Posted on 3 Comments

And now the real work begins…

I know.

I haven’t posted in a while.

It’s been a crazy few weeks, but oh so wonderful!

On Thursday I finally get to wear that cap and gown I’ve worked so hard for, my degree finished. I’ve still got library books to hand in (typical) and being so last minute I still don’t know what time I have to be at the university. But I’m a few days away from not being a full time student.

Here’s a wee photo of my final project (and me).

As well as the degree I won an award…

And I was one of 11 students chosen to take my exhibition to London to the New Designers show

I met some people with potential opportunities and, well, it’s all been a crazy busy few weeks.

And then it all stopped.

Now I have to earn a living. I’ve applied for a couple of part time jobs to keep the money coming in, and the little I have left after exhibiting in London I’m putting into adding a shop onto this website, so excuse the next few weeks as I try out various looks and slowly add items, I’m still trying to figure out how to add postage to the listings.

Have a gander at the shop, let me know what you like and what you don’t like. Give me a few suggestions if you have them. And wish me luck trying to make it in the real world!

Posted on 2 Comments

Finding your Social mission

Why do you do what you do?

What makes you tick? What is at the very heart of your passion?

These are the questions I’ve been asking in order to find my Social Mission, the deepest Why? Of my business.

Keep asking “Why?”

Recently I was told if I want to get to the root of why I’m here I need to keep asking Why?

I’m looking at a business where my profits go towards running craft and art classes for homeless people

Why?

Because I want to build confidence in homeless people

Why?

Because I don’t think they see their value. I don’t think others see that they have a value.

Why?

Because living on the streets makes you feel worthless

(Some Whys can be more specific – you might need a critical friend for this)

Why homeless people?

Because everyone else has something of their own

(If you hit a wall try backtracking)

Why art and craft?

Because it’s what I know…

…because everyone can draw or make something…

Why?

Because people appreciate art & crafts
When you’ve been beaten down its hard to accept love for yourself, it’s easier to accept appreciation for what you do rather than who you are.

Maybe learning to be appreciated for what you make is the first step towards accepting appreciation for who you are. 

Why is it important to accept appreciation?

Because maybe, if you can accept that others love and appreciate you, the next step is loving and appreciating yourself.

Why is that important?

Because, can we really change for the better if we don’t love ourselves?

Because I know what damage hating yourself can do.

I believe change comes from a belief in self worth.

I believe that art & crafts can be learnt by everyone.

I believe that creating space for arts and crafts can be the starting point.

In my own situation, life started to change when I met people who believed in me, but it was only when I learned to believe in myself that life changed permanently.

I believe if I can create an art space where everyone is accepted then lives can begin to change.

If I can show people who feel worthless, their value, I can begin to turn the tide of lives wasted.

If I can begin to change a few lives, we can change the world.

Posted on 1 Comment

Costing your Craft

Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 14.56.19.pngOne question us crafters ask a lot is how much?

How much should we charge?

I know, as a knitter & crocheter, the feeling of despair when someone asks me how much an item is thinking it will be cheap since it’s knitted.

Or they look at a doll I’ve crocheted and think, since there’s not much wool in the doll it should be cheap.

I’ve been pondering whether my craft stall should include a sign suggesting customers consider the hours it took to knit before telling me their gran could make them one for a lot less, but I don’t want to put off the customers who are appreciative of the costs.

It sounds harsh, but one lesson I’m learning is to not to be too concerned with the passers-by (I won’t call them customers) who just want a look and moan. Those people who think they’re doing you a favour by informing you the going rate for a Primark knitted hat is pennies compared to your hand knitted fair isle beanie.

You can, if you choose to, spend your time discussing the merits of buying Primark acrylic, machine made hats, sewn in a mass market system in foreign parts. You can educate them on the luxury of Shetland wool, the crofters who benefit from them buying a pure wool product, the environmental benefit of buying a product that hasn’t had to fly halfway across the world. These people will probably be quite happy to chat, even seem interested. But I’m learning to let the comments fly and smile quickly before turning to look for a potential customer that doesn’t need educating.

I sound harsh, I know I do. But if a customer is happy to wear a cheap acrylic mass produced hat, then they’re probably not a customer of hand made crafts and educating them won’t change that. Besides I’m paying a hell of a lot for my education, why should they be educated for free.

Simply put, I’m working on my craft stall to seek customers.

That said, if someone seems genuinely interested in why I charge what I do I’d like to know I can justify my pricing and have them see my product as something to be valued.

Still, there are always new crafters wondering how to price an item and I thought it might be nice to go through just one way to decide how to price your item.

Some years ago I wrote a blog post about making a polymer clay notebook pendant, here’s a link

Makey Make – Polymer Clay Notebook

Rather than reveal costings for some new item I thought it would be nice to go through the process of costing the notebook.

Stage 1 – Listing your products

As you make an item, go through EVERY item you use in the making process

MATERIALS – white polymer clay, 0.80mm silver wire x 2″, jump rings x 2, silver chain

Then the tools you use

TOOLS – Pens, Steel DPN, Pliers, wire cutters, work board, pasta machine, cutting blade, oven, timer, baking tray,

You also have your essentials

Heating, electricity, lighting, rent

Lastly you have your time

Once you have your list you need to work out how much of each material you use

This can take some time and working out and I’m going to estimate my pricing here so don’t use it as gospel.

COSTINGS FOR A CLAY NOTEBOOK NECKLACE

I estimate I could make 32 pendants from 1 block of clay. It’s £1.90 for a block of clay so using a calculator I work out £1.90 divided by 32 = 0.0593 per pendant

Do this for every item.

Clay = 0.0593

Wire = 0.0220 (need to check sterling silver prices from one of many silver suppliers)

Jump rings = 0.0299 (for sterling silver bought in bulk of a 1000)

Silver chain = £1.38 (Sterling silver chains on Ebay can be bought quite cheaply and I’ve estimated from someone selling them in bags of 20 so it’s worth considering getting sterling silver over cheaper metal)

£1.46 for each sterling silver necklace – you can make it cheaper by using a base metal, but customers will probably be more willing to buy an item advertised as sterling silver than silver plated.

Necklace total so far = £1.46

Next your tools, you are not replacing your tools after each product but you need to consider the wear and tear and eventual replacement. This will vary on what the item is, my wire cutters are heavy duty ones and I expect will last many years, my oven is a cheap mini oven but I still expect a couple of years out of it, my markers probably last me a year or two. (I have a mini oven for clay because polymer clay gives off a toxic fume when baking, if you do a lot of clay it is best to not bake clay and food in the same oven!)

Work out an amount of money to add to the price to cover the cost of wear and tear to tools. This is impossible to get accurate and we’re talking fractions of pennies rather than pounds here, I’ll estimate 5p towards wear and tear

Necklace total so far = £1.51

Next is the essential things you need like lighting, heating, having a room to work in, again it’s not much, and if you have a meter in your house you could work out how much electricity you use in one hour, but again, it’s pennies rather than pounds. I’ll estimate 10p

Necklace total so far – £1.61

Finally time. The national living wage in the UK is £7.20 for over 24, and less for a younger person, but are you the kind of employer who only pays the living wage. There is a lot of benefit in paying staff well. Also think, are you happy working for £7.20 an hour, if you are  then this is your rate, but I’m not. I would like to pay £10 an hour, it’s quite a bit more, but if I need help it would be on a one-off basis maybe a few hours a month and that’s a bit unreasonable to expect someone to drop everything for a few hours work for less than a tenner. My rate is £10 an hour.

I reckon, working in a conveyor belt system where I make the white notebook squares, then make the spirals, then the chains, which is quicker than making one necklace at a time, I might estimate 20 an hour. This means £10 divided by 20 to get my wage cost = 50p

Necklace so far = £2.11

This isn’t everything though, you have packaging, are you going to put the necklace in a more expensive box? are you going to make a card display (add time for making the displays) are you just going to hang them on a display and put them in a paper bag.

It’s worth taking a long time looking at packaging as sometimes it’s the packaging that sells the item rather than the item itself. I once worked in a staff canteen in London where we had our sandwiches made and delivered by a big catering company. One morning we received the wrong order and got the sandwiches meant for Harrods.

Same sandwiches, made with the same products by the same workers in the same factory, but because of the packaging and name on the sandwich there was a considerable cost difference.

Since I’m budgeting for a sterling silver necklace, I’m going to budget for a nice but simple cardboard jewellery box. The company has a discount for buying larger quantities so I buy 100 boxes at 16p each (boxes don’t go out of date and I can use them for other items I make)

Total cost of necklace £2.27

This is my base rate. The cost at which I neither make or lose money

Next I want to work out my wholesale rate, this is up to you. Some companies (name brand handbag companies are notorious for this) may decide to add a huge margin. I decide a profit of 100% for wholesale making the necklace £4.54 for wholesale.

Thinking about this I might be sneaky here and round the price up to £5 each, with a bulk buy option of £4.50 each if the shop buys more than 10. That’s up to you, but the whole point of wholesale is to sell more in one place.

Next is Retail price, generally between 40% and 100%

If I charge 100% for retail the necklace will be £9.08. Round it up or down to £9 or £10 and you have the price you charge your customers.

Some people will be wondering whether they should add more money on when they sell on internet shops like Etsy who charge a small fee and Paypal who also charge a small fee (neither companies are working for free and need their cut too). Again, that’s up to you, but I count this into my retail fee, since a shop will have their bills taken our of the retail fee.

It’s also worth asking, if you sell to a shop and they retail the item at £9, is it fair to ask your customers to pay £10 because you have added fees for Etsy and Paypal?

Another question is postage and packaging, do you charge for this?

Again, look at the profit margins and where your customers are and decide for yourself. It might be 80p to post an item in the UK, so making UK postage free is enticing to customers, but if your online shop reaches an American customer the postage might end up as £6 and suddenly offering free postage is losing you money.

Finally, when you have gathered all this information, look again at the price and the item. Would you pay £10 for a sterling silver necklace and handmade pendant in a small jewellery box?

“Hell Yeah” then go ahead and make lots more

“Nah” then look again at the item you want to make, can it be made cheaper? can you buy materials in bulk and cut costs? are your profits too high? it may be that the item is just not worth making to sell and you need to look for something else to make and sell.

I hope this helps, and although I’ve estimated the costings I hope it might inspire some crafters to think about choosing a higher quality material or even inspire a crafter to decide to think about selling their own items.

 

 

Posted on 1 Comment

The Loneliness of the long-distance Crafter – EPY Week 8

A few years ago I was visiting some friends for the weekend. On the Sunday we went to their church, the guy leading the service spoke about loneliness and commented that some people can go for days without seeing another person.

My friends live in a christian community, so being alone is something they don’t often experience, but one friend found the thought of being without other people quite shocking.

I’ve lived alone for a very long time, yeah, I really am just too choosy. 

After all these years I couldn’t imagine sharing my space with someone else… nope, can’t imagine it, my mind won’t even go there.

All the years living in hostels and that little bedsit in London I dreamed of one day having a place of my own, to live on a ‘normal’street. I’d buy myself a teapot, fancy cups and matching milk and sugar bowl and although I would live alone, my home would be filled with people dropping by for cups of tea and a chat.

I’ve been in my nice little flat for seven years now and although the teapot has been bought, it’s yet to be used. I imagined my parents dropping me off at home after a day out and coming in for a cup of tea, or church friends popping over, neighbours stopping by. My home would be a place where the kettle was always brewing.

Over the years though, as my parents drop me off and drive away, and church people live in posher houses than I could offer, and a neighbourhood where we talk on the doorstep but no further I’ve kind of given up on that little dream and got on with things, hey at least I’ve no reason to clean up so often.

I’ve gone out and met people instead, volunteering, going to knitting groups, being a part of Poverty Truth, going to Uni and well, getting out there.

Then I started this enterprise year.

So, now I work alone as well.

Up until this point I’ve managed to continue the one weekly event where I get to go to my knitting group and spend an evening chatting to friends, but as from next week, that evening is taken over with business lectures I need to attend.

I’ve spent a lot of the past few days working at home, finishing craft kits and making videos. Sitting here this afternoon I have realised I’m about to hit a tough patch and need to plan ahead.

As from today, I have no allotted slot in my timetable where I get to sit down with another human being that I like and chat rubbish. I wouldn’t ever put me down as someone who gets lonely, I rather like my own company, but the thought of working alone and living alone is getting a little worrying.

It’s not that I’m never going to see people, I work in an office with others, but we’re all working on our own projects. I get in, turn on the computer, put my headphones on and work. When I do have a break it’s a quick break and if I chat, it’s small  pleasantries.

On Sunday I go to church, people say good morning and ask how I am, but before you know it the service has started. Then we’re having a cup of tea and everyone’s leaving for lunch. Again, there’s no time to really get to know anyone.

Then at home, well, the cat can only hold conversations about food and sleeping. 

Thankfully, I saw this bump in the road coming and am thinking of a plan, what do you think?

I have two knitting groups I can go to, but these are monthly and I they’re groups where we are learning a new skill rather than a chance to sit and chat. I need to find a group, or start one. I’ve been thinking about a knitting group on a Sunday afternoon, but am looking for a venue to hold one.

University starts again next week, I have a few friends starting their final year and I need to make sure we meet for lunch at least once a week.

I need to make the effort to get to know others in the office, although we’re mostly working on our own business ideas. I red to remove my headphones a bit more and talk to others.

Lastly, I need to get that teapot from the cupboard and forget about waiting for people to come to my home and brew the pot just for me.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Progress of Plodding on – EPY week 5

I sat down to write my now regular post about the EPY week, for about 30 minutes I’ve sat here thinking, what happened this week?

Bank Holiday weekend was awful, as usual, we had constant downpours and the strange hot but rainy weather that often leaves me with a migraine, and what a migraine, by Monday I was fed up of it all. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t have any plans for the bank holiday, but I felt it was a weekend wasted. There is just something downright unfortunate about being ill on your day off, so to make up for it I took Tuesday off but more of a recuperation day rather than a fun day.

Wednesday I went into the EPY office and went to the first group meeting. I remember being asked about the cost of a doll and kicking myself for not being more confident in stating the price, but on the whole the day went by largely uneventful and perhaps I was still getting over the three day migraine (honestly, it was the worst one I’ve had in a very long time).

Wednesday evening I got home to a letter from my housing office informing me that I owed so much rent that I had 7 days to pay or I was going to court. So Thursday I spent the day gathering evidence and making phone calls and eventually a trip to the housing office to find out that a mistake had been made and I’m not going to be faced with eviction after all.

Friday I went to Harrogate for the Great Northern Quilting show, I’m calling it a ‘research’day rather than a fun day out. Honestly, I was researching craft kits!

Well, the week ended with fun at least.

So here I am, sitting here thinking of something useful or interesting to say… 

Nothing.

But then I realised that there are still little excitements to share.

A couple of long awaited packages to put some craft kits together arrived. Lots of little online changes to websites that are finally starting to give me an online presence I’m a bit happier about. Several conversations with a supplier that finally tracked down the exact buttons I want and have been trying to find for months.

There hasn’t been any huge eureka moments this week, no leaving the office feeling my life changing before my eyes, but maybe this is what having your own business (or even a happy life) is about. The daily plodding on that eventually leads to a business connection you’ve been after. The final email of a week long conversation that finally seals the deal. 

People talk about the light at the end of the tunnel and that light should arrive on Wednesday (Monday and Tuesday I’m in London) This proverbial light is the butt of jokes, the description of the afterlife and the hope of many. Yet, little is said about the journey to the light, the long road to the eventual conclusion.

Well, this post is beginning to sound like a sermon so I’ll say what they say at church.

In conclusion…

What I’ve learnt this week is that running a business isn’t always a continual celebration of enormous achievements. The most biggest acheivements this week have come from the long constant plod through the dark tunnel, and in business, as in life. I need to enjoy the darkness, the everyday and the long steady plod a lot more than I do.

Amen. 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Elevator Pitch – EPY week 3

An elevator pitch is a short description of what your business is about, supposedly short enough to say in the time a lift goes to the next floor (because we all talk to people in lifts), well, maybe not, but we might meet someone who could help us along the journey only to find we don’t have time to go into the details but need to grab their attention.

This is actually quite a useful and important thing to have ready when you think about it. Our little business is something we put our heart and soul into it and we can sit for hours talking about the details and inspirations, but reality is, we don’t have business leaders getting their secretaries to phone us up and book an hours appointment at the local coffee shop to talk about my dreams. Reality is, we might actually be standing at the elevator when we realise the person standing next to me is that one investor or business person that could give me a helping hand along the way. We literally have a few sentences.

The Enterprise team have a simple template to follow for writing your pitch.

1. Who is behind the company? (What is the company Values?)

2. What is my product?

3. What are the key benefits?

4. Who is my market?

5. What is my competition and how do I differ?

One mind map later I was ready to start writing, and this is what I came up with…

Betty Virago is a traditional doll maker who provides dolls, doll making supplies and workshops to inspire the current and future generations of doll makers.

Unlike mass produced dolls that often come with unobtainable bodies and overly made up faces, our soft bodied natural looking dolls are made to look like the children who might own them.

Our materials, where possible, are locally sourced, keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible and our techniques blend both old and new skills to create dolls suitable for boys as well as girls.

Aren’t you pleased?

I think it’s quite a nice bit of writing, it says what I’m planning on doing, and yet…

I just couldn’t imagine my down-to-earth self speaking this well thought out worded speach to a friend, never mind a stranger. It feels rather cold, not at all something I’d want to listen to.

But what could I say?

What do I do?

I make dolls.

But saying I make dolls just kept bringing images of zombie boys “I like turtles” comment.

This is where I’m starting to see the value of a business plan. A document that forces me to consider every aspect of my business and forcing me to sit down and pull out all the ideas I’m used to keeping in my head and examine each one.

What do I want to do?

Make dolls and share doll making skills with others

Why?

Because there is just something magical in making a doll for someone over buying a mass produced doll.

There is something special in having a doll, made just for you, and something magical in the relationship between child and doll.

Now how do I put that into words?

I’ve never put much thought into a business plan before, I know what I want so why do I need to write it down? It’s all here in my head. the truth is, I’ve tried writing them, but I come to the money section and get stuck. How do I forecast my finances?

The elevator pitch might not be a word for word statement I pour out at any stranger I meet, but it has forced me to get the plan on paper. I know what I want, but keeping it just in my mind hasn’t done me any favours. Getting the plan down on paper, seeing it in black and white, and really thinking about it has shown me new places I can take my goals, and helped me cut back on the parts of the dream that just weren’t working.

Posted on Leave a comment

The creatives office – EPY week 2

The EPY (Enterprise Year) gives me an office type place of work in Huddersfield, which I aim to work from four days a week. It’s a nice office, quite empty at the moment because many of the other students are still on summer holidays. It also forces me to move from home and play mode to office and work mode.

On the down side, being a creative person, it’s not the most inspiring environment. The colour scheme is very grey, light brown and a touch of muted green. I don’t ‘get’ the hot desking thing. Since it’s everyones nature to sit at the same desk everyday, this idea that we can use any desk seems pointless. There’s nothing personal to identify me as an individual. There’s no plants, no sound, I’ve taken to wearing headphones, even though there’s not always something playing on them. There’s nothing to say “I Was Here”.

I’ve never had a ‘desk job’, I’ve worked in kitchens, restaurants, hotels, hostels, day centres, clubs, even worked at the Magic Circle (Now that’s an interesting workplace!) I always thought I’d hate working in an office, and I’m finding out that it’s true.

A few months ago I had a meeting at the Electric Works in Sheffield, a similar office type place, but with one major difference, a three storey metal slide. It was a long, tough day. Discussing the effects of poverty is never easy and some of us were struggling to see hope by the end of the meetings. A few tears had been shed, frustrations shared, anger, hurt, and despair. What a sorry bunch we were. However, when it was all over we got in the lift and rode to the top floor, then one by one, got on a slide and… well, the video will show you what happened.

My main frustration about having the office space is that it forces me to be organised more than I imagined. But its a good frustration.

I feel as though I have two workspaces, the office in Huddersfield and my creative space in Leeds. I can’t say I’ll spent the morning on paperwork then the afternoon on making things because the commute between the two is too long. I can’t face a dull paper work hour and follow it with a bit of creating because my creating tools are in Leeds. Most frustrating is that I can’t come up with an idea in the office and immediately grab the wool to see if it would work.

I bring a stuffed backpack with me everyday, filled with things I might need to get me through the day and every morning I leave behind a small pile of things I just can’t fit into the bag.

Not all is lost though. This office, plain as it is, is forcing me to sit and write blogs more regularly, it’s forcing me to finally get serious about the workings of my own business. It’s like the skeleton of the business, forcing me to gather my facts on similar business ideas, forcing me to face the financial costs of business.

Lets face it, if I had an office space within 50 feet of my creative space I’d spend my days distracting myself with pretty knits. Sure, I’d make a lot more stock to sell (or would I?), but the backbone, researching the costs of competitors, looking into toy safety laws, being realistic about pricing, those things that will keep a business standing in the long run, those very important things just wouldn’t get done.

It’d be nice to have a plant though, or some fish… cats! what about cats in the office while you work? I like the idea of finishing everyday with a slide, but then… how many days of sliding would it take before that was no longer special? If the extraordinary became ordinary where would we go next?

Perhaps, on reflection, having a slide in the office might not be as fantastic as it seems. I like the sense of fun that a slide brings, but having it everyday would make it ordinary, and that might make it a chore, and adding one more chore to my to do list just takes the enjoyment out of it.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Taking the scenic route – EPY week 1

Friday, the end of my first week on the Enterprise Year.

I started off my week telling people that I wanted to have a business making dolls, two days later I knew one thing, I’m not spending the year making dolls.

Just as a supermarket wouldn’t describe themselves as a milk seller, what I want to do is so much more than doll making, but what exactly?

In between talks about managing my time, being creative, even a trip to a pipe cleaning business I’ve been trying to sum up what exactly I want this business of mine to do/be. Listening to people talk about their own business ideas, and success stories, slowly getting ideas in my own mind and then BANG!

Like a marathon runner hitting a wall on the 23rd mile, I hit my wall on Wednesday evening.

Not so much a physical wall, rather a feeling that my head was full. I’d heard enough and couldn’t take in one more single piece of information. So I went to bed.

I’ve said before that I’m a voice hearer, which means (at least for me) that having to concentrate on one person talking is really difficult. That’s why I usually have my knitting with me, it distracts the inner voices enough for me to concentrate. But being in a new environment I wasn’t sure how people would react to me knitting while they spoke about their love and passion for their business, so I didn’t knit, and it was terrible.

By Wednesday night I had had enough, I needed rest, and yet, lying in bed I was wide awake. At 1am, I got up went into the kitchen looked in the fridge, then got back in bed. 2am, I opened the window to let some fresh air in. 3am I closed the window because a neighbour had worried me with tales of being robbed. 4am, I turn audible on and listened to a travel book. At 4.30am I woke (yep, I fell asleep) with an idea for business, I wrote it down then tried to sleep again, at 5am I began my swearing stage where the cat sat patiently listening to my rendition of “Why can’t I get the £&$% to sleep?”

Thursday was a tired nightmare, I was the nightmare to those around me, although my idea of what to do with a pipe cleaner was one of the winners and I got a £25 Amazon voucher.

I really need to get my knitting out… I really need to bite the bullet and let the other people know I might knit while they are talking and please don’t think it’s because I’m not interested.

This morning I woke feeling a little deflated. Still a lot of things camping in my brain, but the worst was the feelings that I couldn’t do this. I looked on Facebook, not my usual routine but someone had shared a video called Things people with Down’s Syndrome are tired of hearing. I suggest you have a watch.

The comment I loved is just one minute in. A mother with a young child answering the question, Will she be able to do things?

“Yes, she’ll be able to do everything, it’s just we’ll take the scenic route”

And so, I started my day, still a bit tired, getting a migraine, feeling like screaming or running, wanting to work away from people for a while, wishing the open office had more walls, needing to find ways to work in an environment that makes me feel paranoid, knowing that I need to find ways to work that complement my mental illness rather than destroy my passion… looking for the scenic route.

 

Posted on 1 Comment

The “I Told You” lists

So, here we are. Sunday I was a student, today I am a business owner.

I’m sitting here, with a mixture of expletives and tears, a bit in awe and a bit overwhelmed.

Some of you were there in person back in 2013, when I stood in front of 400+ business leaders and civic leaders and gave my little speech about wanting to be self employed, for those of you who weren’t (and a chance to plug Leeds Poverty Truth again)

Here it is:

It’s a long video, and I urge you to watch it through at some point, but for now, fast forward to me, 45mins in.

Since that video, I’ve been at University and am starting my third year, which is when you can become an intern for the year. Instead of working for someone else though, I applied for the University Enterprise year. A whole year with one goal, finally setting up that business.

A couple weeks ago I sat with my university support worker, and was telling her of my worries about running my business, it came down to this… People say I can’t do it.

People since that speach, people recently, have told me I can’t do it… Mentally you wouldn’t manage it… You’re not capable of the organisation you would need… You wouldn’t cope with the loneliness of self-employment… 

My support worker told me that she knew people with mental illnesses who have a successful business and it got me thinking, Who are they?

Then whilst browsing through Pinterest a few days ago I saw this story about Thomas Edison.

This got me thinking. I need a list of people who have succeeded when people have told them they wouldn’t.

I don’t know how my year is going to end and I’m concerned that there is no disability support from university this year. I have to be more aware of my health especially when I have good ‘well-meaning’ friends who I’ve allowed to rent negative space in my mind. 

I sat through a business talk this morning and could feel things start to crumble, voices returning and where I usually knit to keep myself focused, I had nothing to knit. I also hadn’t warned people that I might knit in a meeting because it helps keep my hearing voices at bay. I could feel myself fidgeting, itching to get up and walk out. Wanting to get fresh air, wanting to shout and run. But I stayed put.

In the afternoon we were visiting a factory, about a fifteen minute walk away, something I usually wouldn’t think I could manage. I thought about backing out of it, but my spirit came through. That annoying spirit that never let me give up when I lost everything, that pulled me through alcoholism, that got me off the streets.

I started near the front of the group and reached the factory behind everyone else, gasping for breath and in pain, only to find I had stairs to climb. I don’t do stairs, that’s how I broke my ankle by falling down stairs. My spine has a twist in it that makes walking straight a bit difficult, I want to walk straight forward, but my spine twists my body slightly making my pathway off-centre, stairs can be frightening because if I suddenly veer to the right I can fall. 

I walked up the stairs and a new friend (see I’ve made friends already) pointed me to a chair and told me to sit down and rest. I refused, “that’d be like giving up”.

I came home tonight and got out two cards, one pink and one blue. I wrote the words “I told you…” On each one and have pinned them on my wall, next to my desk.

On the blue card I’m going to write people I come across who did what they’ve been told they couldn’t do. People like Thomas Edison. Every time I see that list of names I’m thinking, “I told you, if they can do it, so can I”

On the pink card I’ve put the names of those people who say I can’t do this. At the moment this list is longer, and I hope people who read my blogs can help change that by telling me about people they know who have overcome the odds.

The pink card also says I told you… To them I say, I told you I could do it. Today I walked further than I’ve walked in years, I came home and organised some knitting so I can get through any difficult meetings tomorrow.

One day I might just get a chance to try another little dream of mine, to be a motivational speaker. If that ever happened then this would be my message: To those who say it can’t be done I say this,

“Just watch me”.

Posted on 2 Comments

A little Word of Mouth

When the 5p plastic bag charge came in force in November I was in two minds.

It could cut down on waste but being the unorganised shopper that I am, I rarely remember to bring a bag (actually I now keep 2 bags in my rucksack but forget they are there) and I could imagine my groceries going sky high with several 5p bags adding up.

The first day the charge came in I was in Currys, the electrical shop, in Huddersfield. Perusing (my big word for the week) the aisles for yet another set of headphones and close enough to the till to overhear a conversation.

An elderly man was at the till buying an item, he paid and was handed back his small item, minus one bag. The gentleman seemed a little put out and asked why he didn’t get a bag. The young shop assistant told the man he needed to ask for a bag because they were 8p.

8p?

Yep. It was the first day the charges came into force and this elderly man didn’t know about the new charge for carrier bags. Surely this shop could have been a little flexible, I mean, they’re getting 3p extra on every bag sold. One free bag with an explaination isn’t going to send the planet into an immediate spiral downwards.

Let’s face it, elderly men are not known for being shop savvy, many are used to leaving the shopping to their wives. My dad (I think he’s ok with me telling you about his funny antics) once went into Ann Summers for a pair of gloves for my mum. The staff were lovely to him and he came out a little while later not understanding why a shop that sells women’s ‘things’ doesn’t sell gloves – not the kind he wanted anyway!

The point is, this gentleman could have been given a bit more help and understanding, but he left I’m sure, not fully understanding what the 8p was for or why he was being asked for it, and I’m pretty certain the next time he wants a pack of batteries he’ll be buying elsewhere.

Yesterday I was in TK Maxx buying a candle. As usual, no bag and for one candle I could have managed, but I knew I was going to other shops so I handed over my candle and asked for a carrier bag as well. 5p was added and I put my card in the machine. The assistant found the smallest bag in the store and was putting the candle in it, when I asked for a larger bag. I was refused.

Apparently your 5p only buys you the smallest bag needed for the item you buy. A larger bag would be too big for my one item, so I wouldn’t be allowed the larger normal sized bag.

I was faced with a dilemma, do I just accept it and buy a second bag in the next store – making me spend 10p and have an extra tiny bag I couldn’t use again (my bags get used as bin liners) or do I save my purse and environment by refusing to buy the bag?

I said I didn’t want the bag, but was told it was too late, I’d already bought the bag. I know this is going to sound ridiculous and petty, but I then insisted I be refunded 5p for the bag.

I went to the pound store a few shops down and bought a couple of things and a normal sized bag, putting the candle in the pound land bag and advertising for them instead, because that’s the other thing about the plastic bag, it’s advertising.

It went further than that though, I told someone on the bus and we laughed at the stupidity of it all, then after the supermarket in the taxi home, I told the taxi driver and we had another laugh. This morning I managed to laugh with two others about it, and now I’m telling you, and while you might not be laughing, I still am. I also suspect the next time I’m in TK Maxx with just one small item, I just might leave it.


Arriving home last week from my week away I opened my front door to find a little package. I tore off the brown paper and found a Christmas card from a friend and a smaller package wrapped in peach tissue paper, with a peach ribbon and in the centre of the ribbon a small charm with a heart on it. Oooooo, this was looking good. After the tissue paper there was an even smaller organza bag and inside that a bronzed safety pin with five little knitting stitch markers, plus a free gift of a 2015 stitch marker.

She had me at the tissue paper.

It was a Christmas present from a friend, but wrapped by what I assume is a small seller. Charmed Knitting, I went to the website and although I have a lot of stitch markers, I found some more I might buy. I went on her Facebook page and liked it, then I posted the photo on her page and shared it with friends who also knit.

I’ve told about the same number of people about Charmed Knitting as I have about TK Maxx.

In all honesty, I didn’t need the organza bag, and the charm on the ribbon I considered a free gift, so the actual free gift inside was like “oh, another free gift”, but it got me, for one moment thinking how cool it would be to collect stitch markers. Already I was not just thinking, but looking for my next purchase.

There is a man who paints lace bobbins and has a bobbin a month club, wouldn’t it be cool to have a stitch marker of the month club?

Word of mouth, some say, is the most valuable form of advertising you can get. Advertising and repeat customer service can be very expensive, or as cheap as a bit of tissue paper and a bit of ribbon. Just a though!