diy craft: more than a hobby
from issue 13: by Annette Lauder
From carefully saving my childhood fruit stickers in an album to going crazy over Japanese San-X and Sanrio characters, I’ve always enjoyed collecting stationery and stickers. I also love drawing and illustration. So when I decided I wanted to open an online business it seemed only natural to launch my own range of paper goods.
I started Nut and Bee in late 2005. The main products in my range are letter writing sets with matching paper and envelopes, ‘sacks’ of individually cut stickers and self-adhesive bookplates. All of the paper goods feature my own illustrations and are produced and and-assembled at home. I also designed the Nut and Bee website (www.nutandbee.com); look after all of the packaging, mailing and customer service; and keep my own tax and accounting records. Although I aim for a professional appearance, Nut and Bee is very much a DIY enterprise!
My original designs included fluffy angora rabbits, a scarf-wearing monkey, marshmallows, ghosts, an orangutan and a gorilla. Since then, I’ve regularly expanded the line, adding new products about once a month. The range now has over 30 designs. My drawings spring from an imaginary world where hedgehogs and sloths snooze in bed, kittens mail letters and octopi love hot dogs. I’m inspired by a wide range of illustrators and artists, children’s books, craft books, anime, comics and, of course, classic character design. My criterion for choosing which illustrations to put on products is that if the drawing continues to make me smile every time I see it, it’s probably a winner.
I also have a sideline of crochet animal toys, such as monkeys, cats and owls, made in the Japanese amigurumi style (crochet worked by making the single crochet stitch in a continuous spiral). Because every one is unique and takes a long time to produce, I tend to save these to sell at craft fairs and special events rather than put them online, and many are commissioned custom pieces.
Running a craft business is incredibly rewarding. It’s a great feeling to know that people like my work enough to buy it. I have my products stocked in a few stores, but I concentrate my efforts on sales from my website. The internet offers a fantastic opportunity for small businesses, with an enormous potential audience. Just a few years ago it would have been extremely difficult to run a company like Nut and Bee because New Zealand is such a small market, but now I send goods all over the world!
Of course, there are many challenges as well. The most difficult aspect of building Nut and Bee has been promotion. Advertising campaigns are nearly impossible on a small budget, but I do get a lot of business simply by word of mouth. One comment from a happy customer on their weblog can bring in a flood of other orders. I have also had success participating in The Sampler (www.homeofthesampler.com), which is an amazing promotional tool for indie businesses. Money was very stressful in the first few months, as my initial equipment was purchased on a credit card. There have been other difficult moments along the way, but when things get really hard, I can count on great support and encouragement from my boyfriend, friends and family.
I’m really proud of what I have achieved so far with Nut and Bee, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future!
Annette Lauder, 23, lives and crafts in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a library assistant by day and Nut and Bee by night!