Claire Wilson - Claireabellemakes

By Kate Marsden

Today we’re off to Cambridge to meet one very busy lady! Claire Wilson has the portfolio career down to a tee. Here she shares the benefits of many income streams for creatives, and how much our campaign means to her.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

My name is Claire and I run the creative lifestyle brand Claireabellemakes. My business is made up of a shop selling greetings cards, gifts and accessories, a blog where I share my passions for stationery, bicycles and my life in Cambridge, and Cambridge Craft Parties where I take DIY projects from my blog and share them with others through real life workshops. I also work as a stylist and creative lead for Copper Boom Studio which helps small business owners with product photography and content. Oh, and I freelance for other creative businesses such as We Make Collective and Homedit too. You could say I like to have lots of things on the go at once!

What does a typical day involve?

On a Claireabellemakes day, I start early with tea and breakfast then crack on with emails and social media scheduling. The morning might involve product development or a shoot for a DIY tutorial or blog post. At lunch I usually take a walk to the post office to send orders or meet my boyfriend for lunch as he works just along the river. In the afternoon, it's back to the computer for some editing of photos and blog writing, or perhaps some work on product packaging which I love. If it's a freelance day, things can be really varied and if I'm working at Copper Boom Studio I might be creating a set and product story for a client. Doing something creative every day is really important to me.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work at home in a studio space which was once the spare room. It's cluttered and usually pretty messy. I do share pictures online when I've tidied up! When I'm not working I usually have multiple crochet and knitting projects on the go, and I enjoy going out for brunch a lot :)

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Copying seems to be a big issue which never really has a clear outcome for 'small' designers. The Zara pin/patch issue did make national press which was good, but most designers couldn't afford the legal fees to fight. It happens so often with high street fashion chains and their customers don't realise half the time. It saddens me when I have to contact a friend or fellow maker to tell them I've seen their work copied. It happens too often.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

Next year I'll be working on increasing my sales and product ranges and moving into wholesale. I also want to revamp my website, but I know that will take a lot of careful planning! For my blog and content, I'm already developing video content on You Tube, so I plan to grow this and work with more brands to monetise a bit more. I use affiliate marketing when working with brands and it has been really good so far.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Do your research and network with your customers before you launch. It's important to profile your customers to determine how to target your products towards them. Find out which social platforms they favour, learn about their habits and connect with them in a genuine manner. I started with my blog which was a really useful tool, as it meant I could learn who my readers were and then who my customers were. It's important to also connect with fellow makers as the community is generous and you will always find someone with the answer to things you need help with! 

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

I love Yellowstone Art Boutique as it sells work by British designer makers and Hannah who runs it has a beautiful wedding stationery business too.

Locally in Cambridge we have some fantastic indie shops such as Ark and I'm a big fan of Drink Shop Do in London. I'd also love to visit The People Shop in Birmingham which is run by Allison and Christian Sadler. They share such fantastic behind the scenes snippets on Instagram that it just looks like a heavenly place to visit! Plus Allison gives the best hugs!

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat? 

I was aware of the message behind Just A Card after seeing Mollie Makes and the Design Trust share it when it first launched. I could instantly relate, as each sale is so important - it's almost as if you're buying into someone's dream, not just their product.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

Every purchase, no matter how small, can really effect a business. Getting the first sale when you launch is a fantastic feeling, and to continue that only motivates businesses to move forward. I started my business whilst working full-time, so I had the financial freedom to plough all my profits directly back into the business for a few years. Now my living expenses are dependent on my business making a profit, every sale helps towards my bills, food and living costs. Selling products also validates your business idea!

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about the campaign on Twitter, at the time it launched I was spending most of my time there. As the social media world changes, I have moved to use Instagram a little more, as its visual format seems more fitting for a design community. I still use Twitter a lot and will be sharing the campaign with all my followers on as many platforms as I can!