Serial business starter – don’t be afraid to change your mind!

Quite pleased with myself!

When I published the first blog post, I felt quite accomplished and pleased with myself, it was a new test for me and at least I sat the exam, the quality of the answer, I’ll leave up to the reader. Writing the second one has been a little more difficult and I have struggled to come up with a topic! Ahh!

So after a lot of procrastinating, inner turmoil and frustration at my own lack of motivation, I thought about the advice usually given to proper writers. Write about what you know… hmm.

Change is usually always inevitable, decide for yourself before someone else does it for you.

Changing my mind is something I know about and despite how things may appear to the outside world, I do actually think things through before changing my life. I just don’t always discuss my thoughts with others, so the changes might come out of the blue for family and friends and seem a bit left field. To be fair, they are a bit left field at times!

I thought that writing a bit about my experiences might be interesting to others or at least provide some kind of comparison to where you are at or want to be. I’m not some shining example of a female entrepreneurship, well not yet anyway, I’m just an ordinary person that decided to make some changes in her life and see where they took her.

Making decisions

This might ramble a bit, but here goes. Around 2012 I became really disillusioned with my job and I suppose my life. I felt that I couldn’t work for an organisation that had changed drastically in the years that I had worked for them, the ethics and morals of the business had changed so much, that I felt I could no longer represent them.  I was no longer a good fit. I wanted something else, but wasn’t really sure what.

Potted history

I started to attend courses about property investing, as well as personal development and really enjoyed learning. I didn’t really know how to get from where I was, to somewhere else, but just went with it.

As mentioned in the previous blog, I grabbed the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and bought an ice cream bicycle, with the intention of taking it to weddings, county shows, events etc. it became apparent that it was the wrong bike and set up, so I sold it and bought another two that needed work doing to them. In the meantime I was offered an opportunity to source property for investors, I sold the bikes eventually, without doing any work to them and got my investment back.

I grew disillusioned with the property sourcing and looked for a way out, what business could I start? I turned my home into a serviced apartment and rented a house nearby. I networked, I attended network meetings, I joined Facebook groups for my industry, I attended free marketing and social media courses. I closed the serviced apartment.

Change is good?

What next, what did I really enjoy doing? Crafts. All those craft workshops that I had taken part in and the things that I had made at home, they were what I enjoyed. So I set up craftkits. It’s a great blend for me, I get to play with different crafts and still feed my love of learning. It’s still early days and I have so many ideas for how I want the business to grow.

I feel like I had to take the indirect route to give me the skills and resilience to start the business. I have gotten used to change and accepted it as part of life. Some changes are welcome, some not so much, but you have to work with what you have and do your utmost to be positive about life and the future. Some days, that’s a hard task, but there is always tomorrow.

What did I learn from all this random collection of businesses, work, courses, networking?

Thanks for reading my blog,

Lorna

 

First blog post ever!

I’m writing this on a bright, but cloudy day on the west coast of Scotland, my “H” keeps sticking, so there might be a few missing if I don’t spellcheck thoroughly. I’ve never written a blog before and I have to confess, I don’t really read many, usually just to find a recipe stuck at the bottom of a whole lot of fluff! I’m not selling this well, am I!?

I’m told blogs are good for helping readers and customers get to know you and your business better, so I thought I’d give it a try. Have to confess that I use social media in a very basic way, I just post new products and a few other posts and videos showing how to make some of the kits.  Very little personal stuff and probably completely lacks any personality or coherence. It’s probably down to my middle agedness and not wanting to expose my life to public scrutiny.

Here’s a little about how craftkits.co.uk came about.

My name is Lorna, I am Scottish, I have lived in Scotland for most of my life apart from 14 years in North Yorkshire. I moved to Yorkshire for work in 2006 for a promotion within my company, my role changed several times and I had some fantastic experiences and met some brilliant people along the way, but by 2014, I had a need to do something different. I had wanted a change for several years, my employers announced another round of redundancies and after initially trying to keep my job, I realised that this was my opportunity to make the changes I had been hoping for. My boss agreed to a package that saw me leaving 4 months later.

I had been attending courses to learn about property investment for a couple of years before this and had completed some self development courses too. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I bought an ice cream bicycle and an estate car ( I had a lovely Audi A3 company car) and did a couple of events before I left my  job, but I realised selling ice cream from a bike wasn’t going to make my fortune. I had changed my status on LinkedIn, which led to a phone call from an acquaintance contacting me to ask if I wanted to do some property sourcing for his clients. I agreed, as I didn’t have anything better to do and perhaps something to gain.

So I ended up sourcing investment properties, managing refurbishments and finding tenants for investors a couple of years. I learnt a lot and had a degree of success, I particularly enjoyed finding run down properties and working out how they could best be utilised and improved. I didn’t enjoy the rental management side, which took the shine off everything else.

In October 2014 I adopted Buster from the Dogs Trust Leeds, he had his wee issues, which I gradually got to know, he had been in the Dogs Trust for 1.5 years and had been in 3 different homes, so he needed time to adjust and it became obvious that a quieter environment would be much better for him. I lived on a modern housing estate, which although it was beside a large wooded area, there were lots of other dogs, horses, etc around and Buster was always on edge on walks, as we frequently got approached by lots of off lead dogs.

Buster looking handsome

I was keen to move to a village, but selling my house would not have allowed me to buy much in a rural location nearby, so I decided the best option was to move out of my house, turn it into a holiday let and rent another property to live in! I could just have rented it as a normal family let, but my entrepreneurial side wanted to see if I could make additional income. In August 2016, I welcomed my first guests, I took on another holiday let for 9 months the following year too. I eventually gave up the property sourcing and concentrated on the holiday let. I took on some part time jobs too, mostly in hospitality, but also a few shifts milking cows at a local farm, some dog walking, house cleaning etc. I’ve never washed and ironed so much in my life!

I moved to a lovely village nearby, but it wasn’t quite rural enough and had a lot of traffic at various times. I then moved to a further two different rented properties, mostly to become more rural for Buster, I lived in 2 hamlets, one in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and really enjoyed my time in both places. Freedom to walk Buster without lots of activity around us was fantastic and again I met some lovely people too.

I had attended many craft courses at the fantastic Artison  https://artison.co.uk/  over a period of about 3 years. I thoroughly enjoyed all the courses and the lovely atmosphere when you are doing something that you enjoy with other people who enjoy doing the same things. I have always had fun making something out of nothing, pulling materials together and sewing, or making an object, adding paint to a piece of paper.

It had been an ambition of mine to start a business along similar lines for some time, with residential courses in lovely surroundings. I didn’t have the resources to start such a business, however I was given encouragement to start in a smaller way at a meeting of Dales Business Womens network DBWN meeting  https://dalesbusinesswomen.com/  and I thought if not now, when?

So in Nov 2019 I ran my first course, I had 4 attendees, some friends and a friend of a friend and they went home with a vision board that they put together over the course of the evening, enjoying good chat and some tasty nibbles.

Thanks to the lovely Joanne Coates who very kindly did a skill swap and took some professional photos in return for attending the workshop.  I met Jo through DBWN.  http://www.joannecoates.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/craftkits.co.uk/photos/217574862976162

https://www.facebook.com/craftkits.co.uk/photos/217577636309218

Then in December 2019 I ran a Christmas willow wreath workshop at the CB Inn in Arkengarthdale, North Yorkshire, (I worked part time at the CB Inn) a beautiful setting and another very enjoyable workshop. I had learned how to make willow wreaths at Artison and had practiced for a few weeks beforehand. There were 8 lovely ladies in attendance, some friends, others friends of friends and others that I had no connection with, so that was gratifying in itself, that strangers wanted to come along to one of my workshops. Coffee, lunch and two willow wreaths to take home and the feedback was great, which was what really mattered, as I wanted people to enjoy the day, as well as testing out the whole set up and workshop practicalities.

This time another fabulous photographer, Debbie Allen, from https://scenicview.co.uk/ took some fab photos on the day, organised at the last minute and all for lunch and a willow wreath to take home! I met Debbie through DBWN also.

 

Scenicview Studio.©2019 ScenicviewScenicview Studio.
©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio.©2019 Scenicview

Scenicview Studio.©2019 Scenicview

Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview
Scenicview Studio. ©2019 Scenicview

So now I was thinking, OK I can do this, I booked the CB Inn again, I thought I would try another willow workshop, so went for a rustic Easter basket of my own design. I reserved rooms for Late March 2020 for my first residential course.

Then came the Covid 19 outbreak and I had to cancel everything. I had decided to sell the holiday let by this point and return to Scotland, but Covid accelerated this. I realised that the next few months were going to be difficult financially, so I packed up my home in a week and my furniture went ahead of me and was stored in my parents garage, just at the beginning of the first lock down.

However, the bold Buster decided not to get in the car to travel north, he has had a car phobia at times in the past and lifting him in is not an option, so we spent the first lock down in rural North Yorkshire. Not a bad place to be in the middle of a pandemic, I had brilliant neighbours and luckily had enough things left in the house to be very comfortable for 3 months. I bought a dog ramp and started to train Buster to use it, so that we could make our way north when restrictions were lifted. We did an online Dog parkour course with my friend Joanna Brooks which really helped and was fun to do. Jo recorded the sessions and has a lovely recording of Buster getting “friendly” with his bed in the background! https://positivelycanine.co.uk/

At the beginning of June 2020, my dad was taken into hospital and to cut a long story short, it turned out that he had bumped his head and this had caused a bleed on his brain, so he had to have a life saving operation in Glasgow. We’ll be forever grateful for the skills of the surgical team at the Queen Elizabeth hospital. I ended up travelling back before restrictions were lifted to be with my mum, I had been taking care to stay safe anyway, so knew I was safe to move in.

Over the summer of 2020, we saw improvement with my dads health, he was 87 at the time of the op, so these things take time. As I was living with my parents, I could not go out and get a job, the house layout was not suitable for me to live separately, I had to bide my time until things improved, grateful that I had a roof over my head and hoping that my house in Yorkshire would sell. The house did sell in the Autumn.

Loch Long, near home, Kilcreggan, Scotland
View from behind my parents house, looking towards, the Isle of Bute and Arran

In Sept 2020, I spoke to a friend who is a coach, https://www.dawnclarksoncoaching.co.uk/ she was offering free sessions, as she had re trained and was completing her accreditation. During our coaching session, the idea of starting an online business doing something that I loved and had experience of was discussed. What could I do online that related to something I really enjoyed? Crafts… craft kits?

Once my house sold I had some funds to invest in buying stock and to set up a website. I started by trialing a few new crafts and trying to work out what was practical to sell in a kit, find suppliers etc.  I managed to get the website up and running for the end of November, it takes a lot longer than you think, to do it from scratch, but it was a start. Now how do I get people to find me? A Facebook page and ads brought most of my customers, I wanted to catch the Christmas craft trade if possible, I did pretty well in December, January has been my best month so far, I sold 100’s of the Star of Hope kit, which was great and really gave me faith that things would work out.

Things have quietened down since the beginning of the year, the natural cycle of businesses like mine I’m told, so I’m now developing new kits, working on video tutorials and planning in person workshops for later in the year. Watch this space and thank you for getting to the end of my first Blog post!

Lorna