On a shoe string budget …

 Univeristy Project :  part one

As part of my university work we have been given the task of creating a ” miniture business” , meant  to run on a short term basis we have to create either a product or service working within a shoe string budget of £30 up until January of next year.By doing this I will hopefully have the first hand experience of running a business going about it with an open mind and plenty of creative thought. 

Now for the past few weeks I’ve been scratching my head continuously I came up with the idea of creating ” Paper wreaths” out of vintage pages but found I was asking myself would this work, is this a good idea ,managable on a small budget and would people buy it? I spent so much time adding up everything to work within my means that I had completely forgotten about my own creativeness , what I love to do and can do and its by rediscovering this that I came up with a new product idea completely seperate from  what I orignally intended to make. 

When designing or creating your own product for a business you maybe asking what are the key points you need to think about : 

  • Firstly you need to introduce what it is 
  • Secondly you need to conclude what it does / can give to its consumer 
  • Thirdly pin point who you are aiming your product at? ( target audience) 

Using these points for my product I’ve concluded the following : 

  •   I want to create an art based ceramic kit that brings contemporary ceramic designing techniques to your home without the need for a kiln. 
  •  specifically made with the purpose of boosting creativity in those who use it , promote sharing of idea’s ,creating a personalised keepsake or gift. 
  • aimed at those interested in ceramic’s /  arts & craft based design activities ( this may vary but I typically estimated that it will bring about the interest of young adults between the ages of 8-17 and older females of 21+ ) 

My next  task will be : 

  • Looking into competitors who do similar to my idea?
  • Pricing on how much I can make the product for ? 
  • Collecting of market research   (surveys / questionnaires) 


5.11.2012  ( extended reflective entry)
As part of my course module I have to create a product or service to run as an experimental short term business working within a budget of £30. Once my first lecture on this module had finished I went away trying to think about making a product that could be cheap to produce, easy to make in large quantities and would suit as a potential trendy purchase with the upcoming Christmas session.
I began to look at current items on the market , what people wanted and what was currently in trend ( such as patterns , colours, images and themes etc) to try and gain a much broader understanding as to how I could transpose all that research into my own unique idea to launch for my project.  However it was during my visit to Wales back in October that I came across a distinctive looking store that specialised in creating sellable goods for various uses ( such as notebooks, photo frames, furniture and lamp shades ). All  these goods however  were made from donated recycled materials such as old maps, newspaper, book pages, fabrics and denim ( see photographs below ).
In the world of today many small and large scale businesses support the idea of reusing or recycling different types of materials to make goods such as packaging, paper and such to help support a greener way of living. Instantly I could see how businesses such as this small store were able to create unique and distinctive products, incurring very little money to make as all materials are donated or reused and the prices from then selling these items could create potential profits for the business.

After seeing the different products that this store was creating, I thought it would be a positive and productive idea to source out creating a stylish product from materials that I could acquire for free. Taking into account I had to work to such a small budget of £30, by pursuing this type of idea the overall outgoings that would have been invested into materials could instead leave finances left over to invest into promotional materials and methods to pitch the end product. 
In the end I came to the decision of creating “Christmas wreath decorations”, something potential customers could reuse each year, that was durable and in keeping with yearly trends of each Christmas season. Concluding that this was the avenue I wanted to travel down, I then found myself contemplating what free reusable material I already owned that I could create these wreaths from and turned to online craft blog’s such as katydidandkid.com for inspiration. 

In the past I had the habit of collecting old worn unwanted books from the school library where I work that were simply going to be thrown away. The pages of these books were worn and yellowed and instantly I thought of reusing these pages to create my Christmas decorations. I broke down a list of what materials I would need to create a tester sample (polystyrene hoop, hot glue gun, paper, and ribbon) pricing up the cost of any extra necessities, as by testing the product out first would help me to conclude whether it was up to quality for selling to potential customers.

 Paper vintage wreath, 2012,  http://www.katydidandkid.com/2009/12/recycled-book-wreath-tutorial.html

I was able to price that to create a sample would cost around £3.50 for one, this simply included one polystyrene ring, ribbon and shipping as for simplicity and ease it made sense to acquire these items online. 

However before investing into this more I reflected on my initial project despite the fact that this idea seemed promising to begin with, my good intentions of creating Christmas wreaths for sale became more difficult when I began to think more outside of the box of simply just making them from  recycled materials. I hadn’t taken into account: 
  • How I was going to sell them
  • Where would I sell my product
  •  How much people would be willing to pay for them 
  •  Do people in Staffordshire have a very big decoration budget? 
  •  What would the wreaths be packaged in to ensure they were protected for use in further years
  • How would I promote it?

In regards to selling my product I had considered selling these wreaths as pre-order items at venues such as small shops and school receptions, here I would pitch my product with a sample display wreath accompanied by a pre-order list where customers can see the end result and order the required quantities of wreaths that they wanted. This would have meant that I could make the wreaths as needed according to numbers and also acquire funding early to then finance the material costs and packaging to meet orders effectively for a delivery date supplied ( pitch sales in November deliver wreaths by December).

Though due to lack of time management by time I had finished part of a separate module an allotted amount of my time had passed, leaving me with very few options as I hadn’t made the samples and I hadn’t approached the potential venues early enough to establish with them what I was doing. I also found myself asking whether people would have the confidence in putting pre-order money (pay before receiving the item) into my service and this affected the confidence I had in this approach. 

The option of selling through craft fairs did cross my mind as another point of sales; however in the past I have experienced this type of sales environment before witnessing where very often people come to browse and not buy. Many will also bargain or try to haggle prices down despite the fact that what is for sale maybe handmade and unique to the artist who created it resulting in how much it is priced. Another point I recognised was the incurred costs of the table hire (often £15 for the day) and travel at these fairs which would have been too high for me to work within such a small budget and potentially a consumer of too much time with unknown results into how the fairs may do.

People in Staffordshire like many others are also feeling the effects of the recession and therefore this is affecting how and where they spend their finances. After completing some research asking various people who live in Staffordshire about my wreath idea and how much they would purchase this type of item for , most said they would pay very little maybe £5 or less for the item overall. I also had no effective promotional ideas in places to advertise my product again due to such a small time scale for this project I didn’t look ahead enough to predict my methods and overall outcome for the project. 

I didn’t consider how long these wreaths would take me to make as I had never made them before and it’s because of this that I could not predict how much time would go into making simply one wreath, let alone a large quantity should I have numerous orders. Another underlining factor that I found deterred me from the idea of creating these wreaths was the fact that I wasn’t able to add my own designs or enjoy adding my creativity to them since they would simply be wreaths made out of printed book paper.

Also if I intended to make a business for myself as a freelance illustrator or designer would wreaths really fit well alongside my business plan and aims? 

I understand now that maybe despite this idea seeming promising it wasn’t something I would enjoy doing as for starters I’m too impatient to sit and make something I’m not passionate about and my interests very often surround the creation of an idea or design and then pitching it for sales not necessarily making it.Reflecting back I feel I also set myself slightly to much to do for this idea and in turn this resulted in me changing my £30 project idea two to three weeks into the module, wasting time and leaving me steps behind where I could have been.

In the future I would focus on defining what the focal point of my entire business project will be as early on as possible and determine whether the product fits in with my businesses theme, capabilities and style. Making these decisions early will reduce the amount of time spent wasted on researching an idea that simply isn’t practical to produce at that moment in time.I also need to be more self aware of my capabilities as an individual , if I intend to run projects solo in the future then I need to have marketing , methods and sales and promotion in place before hand so that I have a means of selling the item reducing possiblity of coming to a stand still. This maybe through the use of an online shop to sell my wares, promoting my products through a blog ,social networking media ( twitter, facebook) and much more. These are factors I hadn’t considered for this particular idea as I became swept up in the idea’s and intial processes rather than the future.


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