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.
Today I am sharing an amazingly creative lady with you, Debbie Winter who created a business called Chicky Wonders. She makes the most gorgeous felt goods. From mobiles to Christmas directions and nursery decor – Debbie can make anything you heart desires! I mean look at these photos? STUNNING. And totally the most gorgeous gift you could give to a loved one.. if you don’t land up keeping it for yourself 🙂
We chatted to the lovely Debbie and she had this to say!
Tell us a little bit about your business.
Hello, I feel like this might be some much needed reflection time, that I truly welcome. I haven’t thought too hard about the process of my business up until now. It’s great to be asked, so thank you for having me on here. I have been in web design and 2D animation my entire working career, so I’ve always been the creative type. My ChickyWonders idea began shortly before my daughter was born.
Having a baby really sent my creativity into overdrive. I wanted something that no one else would have, and I wanted it to be the most obvious and prettiest thing in her room, so I created her first baby mobile.
I received many compliments, and realised it really does own the center stage in a nursery.Shortly after my daughter was born, I joined Etsy (an international handcraft selling platform), and did tons of research on whether there was a market in handmade baby mobiles. It took me 2 years to actually pluck up courage to open shop and share what I created, and was overwhelmed with all the support, locally and internationally.
What are the top 3 learnings you have had to find out the hard way since starting your own business?
The biggest mother of all learning curves, was realising things don’t sell themselves. It may seem really obvious, but when I joined Etsy I sold 10 items in the first week and thought “well this is easy, why isn’t everyone doing this?”. I had no idea that Etsy gave new shops a short boost, then you’re on your own. So when my visits and sales took a dive, I started reading all I could about how Etsy behaved. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to keep up and Etsy appears to favour certain countries (SA not being one of them). So I quickly realised building my own website was the way to go, if I wanted complete control.
Lucky for me I developed websites for a living, so decided to stop this lazy attitude, and actually build my own ecommerce site. Out of it all I’ve driven quite a few orders through there, with no marketing. As long as you understand a bit about SEO, you will get a bit of traffic. I still have a LONG way to go, but figuring these things out as
I go, keeps me on my toes.
As most of my orders seem to come from an international market, I had the biggest challenge of all…. SOUTH AFRICAN POSTAL SERVICE. I was so nervous about using them, but took a deep breath and stood in line. I was pleasantly surprised with the Cape Town, Tokai branch.
I got great service with a smile, and all the costs were very affordable. Sadly the staff at the counter don’t carry the parcel to your recipient’s door.
The time it takes for a parcel to reach the USA is 7 Weeks. I nearly died. I was so embarrassed to tell customers this news, and know this is a big deterrent for many orders. However, out of it all, I am fairly lucky, as pregnancy does take 9 months, so the customer is usually very happy to wait for the cheap shipping option. PHEW. Otherwise, get a good relationship with your DHL dealer!
My third learning curve, which I would say is probably the most important of all for my product, was photography! It is usually THE only thing that will make someone click on your item. I thought all you needed was an expensive camera and the rest was easy. Well 2 years of using clothes horses, cardboard boxes, greaseproof paper, MR. Price reading lamps and many many youtube videos, I finally figured things out – sort of!
Where do you see your business in 5 years? Once we have gotten over the effects of the lock down.
I am hoping I can make this business into a full time gig in 2 – 3 years time. There is a lot for me to learn, business and marketing wise, as well as streamlining my production process. Once I wax the art of keeping my craft room tidy, I could save a few hours a day, on time I spend looking for stuff I JUST put down.
What is your advice to individuals out there wanting to start their own businesses but are too scared?
Do not hold back!!! I will be honest, I took 2 years to tell anyone what my idea was. If I had done it 2 years earlier, I could be a lot further right now. What I believe is, if YOU like your craft, product or idea, there will be plenty others who will too, just go out and find them! Do a lot of research and see if any others have done it. It is likely others have, but don’t be afraid of competition. They can be your best friend. There are different styles for everything, and no 1 style is suited to everyone.
Tell us 2 things that are the BEST part about owning your own business and make it all worth while?
For me, it is the connection with my customers. Because my product is such a personal customised item for their baby, it means so much to them. I almost feel a part of their journey in some regard.
As it is my own business there are no rules when it comes to creativity, so it’s great to be free with these kinds of decisions. I would love to say the freedom of doing what I want when I want, is also a thing of owning your own business, but I have a 4 year old, so that would be a lie! If I have orders, I have limited time before the tornado is home from school 😀 But I can’t complain, I love what I do – it’s therapeutic, so any time of day is good for me to craft!
How has lock down affected you, your business and your team?
I am a one man show, so it was devastating to be forced to shut shop for 3 months, especially since it was just starting to gain momentum. The courier and postal services were closed, so I couldn’t ship any orders. Luckily it is not a full time gig yet, so it really could have been worse. I thought I wouldn’t get any orders once the services resumed, but I had a big influx last month, so I did a number of happy dances. I reckon a covid baby boom has begun!?!