Well I can hardly believe it. It’s been a year since I started ‘Swizzle and friends’. It all started because I had been making beeswax wraps for my girls to take their lunch in for school. They’d always used packed lunch boxes, but I wanted something reusable to keep their sandwiches separate from the rest of their lunch.
These got noticed by other people who said I should sell them. So the next move was to sell them on Amazon. Within two months I had left my job and was doing it full time and before Christmas, Swizzle and friends became a limited company.
Working in collaboration
I’d decided early on that Amazon was a step up, but what I really wanted was to have my own website. I wanted to create a one-stop online store where people could buy plastic free alternatives.
But I also knew that I would need to work with other people who share my values to make the site one worth visiting. After all, there are so many things we could be using but there aren’t enough hours in the day for one person to produce them all
At the moment I work with Jurassic Soap Kitchen who make handmade soaps, that are lanolin and palm oil free. They also share my ideals on minimum packaging and are based close to home. The soaps are inspired by the Jurassic Coast and have the different layers in them similar to the coast line. All the ingredients are natural using essential oils for the different smells.
Our newest collaborator or ‘friend’ is Swiftwood Turnings. He specialises in making bowls from wood that would otherwise be thrown away. At present we have several bowls made from leylandii that was dumped on the side of a road.
When I was first talking about starting a business, my friend Jen said that if I needed anyone to help consider her first. At the time I wasn’t even sure if I would have enough work for me let alone anyone else. But now she is my official cutter, idea bouncer and stall helper. Also my children and husband have their own parts to play in the production process.
Starting a business is an all-consuming affair. You never seem to stop thinking about the things you need to do and suddenly you have to learn all these different skills in areas you know nothing about. So I knew that I would need help with the business side of things and discovered Business Information Point. They provided free courses on digital marketing, social media, SEO etc. I also met with one of their business managers to discuss what my ideas. This was invaluable, because it helped me clarify what I wanted and didn’t want to do.
One of the things I didn’t want to change was the name ‘Swizzle and friends’. It’s named after our dog and the friends part stands for the other people we collaborate with. I know it doesn’t really describe what we are about and won’t come up in any search engines, but we like it because it is slightly quirky.
I’ve worked with Louise Turley from Tiny Designs and East Devon Jelly to look at branding. We talked about branding colours. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me and Jen to choose one lot from 8 different similar types of colours. But now the look of my website has improved.
So where am I now?
Well I’m still working on my website, I need to put into practice all the SEO and social media tips that I have learnt on the courses. I have more product lines to be put on the website, more descriptions to write. I am starting to get more sales and interactions on the website. Sales on Amazon are still steady, but at least they’re not as sillily busy as it was before Christmas - it got really manic then. So much so that we just couldn’t keep up with demand.
I am working on new lines and hope to work with more like-minded people.
What have I learnt in my first year?
I think the first and most important thing is I have more confidence in my ability, I still have imposter syndrome but not nearly as bad as I when I started.
My knowledge of social media is getting better, admittedly not as good as my children’s. I now know what SEO stands for (search engine optimisation) and I know why it’s important. I know that our house is permanently untidy and our kitchen table can be used for hundreds of different tasks.
I know that there are lots of people out there who are ready to help with any problems that arise. And that courses, no matter how good and useful they are, always give you more questions to answer.
I know that there are never enough hours in the day, so you need to allocate time away from the business, since you’re not going to get it all done anyway.
I know that I enjoy the challenges and am looking forward to my second year in business