By Kate Marsden
Another familiar face from the wonderful #justacard hour for you this week (Thursdays 8-9pm – don’t miss it!). Having said that, I think I first came across Laura of The Treasured on #handmadehour or another evening networking chat, and I’ve enjoyed watching her gain confidence with her own work (and Kickstarter campaigns) as well as seeing her support for other designer makers.
Join me as I chat to Laura about her very busy schedule (including animals playing football!) and find out how the Just A Card campaign has helped her personally…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Laura and I run an online shop called The Treasured. It started life in November 2015. I've always wanted to run my own shop and I'd been going through a hard time. As I worked in shopping centre marketing, I knew just how hard bricks and mortar stores were finding it, so I decided that rather than waiting for a magical space (and a shed load of money) to land in my lap, I'd launch online instead.
I launched with a small range of products from indie makers and it was nearly two years later when I was brave enough to release my own designs. I'm slowly growing my own collection of prints, pins and stationery, which nestle amongst jewellery, homeware and more from other British brands.
Whilst I would love to work on The Treasured full-time, unfortunately, I don't earn anywhere near enough from it, so I also have a day job at an agricultural college. I work in the marketing department, looking after all things digital and design. Thankfully, the team at the college are lovely and I feel very lucky to work somewhere so beautiful.
What does a typical day involve?
My day starts at 7am, when I get up ready to start my day job at 8.30am. From then until 5pm, you'll find me designing leaflets, creating social media content (animals playing football anyone), planning campaigns and working at events.
When I get home in the evening, it's on to The Treasured. I'll spend some time (too much time) on Twitter and Instagram, pack up orders and work on new designs. They're all done digitally, but I usually sketch them out first to get a feel for the shapes that I'm after. I've been trying to branch out into a wider range of products lately, so there's lots of research going on behind-the-scenes into manufacturers that might be able to help me with that too.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
There are two main challenges that come to mind for me. Number one is competing with high street retailers on price. There is a very unrealistic expectation from shoppers on how much things should cost. Trying to show customers why they should spend twice as much to get an enamel pin from you versus from Primark (who have ordered millions for pennies) is really difficult.
Which leads me on to number two - getting found! You don't open a shop (online or bricks and mortar) and suddenly get flooded with customers. I'm lucky that I have the knowledge that comes with my job in marketing, but it turns out that marketing a business without a pot of money being handed to you is really hard. When you have to weigh up paying your bills or taking a leap of faith and investing in marketing your business, sadly the bills often come first. I think it's got even more difficult since Facebook and Instagram feeds have changed to priorities posts by your friends and family rather than pages. If you're reading this and there's a small business (or several) that you like, show them some love on social media. Like, comment, share... It makes all the difference!
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Over the next few years, I really want to broaden out my product range. I've started using Kickstarter to help me do this and I've loved adding some enamel pins and notebooks to my collection.
The dream would be for The Treasured to be successful enough to be my full-time job, but that seems like a way off at the moment!
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Cut yourself some slack. Nothing is going to be perfect and it's certainly not going to happen overnight. Instead of comparing yourself to others, find your tribe. Taking part in Twitter hours, joining Facebook groups and joining my local Etsy team (Team Leeds) has introduced me to some wonderful people. Rather than always keeping your cards to your chest, be prepared to open up. You'll find that if you help someone, they'll almost certainly help you back at some point.
The same goes for your customers! You don't need to use the royal we and pretend you're much bigger than you are. The selling point for your business is your personal touch, it's what makes you unique, to share it wherever you can.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
I have so many, but there are some I've been shopping with for years; Yellowstone Art Boutique being top of the list. It's this gorgeous little wooden cabin full of designers, nestled into the beautiful surroundings of the Trentham Estate in Stoke on Trent. Hannah, who founded it, creates beautiful watercolour designs too. Make sure you check out her collection, especially her ceramics.
It was actually Hannah who introduced me to Oh Squirrel, which I also adore. Katie's designs have helped me celebrate many an occasion, from my best friend's hen do to the birth of my godson. I've purchased several stationery kits from Katie as Christmas presents too.
There are some that I've loved from afar too... I've not yet made it to Meggie's in Stow-on-the-Wold or Workshop in Shrewsbury, but I need to. I drool over their Instagram pages on a daily basis. They both have online stores too, but their shops look so pretty I really want to have a mooch around them.
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'll be honest, I didn't realise straightaway. When I discovered the Just A Card campaign I hadn't launched The Treasured. It was when I did that I realised I was happy dancing at all sales, whether they were for a card or a cushion. Each sale really does mean the world and lets me carry on doing what I love, as well as supporting other small businesses to do what they love too.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
The campaign has helped me so much, especially over the last 12 months. Just A Card hasn't just been about helping encourage sales (though it's done that really well), it's also created a support network for me. I've discovered some wonderful small businesses through Just A Card's Twitter hour, who keep me motivated as well as supporting me with sales too. If you need a little more positivity in your life, make sure you follow Tash at Hatchling Makes, Jess at Loadofolbobbins and Jules at Now Then Sunshine on Twitter. They really are the loveliest and create some gorgeous things too.
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?
Given my day job involves a lot of social media, I'm basically on one platform or another all day, every day. In terms of The Treasured, I spend a lot of my time on Twitter, which is how I found out about the Just A Card campaign. You'll regularly find me chatting during Twitter hours throughout the week; #justacard being my favourite of course, but I also enjoy #handmadehour and #indieroller to name but a few.
I had fallen out of love with Instagram and Facebook, but I've rekindled my love for them due to an obsession with Instagram Stories and Facebook groups. (If you are an indie business and you aren't a member of The Rollercoaster of Running an Indie Business Facebook group, join now. You'll learn so much!)
There is one really easy thing that people can do to support Just A Card, aside from purchasing small items from their favourite indie shops of course. You just need to share it with people. Retweet it on Twitter, share posts on your Instagram feed and in Stories, talk about it on Facebook, tell your favourite shops to get stickers in their windows and on their websites... It doesn't matter how you share it, just that you do.