Rocket and Bird
By Kate Marsden
We’re visiting a VERY new shop this week as we head to Taunton in Somerset to meet Susie and Jeanette of Rocket and Bird. They’re very much entering into the Just A Card spirit, and have been proudly shouting about the campaign for some time; in fact the message formed part of their initial business plan! Read on to find out more about their shop and exciting plans for the future…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
We are Susie and Jeanette, makers and creative business owners. Individually we are ‘Rocket & Co.’, paper cut artist and ‘Bird Modern Vintage’, fabric and jewellery designer. Together we are ‘Rocket and Bird’ business partners and gift shop owners.
What does a typical day involve?
We both arrive at the shop at around 9.15 after walking the dogs and dropping the kids at school. We always have a quick catch up in the studio upstairs, get some coffee and set up ready for the shop opening at 10am. We are lucky to have a bright studio space above the shop so we are able to take it in turns to work on our own creations upstairs. This is however easier said than done and when it’s busy in the shop we both tend to stay downstairs and chat with customers.
The plan eventually is for both of us to have half a day downstairs in the shop and half a day upstairs working in the studio. Our day also involves a good deal of social media, admin, product display and planning. We close the shop at 4pm.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
‘Rocket and Bird’ is a unique gift shop selling only the work of Somerset Makers, Artists and Designers. We are located in a beautiful little courtyard in Taunton, the county town of Somerset. We opened our doors at the start of March so we are very new!
We have 25 Somerset Artists, Designers and Makers selling with us, many have been running successful businesses for years and some are very new, selling in a shop for the first time.
Our shop is full of high quality, original products. When refitting the interior of the building we decided on having a blank canvas so painted absolutely everything white. As a result all the gorgeous bright products we have on display really stand out and look fabulous! We are really proud of the range of products we have on offer, from chocolate to tea towels, jewellery to handbags, cushions to candles, greetings cards to mugs… and EVERYTHING has been designed, created or made in Somerset by independent makers and designers.
We hope that people find our shop inviting, friendly, interesting and beautiful and we hope that when people go away they will remember us and think of us when they need an original and unique gift.
When we’re not working both of us enjoy a good rummage in the local charity shops!
We both have gorgeous dogs who need lovely long walks and children who of course need their mums. We purposely set the opening hours of the shop to allow us to keep that important family time. Trips to the coast are always welcome and time with friends is also important. To be honest though we both love what we do and probably spend far too much time ‘working’!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
Getting customers to leave the comfort of their own homes and the habits of shopping online seems like the biggest challenge we are facing at the moment. With people loosing faith in what appears to be the declining high street, they feel that there is nothing worth going in to town for and that is something we are passionate about changing. Ironically our biggest form of advertising our new shop and business has been using the internet and social media platforms… so actually for us the internet has helped us be seen, and people have made the effort to come in and see us and buy from us after following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
We are really pushing the ‘buy local’ message and encouraging customers to support the small independent shops that are what makes our town unique and exciting. We are offering something that cannot be bought on the internet by combining the huge range of locally produced products with the friendly and personable service.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Because we have the studio space upstairs there is so much potential for expanding beyond being just a shop. Part of our business plan involves running workshops from the studio and we envisage these being business workshops for creative businesses to start with. We would love to be a support for the small creative businesses whose work we sell and also offer an informative service for anyone who is just starting their creative business journey.
We are excited about working together in collaboration to produce some ‘Rocket and Bird’ branded products. The shop gives us a great opportunity to test out new ideas on the general public and we’ll look forward to receiving direct feedback to use in developing ideas and products.
We still have a lot to do on our ‘to do list’!! There are various ways of getting word out there about the shop… designing and printing flyers, building the website, various local and national media etc.
We also want to get involved with fundraising for one of our local charities ‘Mind in Somerset’ which is a mental health charity and we have lots of ideas on how we can use the arts and being creative for getting the local community involved and raising money and awareness for the charity.
We aren’t just going to sit in our shop and wait for customers to come to us… we are going to find new ways of letting more people know who and where we are and we are going to remain fresh and exciting for the customers who have been with us right from the very start.
We have so many ideas on how the business can evolve and we’re so excited as we’re just at the very start of our journey.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
If you have the passion and fire inside you to do something, to take the next step, to launch a new business then don’t spend too long thinking about it…. yes you can make plans and it is sensible to do so, but don’t waste too much time thinking about it, you might just miss the perfect opportunity at the perfect time! Your dream doesn’t have to stay a dream, it can become a reality… and if you happen to meet a like-minded person who shares the same dreams, ideas and aspirations then absolutely GO FOR IT!!!
On a practical note we have found the power of networking with local businesses to be invaluable and the support we have received since opening has been overwhelming. We really feel that we are part of a business community among the other independents in Taunton and that is a really lovely feeling.
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, we were aware that the campaign message is to encourage small purchases. We have a number of lower priced items that fall in to this category such as chocolate, pin brooches, earrings and keyrings. We have however chosen to focus the Just A Card campaign message on our ‘card wall’ as we do have such a great selection of them on offer. When customers have asked about the campaign, we explain to them that it could be just a card, just a keyring, just a small purchase.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
We are both “Just a Card warriors” in our own individual businesses and have encouraged shops that we sell in to display the Just a Card poster.
The Just a Card message has been a part of the Rocket and Bird business plan right from the very start! We could visualize the card wall from the very first viewing of the shop and we always wanted to have the campaign logo and message very visible. A conversation with our business advisor when setting up our business banking included a mention of the Just a Card campaign and understanding the importance of encouraging the small sales just as much as the big ones.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
It was a while ago now but I think we both heard about it first on Instagram. Today Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the social media platforms we use most for Rocket and Bird. The #justacard hour on Twitter is one of our favourite hours to take part in and Instagram is a great way to keep up to date with what’s happening with the campaign and to discover new creative talents.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
As a shop we have the ‘Just a Card’ campaign posters, sticker and logo out very clear to see and we wear our Just a Card pins. When people see the pin they often ask about the campaign, and it is great to be able to tell them about the story behind it and the reason why the Just a Card message is so important. So far the message seems to be getting across, and more often than not customers who pop in for a browse will leave with at least a card. It’s a fantastically positive campaign and we love talking about it. Now that we have our shop it is great to have the opportunity and platform to do our bit and help spread the word! We will also encourage customers to follow the Just a Card Instagram and Twitter accounts and pass on the message!