The Gosh & Absolutely team give us the low-down on their handmade lampshades and what it’s like starting a business…
Last year a friend and I were discussing how much fun it would be if we could create a business from our craft-based hobbies.
Basically, we were looking for an excuse to go fabric shopping on a more regular basis!
I had just done a lampshade making course with the lovely Helen Round and had the idea of upcycling vintage lamps with new and exciting shades. My new business partner, Laura, was a dab hand with the sewing machine so we decided to make coordinating cushions and lampshades in some of our favourite fabrics. We also wanted to be able to use some of the leftovers from these products. Our grown-up craft kits include a ‘fat eighth’ of fabric which minimises textile wastage.
We set up as a ‘proper’ business – drew up an agreement and opened a business account, each contributing an equal amount.
Next, all we needed was a name. Although at first though it seemed like this was going to be the tricky bit, it turned out that a mutual friend of ours had already come up with a name that referred to the two of us and sounded great. When Laura and I worked together about 10 years ago we appeared on local radio advertising a project we were working on. In our attempts to sound both polite and interesting we quite noticeably overused the words ‘Gosh’ and ‘Absolutely’, as our friend was later all too happy to point out. Little did we know then what a fantastic name that would make for our crafty business.
Then for the fun bit… making stuff. We knew plenty of places where we could find new (or vintage) and interesting fabrics and a quick Google search for lampshade kits led me straight to Needcraft. It was great to be able to find so many different shade shapes and we’ve always had great customer service. The manufacturers’ packs and special deals are especially useful. It was only thanks to the good introductory deal that we were able to try out the lantern kits. We were able to buy a banner through the site too which was great value for money and is the perfect finishing touch whenever we go out and about.
Fortunately, my husband is a web developer so we got a very good rate on our website. Having a website rather than relying exclusively on Social Media and/or selling sites like Etsy or Ebay has definitely been a great benefit. Contacts will take you more seriously if you can direct them to your own website even if is just a single page with information and your contact details.
It was October last year when we first set up, so we decided that a good way of testing the water was with a few craft fairs in the lead up to Christmas. It meant that we could hear what people were saying about the different products and even if we weren’t selling a lot we could gather information about what people preferred.
One thing we learned was that people don’t tend to buy lamps as Christmas gifts!
To be honest, in our first fair we sold more to other stallholders than we did to customers. However, these first few events were a great experience and the other stallholders couldn’t have been more helpful. It was a great foresight to have sorted out a card reader before attending the fairs. Many other stallholders lost sales because they couldn’t offer this facility. It’s a fact that people don’t carry as much cash as they used to and…
on the whole lampshades don’t count as pocket money purchases.
Selling online is hard work and we still haven’t completely got to grips with it yet. If you want to sell through your own website you need to find someone who knows about Search Engine Optimisation to help your site get found by Google and the other major search engines. Despite my earlier warning about not relying on Social Media, you can’t ignore it either.
All interaction that is linked to your website will help to direct traffic to your site.
‘Gosh! & Absolutely’ hasn’t been going very long. Laura and I are both still working in local government and create our products at home, but this is an enjoyable sideline that we hope will continue to grow. We really enjoy what we do. I would say that there are a couple of elements to what we do that make us a little different to everyone else – the vintage lamps and our specially selected fabric pairs. I love finding a vintage lamp that’s completely different to anything we’ve had before. It can be tricky to find the perfect fabric to create a complementing shade, and I sometimes spend hours scouring the internet only to find my favourite local fabric shop had the perfect fabric all along.
We also source perfectly coordinating pairs of fabric and create ranges of handmade lampshades and cushions, so that our customers can revamp their rooms with minimal outlay. One further provision we offer is a bespoke service whereby customers can send a picture of their lamp and we will find fabric to make a matching shade.
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