adorn your dining room table with a touch of pretty.

They are also perfect gifts for any occasion - birthdays, engagements, weddings, house warmings, dinner parties or to simply spoil yourself because you deserve it!
 

Pottery is my happy place and where I can escape from the day to day stress of the real world. I always remember loving art classes as a child and especially enjoyed getting my hands messy with clay while making small pinch pots in my pottery classes. But then as I grew up I lost touch with my creative side and was very focused on numbers and left-brain thinking which lead me into a financial career. It was only 8 years ago that I decided to listen to my instinct and follow my longing for some creativity with clay and it has been the best thing I have ever done! 

I am so enjoying being a female entrepreneur and running my own small sideline business. It’s a hobby that has become a passion to express myself and take a break from the rat race. I’ve learned so much in this process and unlike numbers and finance which are either right or wrong, with ceramics everything is uncertain and unpredictable. Sometimes the kiln gods take over and what you receive as the end result is a complete surprise! A good lesson in life that things don’t always go according to plan and to let go and enjoy the process anyway. The unexpected result is often better than the original concept! 

I enjoy making platters, bowls, vases and sculptures and find working with clay so rewarding as one has to display patience and special love for a project to get the desired outcome. I hand make everything myself either at home or at a studio in Cape Town CBD with the inspiring backdrop of Table Mountain. The beauty around me in nature and everyday life sets the tone for my various ranges, but ocean blue is my personal favourite! All my work is available to purchase online at Hello Pretty or in the various shops I stock around the country. 

This blog post is one in Hello Pretty's guest blog series. Each post is written by a person who is running their online store though South Africa's favourite art, design & craft marketplace.

If you'd like to more view guest posts in this series, and other posts where we interview local businesses, click here.

Wanna write a guest post on Hello Pretty? Email us at info@hellopretty.co.za to find out more.

Hey 👋 HP Seller, actuallyashleigh

Hi, I'm Ashleigh from actuallyashleigh, although pretty much everyone I know calls me Ash. I'm a wife to a wonderfully supportive husband, and a mom (and stepmom) to 3 kids.  I'm also a mom to a Boston terrier, who is by far the neediest child of all! I'm definitely a homebody and I'm so lucky to be able to work from home, it gives me time to draw, garden, cook, fetch kids from school, and do all the other endless things that moms have to fit in. Despite not having a green finger, I love to draw plants, and I'm mad about birds.

I started actuallyashleigh (I love a good tonguetwister!) to make my drawings a bit more functional. I also have an annoying habit of having to cover empty surfaces with some kind of pattern or decoration, so plain white ceramics were a good place to do that. I began by getting some designs printed on transfer sheets, buying a few second hand ceramics, and then cutting and sticking to my heart's content. I found a friendly potter who had a kiln, and soon I had a stash of bowls with my designs on them!  It was so exciting that I carried on, sourcing different ceramic ware and drawing new designs. 

For quite a while it was only friends and family who bought my pieces, and you can only give your stuff as birthday presents for so long. Then I started doing markets and selling my things in shops. And I suddenly had to start producing more to keep up!
My business is still small, as I'm a one-woman band, and I don't mass produce anything, but I'm getting there. I have my stock in a few more outlets now, and a couple big upcoming shows this year. There are new works in progress, and some exciting new ideas in the planning phase.

The challenges include being self-motivated, finding time to take proper stock photos and keeping up with social media posts. As a behind-the-scenes type of person, I find 'selling myself' at markets somewhat nerve-wracking, but you slowly get used to it; and there's actually nothing better than meeting your customers and seeing how happy they are when they buy something they love, that you've made! The highlights of having your own business are obviously the flexible hours, being paid for doing something you enjoy, and for putting in the hours and hard work for no one but yourself.

Any tips I could give for someone starting out is to work out your pricing properly in the beginning - work out a wholesale price, and then double that for your retail price. Don't short-change yourself, and don't underestimate how valuable your time is. If you're doing something you love, you'll automatically be good at it. Market yourself and get out there!

Thanks so much,
Ash

This blog post is one in Hello Pretty's guest blog series. Each post is written by a person who is running their online store though South Africa's favourite art, design & craft marketplace.

If you'd like to more view guest posts in this series, and other posts where we interview local businesses, click here.

Wanna write a guest post on Hello Pretty? Email us at info@hellopretty.co.za to find out more.

Chantilly Lace

Lace isn't just for your granny's handkerchiefs anymore. We're seeing it pop up everywhere from details on clothing to contrast laser-cuts on leather. One of our personal favourites is this beautiful earthenware bowl with a lace patterned glaze. Get yours from Sandy Godwin Clay Creations here.

We featured this item in our newsletter this week, along with a curated collection of our favourite lace-inspired items. There's a new theme every week, so if you'd like to be kept in the loop, sign up below!

We Are Messengers designs

Now ladies, in this Age of Craft, who doesn’t love a good ceramic somethingsomething and a pretty piece of stationery?

On browsing around IDSWest a while back, I came across the work of We Are Messengers - Alex and Iwona run the design studio, and created a craftier side business named after themselves to go with it.  Under the Alex and Iwona brand they created stunning illustrated ceramics, stationery and jewellery to be sold at various shows and markets, which are COMPLETELY lustworthy.

Gorgeous, no?  I’m just dying over those necklaces.  You go Alex and Iwona!

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