Have you ever wanted to start your own business from home, but don’t know where to start?
I’ve interview a lot of business owners who now run successful businesses, because they took that leap and not only got started, but turned their passion into profit!
I hope, that by reading their stories, it will help to inspire you to also take the leap of faith to build that business you may have been dreaming of.
This is Mo Grainger, and she is the creator of the successful business Annie Verdi
What is your business about Mo?
I manufacture reusable cloth products to replace single use disposables.
Specializing in cloth pads for menstruation and light bladder weakness
CSP (cloth sanitary pads) were the main reason for starting my business, but alongside the pads there was a demand for other zero waste, plastic free goods so I began to make those too.
Make up remover pads, hand, face and bum wipes along with cloth pad accessories, wet bags and pad wrappers.
I also offer other alternatives to help to reduce the need for single use plastics, such as eco friendly string bags, friendly soap, bamboo toothbrushes, straws and bamboo buds.
My husband has also just started to hand tie dye some of the materials to give us a more unique range of goods.
This was a very proud moment for Mo, as she received her award for being an SAS (Surfers Against Sewage) plastic free champion business.
“I am an SAS plastic free champion business for the Liverpool area, I was chuffed to bits to get an award from them.”
Was your craft your hobby before you started your business?
I was sewing, but making bags and some easy to make items as gifts not making to sell.
How long had you been doing your craft as a hobby before turning it into a business?
I was taught to sew by my nan so I’ve been sewing for over 40 years now, but never as a business. I made some of my children’s clothes and fancy dress outfits, put hems on pants and basic alterations but not as a hobby, just because it needed doing.
How long have you had your business?
I started this business in 2017
What was it that first got you thinking about turning your crafting into a business?
I wanted to create a eco-friendly sustainable, ethical business.
I discovered that there was a need for decent cloth pads that were made in this country.
I wanted to offer an alternative to disposable pads, that were made using quality materials and contained no unnecessary chemicals or plastics.
Most of the reusables that are available on Amazon and even in some of the more well known shops are nasty imports that slide around and put people off using a reusable pad.
What were the first steps you took to set up your business?
Checked the HMRC website for proper advice.
Did you start by selling to friends and family?
No strangely enough I didn’t. I also didn’t tell any friends about my Etsy shop because I didn’t want them to feel obliged to buy from me.
I had already given a couple of friends and family some to try out for me like willing guinea pigs.
Was it expensive to set up as a business?
If I had to start from scratch then it would have been very expensive but I already had sewing machines and a lot of materials. But some of the specialist fabrics are only made in USA and are expensive.
How much did you invest into your business to get started?
I just bought a little at a time, what I could when I could.
Did it cost more than you thought it would to get started?
I bought over time, I wasn’t in a rush to start selling, but it all adds up to a considerable amount.
Did you do any research before you started, or did you just dive straight in?
I did lots and lots of research, reading about how fabrics are made and how they performed.
Trialling all sorts of combinations to be confident in my products.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos from others who were already using and making them.
I did a lot of research for myself too. I practiced with different materials and how best to put them together.
I could have just copied what others had done before but I need to know for myself that things will work.
Has it been harder than you thought to run your business?
No, I just wish I had done it sooner
Do you need lots of space for your business at home?
I have the second double bedroom as my sewing studio where the industrial machines are kept and most of the materials are in there too, but I also have use of the smallest bedroom with spare machines and for the overspill. I also have the tie dye area in the kitchen.
Oh dear it looks like I have most of the house! 😀
Do you have other premises other than your home for your business?
Not yet lol
How did you work out how much to charge for the products you made?
I know there is a formula for this but it doesn’t work for what I make.
I measure how many pieces I can get out of 1m to work out how much each piece cost, then add together how many pieces of material go into each piece and add that up to get the overall cost to put together and then add on a reasonable amount to cover my time and ability.
What sales platforms do you sell on?
I started selling on Etsy. I also go to a few local craft fairs and will hopefully be at some zero waste events next year. I’ve been asked to do a pop up in a high street store but can’t yet because of covid.
I also have a stand-alone website now which is doing well.
How many hours a week do you work on your business approximately?
Approximately 60 hours.
Have you found it difficult to do the admin and tax returns?
No, unless I’ve been getting them wrong.
The online tax is quite straight forward to do.
I like to stay on top of it though.
How do you keep records of everything you buy and sell?
I have to keep a written record of everything that comes in and goes out. I have a single entry cash book and every transaction goes in there.
I keep invoices and receipts in an office drawer and tally everything up every month.
Do you have any tips about time management?
None, except don’t get yourself flustered and rush into things, that’s when it goes wrong.
Is your craft business your full time job, or do you have a regular job too?
It’s full time for me.
Do you have any plans to diversify your business?
My husband has started to do some tie dye of the bamboo velour and towelling, so that’s something new for us, up until now we bought dyed material in from another small business.
How do you promote your business?
I do very little promotion, just the occasional Instagram or Facebook post.
I have had help from an influencer who has put a lot of business my way. She uses my products and has done videos to her followers about them which has helped immensely.
Do you spend much time promoting your business on social media? And if so, what social media platforms do you use?
I use mainly Facebook and Instagram but I know I should do more.
How do you pack your products for posting? Do you have any tips for others?
I am an SAS plastic free business, so everything I post goes out in either a paper envelope or cardboard box sealed with brown paper tape or some items go in a fully home compostable and second use bag.
I use recycled tissue paper to initially wrap items, and if needed for extra padding, some newspaper offcuts, like the chippy paper wrapping.
I pop in a personal thank you note with a little gift too.
Are you part of a community of other people that run a craft businesses?
I am in the Merseyside Etsy team although i don’t sell much through Etsy anymore.
I am also a member of the CSP approved sales group, which is a group of cloth pad makers who got together to support each other, and to have a place where people could buy and sell CSP from fully insured makers.
Are you good at interacting with customers? Or is it something you struggle with?
I love to interact with my customers, the feedback i get after they have used the products is brilliant.
There is no such thing as oversharing when selling cloth pads, i get told everything.
Someone called me their Fairy Blobmother.
Do you find it difficult to stay committed to your business?
No, because I know that I’m making a difference to how people live, and in turn they are making a difference to the planet.
Do you take commission orders?
Yes cloth pads are made to suit the needs of the customer, we are all different and so I make to suit individual needs, it’s not like disposables where one size fits all.
Do you have any tips on how to take good product images?
Use good lighting and don’t overcrowd the item with props.
I know there is an idea that says you should show your item in use, but not with my products!
Do you think it’s important to have an email list?
no, not with social media being the best way to reach a target audience
Where do you get your inspiration for new products to make?
My customers asking for different shapes, lengths and absorbency.
I’m led by what they need and want.
Do you still enjoy your craft now it’s your business?
Yes, I still really enjoy it.
Do you have a brand logo? If so, do you think it’s important to have one? Did you design your own or pay for it to be done?
Initially I made one using some online free logo maker but after a few months i decided i didn’t like it anymore, it wasn’t really unique and didn’t feel right for me, and i had seen other makers using the very same design.
So I looked around and bought mine from a lady on Etsy called Lisa Jane her business is Done for you Divas.
How did you choose your business name? Does it have a special meaning?
Annie Verdi is named after my nan and the street where she lived.
I couldn’t use her real name because her surname was Hemmings and that would have made the shop sound more like a repair or alterations place, so I chose the street as a surname.
She was the one who taught me how to sew and mend things when I was young. We would always repair or re-purpose something before it was finally finished with.
So, me having this type of business now, is all down to her.
Do you work alone on your business, or do you have a business partner/friend you work with?
I am lucky enough to have my husband help me.
He cuts the fabrics for me, does some social media posts and is now doing the tie dying too.
Do you struggle to stay focused with working from home?
Oh shinny thing !!!! Yes, I have a tendency to wander off and make a brew.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently when you first started?
I only wish I’d started earlier, but I didn’t have the confidence.
Are there any other tips you would like to give to other people who are thinking about setting up a their own business?
There are saturated areas of crafting so look for something a little bit more unique.
Learn all you can and become the expert that others look to for information.
Make sure you have insurance.
Don’t let it take over your family time.
Thank you Mo for giving us such an insightful view of what it is like to build a successful craft business!
I am in awe of Mo and her husband Ste, they are dear friends of mine and I know how hard they both work to make their business not only successful, but also preserving their integrity to stay eco-friendly.
The products that Mo makes are essentials, and more people are realising the need for cloth sanitary products and cleaning pads rather than the ‘use and discard’ types that women have been using for decades.
I hope that after reading how Mo & Ste have built their business from home, it will not only inspire you to start your own business, but it will also inspire you to take a look at what eco-friendly products they offer on Annie Verdi
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