I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays. I’ve had a lovely and relaxing Christmas and Boxing Day with my family and fully intend on making the most of my time off this week. I thought I’d pop on here today and share a Behind The Biz interview with you. I always love to have lots to read over the festive season and I’m sure I’m not alone. Today’s interview is real good, you’re going to love it. If you’re new around here, Behind The Biz is an interview series where I discover small and growing businesses, the people behind them and their business journey.
Today’s interview is with Joanna from Adventures and Tea Parties.
Please tell us about your business.
Hi I’m Joanna and I run single-handedly Adventures and Tea Parties, which is a creative lifestyle blog, freelance blogging service and handmade accessory brand based in Somerset.
Where did the inspiration for Adventures & Tea Parties come from?
I desperately wanted to bring both my vision for accessories into the world and also create a space to pour all my creative ideas, designs, interests and experiences into one place. I honestly didn’t believe it would lead to being a full time business owner and I still can’t!
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
I first started out with a different brand name, which was completely personal to me but soon figured out with time that it made no sense to my customers. When I realised this I eagerly wracked my brain for a new name and then one day as I was travelling to the day job I had that light bulb moment. My products are designed for those who like to be a adventurous and live life to the full by wearing colourful and playful accessories both outdoors (adventures) and indoors (tea parties). And so, Adventures & Tea Parties was born!
What did you do before starting Adventures & Tea Parties?
As a complete creative soul throughout my childhood & school years, instead of following my heart I took the “sensible” path of a secure job that would pay the bills. After years of academic study, I wound up as a Law Librarian in the financial hub of London. While researching cases on contract law, I found myself desperate to do the opposite. My creative soul was itching to get out. I’d ignored it for far too long.
As if by magic my flatmate came home one day with a sewing machine & she promptly showed me how to use it. It got embarrassing when I was begging to use it at every available opportunity & so, the time had come to buy my own.
I remember the day my machine arrived. I’d ordered it to be delivered at work. My law colleagues seemed perplexed at this 5’1” librarian bouncing out of work that day with a ridiculous grin on. I hugged the machine all the way home on the tube & that evening made myself a skirt.
The skirt (which I still own!) led to more skirts, cushion covers, accessories, purses, and bags until people started requesting customised items & offering to pay for them. I honestly couldn’t believe people wanted to give me their hard earned cash for something I’d made with my own hands. So, I started researching how I could sell my designs & soon came across Etsy, the perfect marketplace for handmade products. I nervously registered & opened my shop. Within hours, my first order arrived, all the way from America. I was gob smacked! My creative adventure had begun.
Continuing to work as a full-time librarian, moving house & cities several times, changing “day job” & dealing with some horrendous personal turmoil, I managed to keep my creative adventure going. It was the only thing I was certain of & now, five years later, after lots of hard work, working through endless nights & weekends, Adventures & Tea Parties is now my full time job, business & an all consuming passion! I can now throw all my creative energy, ideas & passions into my designs. I honestly couldn’t be happier!
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
Not at all. I always wanted a secure, steady job, hence going down the “sensible” path first. Plus, when I was at school there was no such thing as Etsy, Instagram and smart phones, so the option of an online business wasn’t even there for me to consider. I do wonder now what path I would choose if I were at school these days. With the rise of online businesses and § media, there seems to be way more possibilities to become self-employed, which is fantastic.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
Oh my goodness, where do I begin?! I have learnt, and continue to learn, so much on a daily basis but the biggest challenge I’ve found so far is frustration over time. I never feel like I have enough hours in the day to get everything done. Growing a business on your own is a slow process because you’re doing absolutely everything. You’re not only the designer but the accountant, marketing managing, stock supervisor, customer services, administrator etc etc. I regularly have to remind myself that I am doing everything, so the process of getting a product to market will naturally be slower than brands who have teams of people working for them. It’s tough though because my mind has so many ideas and desperately wants to see them all come to life immediately!
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There have been lots of highlights along the way but finally quitting the day job this year was a real pinnacle. I still can’t believe I’ve created a business on my own and it actually pays the bills. I keep thinking someone’s going to come and wake me up and tell me I’m late for the day job, ha-ha!
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Social media is so important for my business and without it I think the growth of my business would be a lot slower. Social media allows me to share my products, reach and connect with my customers and network with fellow small business owners. I’m a big fan of Twitter because I feel it has multiple uses but I think my favourite has to be Instagram. I’m a visual person at heart and Instagram allows me to explore that side of myself but at the same time, share my creations and inspirations. I also LOVE looking at other people’s photos, so it’s win-win for me as a social media platform!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The first thing I would say is, just start. Life is too short and while you’re daydreaming about a great idea you had, someone could be out there creating it. Yes, there are lots of things you need to know but you can’t possibly know them all until you actually start and you’re more likely to realise what it is you don’t know as you’re building your business.
Secondly, if you’re running an online business selling products, take the best flipping photos you possibly can. If you can’t, then pay for a professional photographer to do them for you. It is the money well spent and something I wish I’d done from the get-go. As soon as I uploaded my new photos my sales rocketed.
Thirdly, test your products out before launching them. Actually use them, wear them, wash them, throw them around a bit and see how they fair. If they need tinkering with then it’s better to have figured this out before a customer realises this. Also, be brave and show them to friends and family and ask for honest feedback. I once did an anonymous questionnaire to get feedback on a product and it was so helpful and lead me straight back to the drawing board to improve it.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
I have so many plans it’s actually ridiculous and will require me to gain the super-human ability of not needing sleeping, ha-ha! Joking aside, I am actually going to be moving me and my business to Bristol where I am planning to tap into the incredible, creative scene there and see what opportunities arise out of that. I also have plans for expanding my product range, re-branding and if time allows, finally getting a website.
Thank you so much to Joanna for taking the time to be a part of my Behind The Biz series at this busy time of the year. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about the story behind Adventures and Tea Parties. I love hearing about what people did before they started their own biz. I think today’s interview shows that you should never give up on your side hustle, you never know what it might lead to.
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