We grabbed a virtual coffee with Ann and Catherine, the two founders and tutors bringing creative classes and craft workshops to South West London.
Below they tell us how they succeeded in turning their passion into a career they love!
1. Tell us a little about yourselves and how you met.
We actually met whilst studying Spanish about 10 years ago. Over coffee in the breaks each week, we quickly discovered that we share a love of both languages and crafts!
2. How did the idea for Handmade Workshops come about?
It was really driven by a desire to bring together some of the amazing creatives in South West London with all the people like us who love learning new crafts. Also, we’re both very keen on working within our local community, bringing like-minded people together. Although there are so many craftspeople and artists around here, it’s often hard to access information about classes, so we decided to create our own creative hub!
3. What was that first month/ year like for your business?
It was certainly a massive learning curve, but lots of fun too! The first few months were great, as we decided we should attend a range of classes ourselves for ‘research purposes, so we went over to Hackney for flower arranging, learnt needle punch, paper cutting and calligraphy.
4. What were the biggest challenges you faced at the beginning?
Getting to grips with social media and marketing were probably the greatest challenges for us in the early days – and continue to be so even now, to be honest, as there’s always more to learn!
5. How did you get the word out about your business at the start? Has this varied much since then?
With a limited marketing budget, we’ve always relied more on growing the business organically, largely through word of mouth recommendations, networking and social media. Although we did try some paid adverts at first, together with posting flyers through doors and in shops, spreading the word via apps like NextDoor, Facebook and Eventbrite tend to be much more successful.
6. Where have you found the most success?
Ultimately, our most successful way of bringing in new customers has been through word of mouth recommendations from other people attending our workshops. We have a wonderful core of class participants who’ve now been to a whole range of our workshops, which is wonderful.
7. What are the biggest challenges you face now?
At the moment, our biggest challenge is probably finding venues to hold the classes in that are financially viable. Over the first 18 months of running Handmade, we’d managed to build up a great range of venues that both suited the class being taught and were feasible financially, given our determination to keep class sizes small and prices at an accessible level for all. Although most of these venues will no doubt reopen in time, we do need to find some alternatives for the short term.
8. Any pearls of wisdom for our makers?
Don’t underestimate the importance of the image you present to the world. Nowadays, social media and websites are used so much to judge businesses and their products, so it really is worth putting in some time to making them look professional, creating good images – and proofreading text!
9. Now, we know you are both avid crafters. But, what’s your favourite thing to make?
Catherine – it has to be knitting. Though I adore lots of other crafts, knitting is still my great passion!
Ann - my first love will always be crochet but, like Catherine, I enjoy a wide range of crafts. The most exciting project is the one I’m yet to start!
10. What are your plans for 2021 (and beyond!)?
Firstly, it’s to get back to face-to-face workshops after months of online classes. Having built up a new following online, with people joining us from literally all over the world (even as far away as New Zealand!), we’re determined to keep some online classes going. But we’re also desperate to get back into venues, teaching crafts around a table over coffee and a piece of homemade cake! As well as consolidating the crafts already in our offering, over the next year we’re really keen to introduce some new ones, so would love to hear from creatives interested in teaching different skills.
11. How can we take part in a Handmade Workshop?
The easiest thing to do is visit our website www.handmadeworkshops.co.uk and have a look at our upcoming workshops. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook: @handmadeworkshopsltd
12. You’re always looking for new workshop ideas to add to the mix. How could our makers become tutors?
If they email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, we can arrange to meet up – either on Zoom or, hopefully soon, over a coffee in a local café!