So I admit that before becoming a designer-maker, I really didn’t know much about what goes on behind-the-scenes of small craft businesses. I’d love wandering through independent boutiques and admiring the uniqueness of each product, but still, I didn’t get it. I ashamedly used to think “they’re so expensive”, “that’s not worth the price tag” etc – I rarely committed to buying anything unless it really stole my heart. Now I’ve become a designer-maker, I’m no longer that person and I have a new-found appreciation for others in the same trade and the work that they do because let me tell you, running your own business and stacking up against the big retail giants is bloody hard. So I wanted to write a blog post on the knowledge and facts that changed my whole perception of buying small and hope that it might change yours too…please please if there is anything you do this year, make shopping small businesses ‘your thing’.
NO MASS-PRODUCED ‘CHEAP AS CHIPS’ STUFF HERE
This is a massive one that really riles me up because I see comments from people such as “wow, that’ so expensive, I could get that cheaper from x,y,z shop”, “that’s a rip off”, “what a load of overpriced tat”. The first thing that comes to mind here is 1) are you saying it’s overpriced because you don’t know the costs behind it? Or 2) are you just used to buying mass-produced cheaply made goods that were made in another country for a fraction of the cost? Really, that’s where you are being ripped off. Also, it’s really hurtful for the maker to hear comments like that, please don’t say it. When you buy from a designer-maker small business, you’re not buying from a millionaire who spends his time lounging in the Caribbean, you’re buying from someone who grafts real hard day in-day out to make sure their creations are ‘just right’ and more often than not, they work for much longer than 8 hours per day. I’ve had to pause Emmerdale on more than one occasion to reply for a Facebook message to make sure the customer service provided is bob on. Small businesses owners often don’t have staff working for them, so if you see them grafting at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, chances are it’s the owner themselves.
QUALITY COSTS MONEY
I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but I’m confident that most small businesses don’t scrimp on quality – Hippo & Co. certainly doesn’t. Take our greeting cards for example, they’re priced from £3.50 and I know some people will believe that we are robbing them blind. Let me tell you, I can say wholeheartedly that we are not. When we first decided to do greetings cards we wanted to hit around the £2.50 price margin so that the goods would be reasonably priced and most consumers would be happy to spend their fine English pounds. We – Chris and I (we’re a two person team!) spent AGES looking for top quality card stock suppliers and we couldn’t find anything we were happy to use because ultimately a product represents its brand and to keep a good reputation for top quality, the goods and materials used need to be the bees knees – and we just couldn’t find anything that was up to the job.
Eventually we gave up and settled for a generic company where each greeting card stock would cost around 30p per sheet. When it came to printing for our photo shoot, we realised that we didn’t get the ‘buzzy’ feeling that crafters get when they create a new product, we just felt ‘meh’. So we downed tools and decided to use our most prestigious card stock for greeting cards and we’d score them ourselves. You know what this means? The cost of the sheet costs more than £1 from 30p! And this is without other costs such as the cellophane sleeve, ink, envelope, packing slip, postal packaging, postage costs, time, etc – it all adds up very quickly! So really, our £3.50 price tag means that our profit margins on greeting cards are quite low but the end result is that we get to make some lovely quality goods that our customers will love – and that is worth so much more to us than earning an extra bob or two.
My little business is primarily a print making business and I design and create each and every one of them. The thing that upsets me the most is when I hear people saying that the price is too high because “it’s just a piece of paper”, please excuse me whilst I go and bang my head against a brick wall… Ok, on a serious note, I understand why they have that perception… Most of us for every day use buy paper in bulk – standard printer paper that can be picked up for about 500 sheets for £4…if you buy from a proper designer-maker (and by that, I mean not from a cheap ‘copy cat’ trader on Facebook or eBay) than the paper supplies will be so much more expensive than you think. When we first bought our stock, Chris exclaimed “If someone had of told me a few years ago that I’d spend £700 in one go on paper then I’d say they were bonkers” …and I’ll leave it at that.
I think some people look at a product for what it is – and let’s be honest, the base product of a print is, well, a piece of paper. But that’s not what you’re buying and I think a lot of people don’t realise all of the hidden costs involved in order to produce a high quality print. Things like ink (which may I add is way more expensive than home printer ink, our printer uses 10 different ink cartridges to create our prints…10!), packaging, font licenses, little touches like twine, stickers and labels often get forgotten about. Also, I’m just going to whisper this and leave this here…*there is no such thing as free postage and packaging* (it’s all hidden in the overall cost because all of us online shopping lovers LOVE to see those magic words “free delivery” – even if it’s not true!).
I’ve actually spotted some prints in a well-known multi-million pound store and I could see straight away that looked like they had been printed with an ‘at home’ printer on that 500 sheets for £5 paper and the quality was horrendous – it was actually pixellated (and no, it wasn’t meant to look like that!) and they were charging around £20 for it. These are the kind of products to avoid because they’ve clearly been as cheaply as possible and sold for a hugely inflated price and it is these kind of stores that are actually ripping you off. If you want quality, explore small businesses and know that your pennies mean so much more to them than they do with faceless retail giants.
CUSTOMERS MEAN EVERYTHING
Obviously I can’t speak for everyone here because there are good and bad eggs everywhere. But when you buy from a small business, you’re probably buying from someone who is super closely affected by the business or likely even to be the owner themselves. This means that you as a customer mean everything to them because without you, there would be no business and they wouldn’t be able to carry on doing the job that they love so dearly. In my experience, small business owners are more inclined to bend over backwards to meet your requirements because your custom means that much to them.
JUST A CARD
In December 2016, ‘Just a Card’ campaign launched to spread awareness about how important it is to support small businesses because without them, the high street would be full of chain stores and the beauty of independent creative boutiques would be lost. The concept of ‘just a card’ is to highlight that no matter how small a purchase (even if it is ‘just’ a card!), it really makes a difference to the creator and that little purchase could mean the difference between whether that little business remains trading. So please please, support your local independent businesses – even if it’s ‘just’ card, it will be appreciated so much! If you’d like to read more about the campaign [CLICK ME].
A NEW PERCEPTION?
If you’ve made it this far, then thank you for sticking with me! I hope that I’ve managed to shed some light on the importance of shopping small and what it really means for the makers behind-the-scenes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post so I’d love it if you could leave a comment letting me know.