On a Friday afternoon last month, we face-timed in to chat to Claire, founder of Potter and Mooch, a jewellery and textiles company, to discuss the journey that she’s been on to set up her own business. Claire runs Potter and Mooch through an online shop and by selling at various events throughout the year. We have caught her at a busy time, as she prepares all her stock for the first event of the year.
It is impossible not to admire Claire’s determination and the hard work she’s put in to get to where she is. She originally designed Potter and Mooch’s most popular item, the ‘Ear Wings’, beautiful hand-made earrings that climb up the side of the ear, back in 2014, for her own wedding day and she has expanded from there.
We chatted to Claire about how her journey has evolved over the last 6 years, the hardest things she has come across and she reveals her advice on starting up a business and her hopes for the future.
Q. Where did the inspiration behind Ear Wings come from?
In December 2013 I got engaged and started planning for my wedding. By the summer of 2014 I’d picked my dress and it had quite a high neckline, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear a necklace; therefore, I wanted to focus on earrings. I thought it would be really nice to get something that wound its way up the side of my ears. I searched online and in shops but couldn’t find anything of the sort. So I decided to make my own! I ordered some materials and just started experimenting and came up with a design.
Q. How did Potter & Mooch come about?
Back in 2014, when I first designed the Ear Wings I honestly would never have thought it would turn into the business that it is today. Whilst I was still planning my wedding, I did a small charity event in a village near me. I thought it would be great just to earn a little bit extra money for the wedding. It was £30 to reserve a space and I borrowed my grandads wallpaper pasting table! I had done Surface Design for Textiles at university, so I just gathered anything that I had created during my degree that I could sell. All my upholstery, some cushions and about 20 pairs of the Ear Wings that I had made. The event was a huge success and I just decided there and then that I wanted to do this as a job!
Q. When did you decide to make this into your full-time job?
After that first event, I just started doing more and more events. At the time I still had a job, so, as well as working Monday to Friday, I was also doing events at the weekend and then having to replenish stock as well. Then in March 2016 I became self employed, set up the website and since then have gradually started training up other makers.
Q. How do you advertise your earrings?
We mainly advertise through magazines. When I was first starting up I went through Twitter and started following loads of different people, companies etc. I must have followed Country Living at some point because they messaged me to say ‘we’d love to feature you’. I thought they meant they wanted to come to my office to interview me and photograph me working. When it came to it though they just wanted me to pay for a small advert! It was £300 for the advert, which was a lot of money for me, especially as I didn’t know if it was going to work. But I just thought: if I don’t try I will never know. On the first day the advert came out, I made my £300 back! Since that first advert, we’ve branched out and we are now in lots of magazines, like Good Housekeeping and Prima. We also do lots of events; when I first started it was my only way of reaching people. Now though, magazines are the number 1 place we get our traffic from.
Q. Where do you base yourself?
When my husband and I first got married, we had this small one bedroom flat and I used to do all the orders from the floor of our lounge. The idea of having my own studio was an amazing dream. Then last year we bought our first house and there is a small room downstairs which we’ve turned into my studio and it’s just perfect! We’ve got two desks in here and I can shut it off and wear comfy clothes all day. It’s just the best.
Q. What do you love most about owning your own business?
Being able to employ other people. Technically, all our jewellery makers are self employed and I pay them per pair of earrings they make. But that is definitely my favourite part – others benefiting from it doing well. And I do love working for myself as well. We became a limited company last year so now I’m employed by the company! Which is a bit weird!
Q. What is the biggest challenge in running a business?
It’s not easy to go away or have a break. If I did want to go away, I would have to do so much prep work beforehand. Hopefully one day soon, we’ll be in a place where it’s sturdy enough, so if I wasn’t around it wouldn’t be an issue. This is partly why we’ve trained up three new team members this year.
Q. How have you found running a business?
I’ve had to learn things as I go. I’m not really into business, although I do enjoy it. I just try to take everything into consideration and make decisions based on what works well and who our audience is. I’ve just learnt what I need to at the time!
Q. When have you been at your busiest?
Last Christmas was exhausting! We were a smaller team back then, and two were off over Christmas and one was only newly trained. This meant I was making a lot of the earrings myself. We were getting about 70 – 90 orders a day, so I was doing shifts of 6am until 2am. I was so exhausted. It was another level of being busy. Also, on top of the online orders we had events. I don’t know how I did it! There were no weekends and I was surviving on only a few hours sleep.I think I managed to only cry once though! Although, if someone was nice to me, such as cooking me dinner or when my sister-in-law did a big pile of ironing, I would just well-up because I was so thankful! After that Christmas, I decided: never again! Then at the beginning of this year we hired three new girls to help make the Ear Wings.
Q. What are your hopes for the future?
It would be great to get to a stage where I don’t have to be making the earrings as much, so I can focus more on textiles. I would absolutely love to do more textiles and surface design. I’ve got so many ideas but no time to do it currently. I want to do a collection of prints, and maybe even expand to stationary and homeware. Also, I just hope that all the team continue to be happy, feel valued and love what we are doing and we continue to build something to last.
Q. What would your advice be for someone who wants to start selling?
I would just really encourage people to think outside the box or to think about what products are out there and what they can improve on. Find your niche and a gap in the market to sell to people. There are so many different platforms for it too, like Etsy and Instagram.