Spotlight on Pippa Richardson of @toodleandpip
Today on the blog I'm sharing the journey of Pip from Toodle and Pip who creates stunning foil topography art. You can shop it here. Pip gives some great advice on the different challenges to growing and marketing your business, pricing, what to look out for and to focus on what sells. Go enjoy her story.
Hi, I'm Pip and I live with my hubby and our 2 little boys in the beautiful Medieval Market town of Shrewsbury. I'm a born and bred Shropshire Lass and feel that my beautiful historic surroundings have been partly responsible for my love of antiques and my strong curiosity in local and family history. I am the 'Pip' behind Toodle & Pip and in my home studio I design and create beautiful metallic foil typography art.
I've always been creative and am happiest when I am making....I even took up silk painting and selling my wears to small local businesses while I was still in Secondary school! Perhaps I should've gone with my gut instincts back then to become my own boss and pursue my creativity but instead I fell into a career in retail management and auditing at Monsoon/Accessorize, and for many years I did enjoy it.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
Like a few female creatives I know it's actually having babies that gave me that push to strive for a self-made career doing what I love best. I always said I would take a break from work for a few years when I had little ones to be around for them 24/7 just like my mum did for me and my sister.
As I mentioned I happily worked for many years as a manager at Monsoon/Accessorize. The company was very 'people first' and its high standards in every avenue of business fitted well with my own ethos. However, it was never my dream job and after a break of 7 years for kiddies the desire to go back into it was non-existent which was the perfect opportunity for me to start something for myself.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
To keep my sanity while changing nappies and wiping spit off my shoulder I started making my own jewellery in the evenings as a hobby. It was only after mums on the school run started admiring it and asking me to make jewellery for them that I realized I had a potential business in the making. I started selling to other mums, to friends, then at local fairs, then wholesale to local independent businesses and then online and so it grows.... So even though my main business is now entirely interiors based as I produce my hand foiled typography art I owe an awful lot to those necklaces still sitting in my jewellery box! I used to sit with a lap tray in the evenings churning out jewellery but now my business has evolved I luckily have a dedicated home studio where I design, print and foil my typography art.
3. How did you fund your business?
I'm fortunate that I was in a no pressure situation and could just grow my hobby into a business naturally and at a pace I was happy with that kept the balance between family life and work life. This being the case I entirely self-funded my start up and ploughed every penny straight back into the business.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
With my work background the business side of things were no problem for me but the part I found the most difficult was having confidence in myself to be able to succeed on my own. After years of successfully managing a team, beating targets and keeping in budget for a company it was a bit of a strange feeling being out there on my own. There are many times I doubted myself and my ability to grow the business, so have had a bit of a talking to from my hubby from time to time who has been so supportive of me and my new venture.
I'd also say that growing the online side of the business was very challenging, I think algorithms are the bane of most of our lives if we are building an online presence. Etsy is certainly a hard one to crack, it's hard graft and I really learnt as I went along. I'd say to anyone starting out that Etsy and Instagram are the perfect partners and Instagram being a visual based social media platform is a great way of directing traffic to your Etsy shop. My main business goal during 2017 was to build the online side of my business. After all of the hard work and hours put in the feeling I get when my phone does the 'Etsy ker-ching' is pretty fantastic!
5. What help was missing for you?
I wouldn't say there was any help missing for me. I was a total novice with social media and optimizing it for business use but it's all out there to learn so Google has been this girl's best friend! I also have the benefit of a tech savvy hubby so his knowledge has been invaluable.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
I wouldn't say anything went wrong as such.... I made plenty of mistakes but growing your own business is a huge learning curve if like me it's your first time.
I did make the classic rooky mistake of totally under-pricing my products at the beginning and it was actually a couple of business savvy 'instafriends' I now work closely with on Instagram that picked up on my duff pricing structure! As creatives, a lot of us make the mistake of not seeing the true value in our own work and also don't want to price ourselves out of the market. Well, if like me you're a perfectionist you need to reflect that in your pricing structure. And if like me you want to tap into the wholesale market you need to have wiggle room in your pricing structure to do that. So now I always price products so that people can trust they will receive a quality handmade item with customer service to match.
7. What have you learnt?
I have learnt so much in the couple of years I've been running my own business. I have gone from being entirely social media incompetent to organically growing my IG feed through networking and collaborating. I've gone from not knowing what a hashtag is to create with 2 friends a vintage based hashtag called #howivintage to help promote other small businesses like myself. Instagram is my main business marketing tool and I absolutely love it, it's opened so many doors for me that I would never have found on my own and so many people have helped me promote my products out of genuine kindness and a desire to help a small business...for this I am forever grateful.
Another techy tip I learned the hard way is to be constantly 'busy' in my Etsy shop updating listings, listing new products and editing descriptions and tags.... that way you pop up higher in the search listings, it took me a while to work that one out! As with most things in life I can generally say the more effort you put into your business the more benefits you'll reap so always be busy!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
I talk a lot as you may have gathered and I could really go on a bit for this question so I will restrain myself and share a few little tips.....
•Smell what sells, and go with it! In the past 12 months, my business has taken a huge change in direction from jewellery to typography artwork. This was unexpected but totally the best business decision I could've made.
•If you're a new business then I strongly advise you to find your niche community on Instagram and get as actively involved as you can and help as many people along the way as you can, it really is a fantastic marketing tool.
•LISTEN! We may think we know it all but we really don't. I have had so much good advice from others which has proven crucial to the success of my business and we need to swallow our pride at times and make needed changes.
•Love what you do and go with your gut instincts as long as they make good business sense. Creativity is hindered by stress so if a part of your business becomes too stressful take an honest look at how you can change it for the better.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I LOVE being my own boss, it's exhilarating and totally the best feeling! The initial goal was to work in a way that didn't interrupt with family life and I have achieved that which is a fantastic feeling. I also love the fact I have met so many wonderful, kind and interesting people along the way all of whom I still collaborate with now or are now my wholesale customers. I LOVE interaction with my retail customers and am so happy when people tag me on Instagram showing off their Toodle & Pip print in its new home.... ultimately that's what gives job satisfaction....a happy customer!
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
I think it's really hard to put a number on how hard it is running a business as that fluctuates daily. Business is constantly evolving and sometimes things pop up totally unexpectedly to stress you up to the eyeballs... (this happens fairly often) But ultimately the pros outweigh the cons and that makes for a satisfying and happy work life.... So, if you're thinking about setting up on your own I have one word of advice for you......check out my print below!
Nicola Says " Pip mentions a few things which resonate strongly throughout my creative business blog; the confidence to launch a small business, and the need to get your pricing right.
I've heard this a number of times from small business owners; how do you keep the confidence in yourself to keep going when the business cycles through good and bad? How do you believe in yourself and what you are doing? I certainly think it helps if you are doing something you love and you don't have the pressure to grow your business quickly, perhaps being able to do so organically, but it is much more stressful if you need to earn a wage.
Also getting your pricing right. I've seen a few small businesses that under-price or undersell their value. If you are making unique and handmade items there is a premium that can be charged for this. You can always create promotions or vary the price for bulk orders, but don't go in too cheaply. There is a perception of you and your value based on price. Have a look at my blog post hereif you want to know more"
Thanks for sharing your journey!
The Girl with The Green Sofa