Lewes Map Store
We’re off to one of my favourite small towns today, the gorgeous Lewes in Sussex. You’ll undoubtedly be familiar with Lewes Map Store as their beautiful images are a regular sight during our Thursday night #justacard hour; and today I’m chatting to co-founder Dörte about her business, plans for the future and the importance of our campaign.
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I’m Dörte and I’m the co-founder and manager of Lewes Map Store, an independent online shop based in Sussex. Our journey started 4 years ago, when we delivered our first Lewes Map limited prints. Lewes Map is a hand drawn map of Lewes by illustrator and designer Malcolm Trollope-Davis, who is also my husband and business partner.
It was always my dream to have a shop, so with our own prints and collection of Lewes Map products, I set up a small online shop. Since then we have come a long way and what started as an idea has grown into a small business. Last year I added a beautiful curated collection of handcrafted products sourced from designers, makers and artists, which include hand thrown ceramics, handmade homewares and accessories, jewellery, small batch organic beauty products, prints, books, independent magazines and cards.
What does a typical day involve?
I start my working day with a coffee at 9am, just after school drop off. Apart from emails and admin, dealing with orders, I spend a lot of my time promoting our shop on social media and Pinterest. Building a good online presents is key, so people can find you.
I also spend time listing new products to the shop, sourcing new products and working on special collaborations. Most of the artists and makers I work with I’ve met through Instagram. It’s such an inspirational platform and where I connect with my likeminded community.
I love photography and creating content for our social media accounts and website. I photograph and edit all of our product shots, product flatlays and other visuals. I only use natural light for my photography and the theme is always nature inspired. I love telling the story of our brand through my pictures. It’s so much fun when I have time to be creative in my studio.
I also liaise with our suppliers for our own products, e.g. all of our tea towels are screen- printed and hand sewn in the UK. During busy periods, like the run up to Christmas, I also have to work evenings.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Our online shop reflects timeless quality, and we source handcrafted products directly from makers and designers who share our love for simple and functional as well as beautiful design. It’s important to us that our customers cherish and love what they buy from our shop.
I work from my studio, where I take most of my product shots, including product flatlays using nature finds. They always remind me of our adventures to woodlands and trips to the beach. I also prepare and send our orders from here. Each one is gift wrapped in our own paper made from recycled sources and then carefully packed using 100% biodegradable materials. Receiving a gift or something you bought for yourself should feel very special. So attention to detail is really important to us.
When I’m not working I love morning runs on the South Downs or coastal walks. Oh, and we recently acquired an allotment in Lewes, which we absolutely adore. We love spending family time there.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
As a small online shop it’s hard for people to find us. We have to be constantly on the ball. Social media and Pinterest play a big part in getting the word out, increasing our brand awareness and generating sales. Our aim is to convince people to shop independently and move towards a more responsible consumerism, even if it means spending a little more on an item than something they buy on the high street. In return our customers receive a personal service and a handmade product they can cherish.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
We hope to grow as recognisable independent brand and introduce our customers to inspiring collaborations, designers and makers. We’re about to launch our new map of Brighton, hand drawn by Malcolm, which is very exciting. Oh, and maybe a brick and mortar shop here in Lewes sometime in the future…
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Running your own business can be a tough and a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times. Keep going and ask for help if you need it. Connect with your community! There are many networking groups for creative business owners out there, for example ‘One Girl Band’ in Brighton. Or you can join Twitter Hours, like #JustaCard and #HandmadeHour, and you can join Facebook groups. I’ve met some wonderful people that way. We support and help each other, which is invaluable.
If you sell products online make sure you use good quality photos of your products. I also find Pinterest absolutely essential in driving traffic to my online shop, which has increased my sales. My friend Georgie and I have set up ‘Social Pow Wow’ to support small and creative businesses. Our site is packed with Pinterest tips for small and creative businesses.
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?
Yes, I did! What a great ethos and message! Even if it’s just a card! All purchases, no matter how small, add up and keep our independent businesses alive. It’s sad to see any of these businesses closing their doors online and on the high street. It’s so vital to spread the word!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It’s very important to me! I run a small independent business and make a living from selling our own handmade products and prints, and those of other artists and makers. If we can’t sell them we lose our income. I love how we can support each other and use the Just A Card campaign as a platform.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
I discovered ‘Just A Card’ on Twitter. I’m sure it was during their Thursday Twitter hour, which I love and join in most weeks. I’ve also just purchased my JAC pin! I use Instagram and Twitter, but we also have a page on Facebook. Oh, and can’t live without Pinterest!
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I’ve been sharing the Just A Card message on my Instagram account and blog. It’s so important that the community grows, keeps spreading awareness and encourages people to buy from independent shops, galleries and makers. It really can make all the difference. It’s also helpful to like and comment on Instagram, retweet and share on Twitter, and generally support each other so we can keep doing what we love!