I’ve realised that actually I haven’t written about how I came round to starting Brown Paper Festival last year. Since finishing college in 2014 I’ve been so passionate about the world of small businesses and a lot has happened to get here !
So let’s start in 2014, when I left college I knew I didn’t want to go to uni. I had studied Business Studies and Art & Fashion and was really keen to work for myself. Anxiety was a big part of this but also I knew I wanted to be creative, I was done with studying and just wanted to try something that was all me. That’s when Little Stitch Of Nature was created!
I had tried freehand machine embroidery at college and fell in love with it, I found I could draw so much better using the machine than with a pencil! I started making and creating just to try it out and discovered I loved using embroidery to draw birds and wildlife. Hence Little Stitch Of Nature!
To be honest, I had no idea how to run a business – Business Studies A-Level was great but I learnt more about Morrisons than setting up your own business! I started with a little notebook to track sales, I created a Facebook page and I just kept making. It started to pick up, people were ordering and I was making more and more. It was definitely slow but it was going !
I think the turning point was doing my first craft fair, I remember going along with no idea what I was doing and I met some lovely people. My family came to support and I also got chatting to some other stallholders. Actually at that first market I met a couple who ended up being my craft market buddies, we often did the same markets and it was so lovely seeing them at every one!
Craft markets became more and more regular and I think at one point I exhibited at 10 markets in one Christmas season !! I absolutely loved taking part, don’t get me wrong they can be stressful and long days but they were always a bit of fun. I started taking part in a regular market that happened every month or 2, we formed a proper little crafty family and I always looked forward to going back each time. It was always entertaining and, even if it was a quiet day we all rallied round and cheered each other up! I loved it !
I learnt so much during the 5+ years of running Little Stitch Of Nature and am so grateful for the whole experience. Craft fairs taught me so much, creating the business from scratch and running a business with anxiety are things that I am so proud of !
3 years ago I decided that I needed to get myself a part time job, partly for a bit more money but also to get me out of the house! I realised that as much as I loved running my own business, I desperately needed to be with people outside of my home. It’s amazing what a bit of social interaction can do for you !!
At a similar time I also joined the team organising the regular craft market that I attended. It was such a joy to be asked to help and I was so excited to try some new ideas. We wanted to mix it up a bit, find a new location and add some new features as a team of 5. And what this made me realise was that I loved organising! I had started to find that, with Little Stitch of Nature, the fact that I had to be creative was taking away the love of creating for me. I’d found that I was begrudging having to sit at the sewing machine to make orders, I wanted to sit and sew a dress for myself!
So I decided to start winding down the business and concentrate on the markets as well as my part time job. It was one of the best decisions as I started to love sewing again! Just ignore the box of stock that I still have sitting under my bed!!
I was so loving running the markets, it was exhausting, a really long day but I was so passionate about it! Meeting the small business owners, taking the time to learn what they do and get to know them. It was such a thrill seeing people coming through the door ready to shop small and learn a craft at our workshops!
We did this for 2 years I think … then lockdown hit ! Not a great time for running in person craft markets, we had to cancel 2020’s markets and decide what to do next. We decided to try running an online market to see what happened. Let’s just say I don’t think I went about it the right way … it was a long day in front of the computer and I was amazed how exhausting it was however it worked!
Lockdown continued and it started to become clear that as a team it wasn’t working as well as it once was. We were in different times of our lives and had differing views. So after some difficult conversations, I decided to leave the business. I’m not going to say it was an easy decision or one that I found stress free but I now know that it was 100% the right thing to do.
So in July 2020 I was sat trying to think what to do … I loved running the online market and had seen some others popping up! I had also been thinking a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement, and about how the lockdown was affecting people. So I decided to set up Brown Paper Festival and create online markets that centre around community and bringing small business owners together!
Since then I’ve run 14 online markets with another one coming up in November, and I’ve worked with over 150 small businesses! It’s been so incredible and I’ve loved every minute of it … however I have come across some problems, had to make decisions and am working on changing the direction of the business very slightly with the launch of the Creative Community! A place that I’ve created for small business owners to feel supported, somewhere that you can visit when you feel a bit lost and a bit stressed (it happens to us all in our small business journey!).
So … I think that has covered my journey (how cheesy!!) and explains just why I am so passionate about small businesses and creating communities for people running them! There’s been a lot of ups and downs but I love running my business and am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had along the way! Small Businesses are Great!