Somerset Life finds out that starting a new business can be rewarding in these tough times
PUBLISHED: 09:17 07 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:35 20 February 2013
Becky Peabody set up a novel stationery design business, Dots and Spots four years ago. <br/>As a busy mum of two small children and working part time as a teacher, finding the time to devote to her art was never easy.
Starting up your own enterprise in these difficult times can be a rewarding business, as Becky Peabody discovered...
Words by: Jo Sheldrake
Becky Peabody set up a novel stationery design business, Dots and Spots four years ago.
As a busy mum of two small children and working part time as a teacher, finding the time to devote to her art was never easy. Becky has always had a talent for art and design, particularly in the medium of collage.
It really is quite simple, all I do all day, is basically rip up bits of paper, says Becky. The basis of the design is made from ripped and torn paper which are layered to create a unique and vibrant piece of artwork and then outlined in pen to give each piece a definition. This creates a template which is used to print from.
After years of making cards and pieces of artworks for friends and family, she was encouraged by a close friend to design a set of greeting cards and postcards to print and sell. In May 2008, I took the plunge and started designing! It was then important to find a local printer that I could trust and could help and advise me on this aspect of the business. One of my top tips to anyone starting out in business would be to work with local suppliers and experts who will see you as more than a number on a balance sheet and help you to grow as a business.
In order to keep the unit costs down, print runs had to be large and it wasnt long before every spare space in the house was filled with a box of cards or envelopes!
Selling the cards was the next challenge and Becky was soon an established member of the craft fair circuit, selling at events in Wells, Shepton Mallet and Rode, amongst others. Sales were encouraging and Becky approached a few shops in mid-Somerset towns to see if they would stock her cards. Once again, she was overwhelmed by the support she got from other Somerset businesses: Maddie Browns of Wells and the Golden Goose in Frome were my first retail stockists. But they were more than just stockists as they gave me advice and encouragement, helped me understand what a retail buyer was looking for and introduced my range to colleagues who ran shops in other towns.
Somerset is a great place to do business, plus the beauty of its towns and landscape give me the perfect inspiration for my work.
Slowly, the Dots and Spots brand was becoming established and known.
The next stage was to embark on building a website! When the website was built, I was a little nervous as to how I would cope with all the orders that would come flooding in laughs Becky. In reality, it took several weeks before the website took its first order, and it remained very much a trickle for some time.
I realised that, whilst there was a huge potential marketplace on the world wide web, no-one actually knew that Dots and Spots existed. So I turned to social media, launching a blog, a FaceBook page and embracing Twitter. Using these tools I was able to reach a wide audience and they have undoubtedly been beneficial in helping to grow the brand.
The business established and sales growing, confirmed that the product was indeed being embraced by the the public. The next step was to find more retailers and someone suggested exhibiting at a trade show, which would attract a lot of retail buyers.
It was a big step recalls Becky. It cost a significant sum to exhibit and there was no guarantee that it would pay for itself. But, with hindsight, it is perhaps the single most important step I took, securing orders from shops across the UK. And, on returning from the show with a full order book, it quickly became apparent that Beckys lovely home could no longer house Dots and Spots and she took rented a unit in The Anglo Trading Estate a magnificent former brewery building in Shepton Mallet that is home to a diverse range of businesses. However, her studio remains in the family home, allowing her to design when she can, around the demands of family life.
Working from this studio in the foothills of the Mendips, Becky continues to draw inspiration from her country style of living and her business is steadily growing, now supplying over 400 retailers across the UK as well as growing online customers.
Running a business is great fun, but also hard work, she says. With all the support and help Ive received on my exciting journey, Ive come to discover that Somerset is a great place to do business, plus the beauty of its towns and landscape give me the perfect inspiration for my work.