Thursday 26 February 2015

6 Top Tips: Applying To Craft Fairs

You might have seen from my posts that I have been organising a Craft Fair as part of a fundraising event at our local Rugby Club. I've also attended quite a few fairs over the years and organised my first fair for other sellers in 2014. Along the way I've learnt a few things about applications, which fairs to apply to and what makes an applicant stand out...

Not all fairs are made equal. Some events (such as my favourite, Crafty Fox Market) hand pick an array of design-led, modern handmade sellers for their bustling creative events. This market is going to be completely different to one organised by your local Church. A bit of research will help you find out which ones will best suit your products and give you a better chance of securing a stall - plus you will know where you will be most likely to find your target customer, ensuring more sales!


A well-established fair in a busy city can command high table fees as the footfall is almost guaranteed to be worth the costs. A smaller, less well advertised fair at the same price is not going to give you the same return on your investment. Factor this in along with any travel costs, additional display outlay etc before you commit to an event. High cost fairs tend to attract sellers with more established businesses and elaborate displays so think this through before you get your application form.

When you are filling out an application form be sure to include all the information the organisers ask for. The number of applications I received with no website details, product photographs or full product descriptions was crazy! Most fair organisers won't have time to chase you up on these things, or to seek your business out online without your web info, so if you want to avoid a rejection email make sure you've covered all the basic requirements!


When you've filled in the obvious points then is the time to make sure your products stand out. Tailor your application to suit the fair you are applying for, highlighting your most relevant products for each fair. And definitely make sure your website or internet page is up to date and your product photography is looking good, these first impressions could make or break your stallholder success.


Once the application deadline has passed even the best applicants can be turned away. It's a lot of work organising a fair so late applications or delayed payments can mean that you miss out on what would have been a fabulous opportunity!


You can be instrumental to your own success at these events with a little bit of good PR.
If two people have very similar products but only one has a well presented web presence, regularly updates their customers on events they attend, and has shown a willingness to promote and share Craft Fair info, they are going to edge ahead of their competitor every time. Plus it's just good business to do these things anyway so everyone's a winner!!


Tuesday 24 February 2015

Recipe: Nutella Cupcakes

This Sunday my littlest nephew Bertie turned one (I'm not entirely sure where the time went as it seems like only a few weeks ago I was watching him be born). His big brother Teddy also turns three on Thursday and Mummy Swift had her birthday on Valentine's Day - February is a very busy time for birthdays in my family!!

All these celebrations called for a bit of baking... so I did what any good Auntie would do - baked three different birthday cakes and threw my nephews a tea party with enough cake, crisps and sweets to fill them up until this time next year :)

One of the recipes I tried for the first time was these Nutella Cupcakes... they're fab. Chocolate spread is a million times easier to decorate with than icing, plus the cakes all rose neatly and evenly which is something I usually struggle with!

Here's what you will need:
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g sugar (I used caster sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g butter
  • 100ml milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • grated peel + juice of one lemon
  • Nutella
  • sugar sprinkles

This will make about 12 cupcakes:

  1. Pop your oven on to 175C. While it's warming up put your eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until they are pale and fluffy
  2. Melt the butter and combine with the milk then add this into your egg mixture and combine
  3. Mix your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and fold these carefully into the other ingredients
  4. Finally add in the lemon juice and peel and then spoon your cake mix into cases and put in the oven
  5. Bake for around 15 minutes and then leave to cool
  6. Spread lots of Nutella on top and decorate with sprinkles

Delicious! These (and the other two cakes) definitely got the seal of approval from the birthday boy too!


Recipe from 'Hello Cupcake!' book by Leila Lindholm

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Creative Copycats

Last night I came across a small business marketing themselves as a creative enterprise but who had clearly ripped every single idea they'd had off of another, more established, small business. It was the third time in the last week that I've seen, or heard about, another 'creative' stealing the ideas of their competitors and giving them a tiny tweak before claiming them as their own.

Everyone is inspired by others, I know my Pinterest boards are full of amazing images and ideas that encourage me to create new work and help generate interesting projects. But I think that's the point, they encourage new ideas, unique to me. This blatant ripping off of others in creative communities has really surprised me and to be honest, made me really bloody angry.

It's not as straightforward as when someone directly copies a product or style, protecting your creative ideas is much harder. It's a bit like having that annoying friend at school who goes out and buys the same clothes as you the day after you've worn a new outfit. There's nothing you can do to stop them, but it's a little bit sad and frustrating to have your identity hijacked by someone who should know better.

My first reaction to these creative copycats was to be angry and call them out on their behaviour but I realised these people will always be a few steps behind. If you are relying on stealing the ideas of others you're missing the very bones of what it is to be running a creative business. In the same way people would rather buy a genuine Cath Kidston bag rather than a 'Kath Kidston' from a dodgy market stall it will be these poor quality imitations that are stuck on the bottom rung of the creative ladder while the real innovators will thrive and whose businesses will continue to grow.

So, I've calmed down, had this little rant and will continue supporting the businesses doing it best!


Tuesday 30 September 2014

Recipe: Cocoa Banana Walnut Loaf

This cake is a great way to use up old bananas, and you can never go wrong with chocolate!

I adapted a recipe I had that called for dark chocolate and used cocoa powder instead, this cake is really easy to whip up with ingredients you'll have in the cupboard already.

You'll need:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 185g self raising flour
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 3 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • A couple of handfuls of  chopped walnuts
  • Icing sugar

Here's what you need to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line your loaf tin.

2. Mix the banana and sugar together until just combined. Then add in the flour, cocoa, eggs, oil and milk and stir it all together with a wooden spoon. Once they're mixed together fold in the walnuts - save a few for the end.

3. Put the mixture into the tin and bake for about 55mins (until a knife through the centre comes out clean). Leave to cool and when you're ready to serve add water to your icing sugar and drizzle over. Finish off your cake by sticking some more walnuts on the top.

Do you have any good recipes that use up food that would otherwise go to waste? Please share in the comments!


Wednesday 24 September 2014

ABC Of Great Business Emails

When you run your own business sending efficient emails is a must. In particular, if you are getting in touch with potential stockists and clients it really helps to be able to write emails that people want to read and reply to.

My previous life as a PA and my experience as a creative has helped me to compile these handy tips:

Write a snappy subject line

Make sure your subject line tells exactly what your email is about. You want to make your email stand out in a cluttered inbox and give a clear idea of the content - have a look in your inbox for inspiration, note the ones that you opened straight away and take inspiration from them.

Use a short, direct greeting
Don't be tempted to waffle on at the start of your email. And wherever possible make sure it is directed to an individual by name, a little bit of googling to find the correct contact details can go a long way!

The rest is as easy as A B C!
The body of your email can be separated into three sections to make sure it's to the point and encourages a response (unread or ignored emails won't increase your sales figures!).

A - Action State your purpose, explain why you are emailing and the reason you are getting in touch. Who are you? What do you want as a result of the email?

B - Background
Write out your key points, here is where you can sell yourself and your products! What can you offer? Why are your products special? Is there a catalogue or website that will give them more details?

C - Close
Put your call to action in here, clarify any further steps to placing an order or getting more info. How can potential stockists send you an order? What would you like them to do in response to your message?

Done! Remember before you press send to proof read and run your email through spell check, you want to make sure you are giving a good all-round impression.

Here's another post on email tips if you fancy giving your inbox a spruce up too! Animal alphabet prints are also for sale in my Etsy shop too :)


Monday 22 September 2014

Recipe: Double Choc Shortbread Biscuits in 2 steps

This Sunday we went along to our nephew's baptism and were asked to bring along a little something to share with teas and coffees after the church service.

There were already lots of cakes being taken along so I thought some chocolate biscuits would be a welcome addition.
I do love an easy recipe so this one didn't fail to disappoint; it was even quick enough to do from start to finish while I was getting ready on Sunday morning!

You will need:
  • 175g softened butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips

Step 1

Mix the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. When it is combined add the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Smoosh it all together with your hands to combine. Once you've got your dough, roll it into a log shape and pop it in some cling film. Then just leave in the fridge to chill, ideally for an hour or so (long enough to do your hair and make up if you are off to a baptism too...!)

Step 2
Pop the oven on to 180C and slice your biscuit log into rounds about a centimetre thick and put them onto a baking try lined with baking paper. They'll cook in around 12-15 minutes, once they're done just leave them on the tray to cool before sharing / eating them all up.


Monday 8 September 2014

Top Ten Ways To Relax

This weekend I forced myself to spend a whole day at home, not working. It was harder than you'd think!

I find it ridiculously difficult to de-stress and relax - I think it's a hazard of doing a job you love and being able to run a business from home. There is always that temptation to 'just do one more thing...' and to get caught up in a cycle of always being in work mode.

My day of rest was definitely needed though (and I know lots of you are workaholics too) so thought I'd share my top ten relaxation tips:

Take a nap
This is actually my mum's answer to all of life's problems. But she is right. A quick snooze can be all that's needed to take the weight of the world from my shoulders. Plus a tired mind is much more inclined to get exasperated and stressed.

Get cooking
I love cooking and find it really therapeutic to bake a cake or find something new to try for dinner. It also means that I am out of the studio and away from my laptop and phone for a bit - an iPhone covered in icing is not a good look and a break from emails and Facebook is sometimes very much needed.

Read a book
Escaping into a good book is a foolproof way of taking my mind off of other things. I have started downloading them on to my iPad so I always have something to hand to distract me when needed.

Have a good chat

Making time to go for a coffee, have a good moan and a laugh can turn a crappy, stressful day into a much happier, chilled out one.

Watch some rubbish TV
Geordie Shore. America's Next Top Model. House of Food. Need I elaborate any more on this one?!

Stick on some Classical music
I've recently started switching over to Classic FM when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed - or I find some meditation music on YouTube. It might sound a bit old ladyish but I've found it's brilliant for refocusing my brain and calming me down!

Go to the gym
I won't lie, this is not one I am very good at sticking to, but a good sweaty gym session is a very good way to unwind. Even if I don't like to admit it.

Tidy up
A messy house or workspace doesn't lend itself to a calm state of mind. Doing the hoovering or putting some washing on might seem like work but I always feel more relaxed in the long run when things are ship shape and mess free.

Get in some water!
A long bath, a hot shower or a trip to the sea are guaranteed to wash away my daily stresses. Obviously the first two are a lot more practical but the sound of the beach is a winner every time.

Cuddle a cat
This one does rely on you having access to a cat. Luckily my house resembles a cattery so I'm always good to go - it is impossible to feel uptight when you have a small purring furrball giving you cuddles. Fact.

What are your favourite ways to relax?