So as you all know I love to support local and started a segment where we could share, learn and inspire! It is so important to support local and share your findings with others.

During lock down, we are going to do a whole lot of these to highlight these businesses – many of which are taking HUGE strain during this time – and shed some awareness and love to all.

I found actuallyashleigh recently through social media and then I was lucky enough to win a competition on Instagram and won one of her origami themed trinket bowls! So stunning, I’m so chuffed. So I just knew I had to share! Her ceramics are just divine – plates, bowls, vases – all perfect for you or as a gift. All these gorgeously patterned pieces start off as a drawing on transfer sheets that is then transferred on to these special ceramic pieces!

Please give lots of love and follow their Facebook and Instagram pages. And pop to their website to shop online!

We chatted to the lovely founder and talented #girlboss behind actuallyashleigh – Ashleigh Weaver!

Tell us a little bit about your business.

actuallyashleigh is a small collection of homeware that combines my love of drawing with the functionality of ceramics. I’m one of those people that is constantly doodling or drawing patterns on everything, so putting these designs onto a permanent surface that can be a useful product was a huge lightbulb moment for me! I studied Fine Art, and have always been drawn to pattern, and I think this has also shaped how I’ve approached the way I do things. I prefer not to mass-produce, I strive to make each item a one-off piece of functional art. (Method: The designs start out as drawings on paper, they are then printed on ceramic decal or transfer sheets. I cut each design out and apply them to the ceramic surface one by one. More often than not, this becomes a tedious and time consuming process. Then the ceramics are fired at 780 C and the designs become permanent. The ceramics are made in Cape Town, so everything is 100% local).

What are the top 3 learnings you have had to find out the hard way since starting your own business?

The first hard lesson is retail and consignment. I quickly learnt that if you don’t get your wholesale price right in the beginning, you aren’t going to make much profit. When I started, I would always lower my price so that it wouldn’t be too expensive for customers, but the shop was making just as much on my product as I was, and customers were getting a bargain on something that took a lot of time and labour.

Also, when choosing a retail outlet, choose carefully. I’ve lost so much stock due to sales not being recorded properly, stocktakes not being taken, and having my things arrive broken when sent back from retailers that failed to package them properly!!! It can be soul destroying, but you do eventually find people that run shops that care about your products just as much as you do, and when you do, look after these relationships!

Third lesson learnt, which I’m still learning, is marketing. It takes me ages, and I find it exhausting having to post pics and have the right tone and keep up a consistent online presence. But at the end of the day you are communicating with people and telling them about your wares, and people actually like and respond to this! I am obviously more creative than business minded, so this is a constant learning curve for me:)

Where do you see your business in 5 years? Once we have gotten over the effects of the lock down.

In 5 years’ time I would like to have my own kiln! I’d also like to have a more suitable studio. At the moment, it’s a beautiful light-filled room above our bedroom, but I need more shelves and more surface area! I am unfortunately one of those that lean towards the ‘Organised Chaos’ theory. I would also like to have extended my designs to other surfaces, like textiles, and soft furnishings… And hopefully my work will be more accessible to the world by then. I’d like to see some collaborations happening in the near future too, perhaps with some of the bigger retailers who feature SA designers?

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What is your advice to individuals out there wanting to start their own businesses but are too scared?

Jumping into something that you’re not sure of making money from is always daunting, but if you can’t imagine your life not doing that thing that makes you happy, then you’ll always wonder ‘what if…?’ and the saying goes that you always regret the things you didn’t do rather than the things you did. If you love something, you will be good at it, and get better with the more time you spend on it.

This passion is infused in your work, and it’s ultimately what customers will see and appreciate and pay for. If you love what you do, and work hard at it, success will find you. In the beginning (actually, probably for the first year or so), I only sold to family and friends. Only when I started doing markets (and this was hard, as I am introverted and not a good ‘seller’) did I realize that other people liked my stuff, and that, yes, I could do this. Good things take time, let them. Admit to yourself when you need help and support, and time to recharge. I’m a one-woman band, and sometimes this can be overwhelming. Prioritise and set goals that are attainable on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

Tell us 2 things that are the BEST part about owning your own business and make it all worth while?

I love what I do, and when other people love what I do, it’s the best validation and incentive to carry on. The creative side is definitely my favourite part. As each piece is always different from the last I don’t get too bored, and always feel like I am just playing around with colours and shapes, cutting and pasting to my heart’s content! I am lucky enough to do this from home, so it means I can be here for my kids and husband and keep things on the homefront running smoothly (this can be a juggling act, but we’re getting there!).

How has lock down affected you, your business and your team?

My heart goes out to businesses that had to close during this time, it hasn’t been easy. I used to mostly sell at markets before lockdown happened. With these being closed, and still mostly not allowed due to gatherings of people, I’ve not been able to sell nearly as much as previously. Also, stock sitting in shops gathered dust until they were able to open again. But, that said, the support from like-minded brands, and the running of giveaways on social media has led to so many more followers and online interactions. I’m very grateful for the support from the online community on various platforms; mentions, shares and shout outs all mean so much to a small business. So the time has come to go online properly, and my website have just launched…!

Hopefully this marks the beginning of bigger and better things to come.

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