“Your name here!” – could brand merchandise boost your business?

You’ve probably seen that there’s a shiny new Freelance Mum tote bag doing the rounds. Beautiful, isn’t it? And as bright as you’d expect from such a brave, bold and bonkers brand!

Faye isn’t the only business owner I know to go down the merchandising route. You may remember Mel Bound from This Mum Runs  who was speaker at one of the St Paul’s meetings last year. Her company sells everything from sportswear to inspirational prints, all of which are branded – and her mums love them. And FM members Hullo Creative have created a whole shop full of gorgeous products including mugs, totes and prints.

So should you be investing in getting merchandise designed and made for your brand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two reasons why you should:

1) Brand merchandise can create community

There’s a lot of talk about ‘tribes’ at the moment, and for good reason. Relationships are what great businesses are built on. Whether you call it a tribe, a community, a family or something else, the group of people who loyally support your business will love the chance to show off their association with your brand. It’s all about creating that sense of belonging.

2) Brand merchandise can create an income stream

Merchandise may never be your main income stream, but if you can build up a steady trickle of orders then it could be a good source of relatively passive income. By providing your customers with products they really want, which add value and are priced right, you’ll stay front of mind and hopefully that will lead on to more work or sales in the future.

There is a cost involved, of course. So if you’re going to do it, then you need to think carefully before you go ahead to make sure you make the most of the move.

• Think about what people want: You might love chunky coffee mugs, but do your customers? If not, there’s no point investing the money because you won’t make it back in sales. As with all marketing, your thinking has to start with the people you’re wanting to buy your products.

• Make sure you invest in quality: If you’ve got a quality brand then you need to make sure that’s reflected in the quality of the products you’re offering. There’s a world of difference between a notebook with thin pages and a plain cover, and one with a glossy embossed cover and thick luxurious pages.

• Think about your sales platform: If you’re planning on selling your merchandise (as opposed to using it for promotional give aways or as client gifts) then you’ll have to think about the practicalities. Do you have a physical shop or a regular meeting spot where people will be able to buy? Or will you set up a shop on your website? Remember to factor things like postage and packaging into your costings!

Personally I love a good tote bag, and regularly cart my laptop and paperwork around in the original Freelance Mum bag I got when I first came along. If you’re thinking about going down the merchandising route, why not ask Faye about her experience?

This blog was written by fellow Freelance Mum, Rin Hamburgh.

Our beautiful merchandise designed by fellow Freelance Mum, Lucie Gray at Paper Aeroplane Creative.

With photograhy by fellow Freelance Mum, Nicola Jane Photography.

PS The Freelance Mum merchandise, is currently only available at our events. A little on line shop will follow soon, but if you’d like some thing, just drop us a line at faye@freelancemum.co.uk.

Graft – turning a passion for graffiti into a vibrant venture!

When teachers Sophie and Rob, had their first child in 2012, it ear marked a gear change for them in more ways than one. Not only did they now have to juggle family life around teaching, but for Rob, it prompted him to put some ideas into practice. As a secondary school art teacher and with a love of social history, he had often enjoyed teaching his students graffiti lessons. Not just the practice of it – but part of Bristol’s rich social history. Now was the time, to put those ideas into practice and start teaching them as workshops outside of school.

In September 2012, Graft was born – workshops for budding graffiti artists up to Granny and Grandad grafters. From age 8 upwards – if you’ve got an occasion, or just want to try something different, Graft have got it covered.

Workshops are held in The Island, the former Bridewell Street Police Station. It’s an irony appreciated by both Rob & Sophie, that their students are being taught graffiti, in cells former artists had probably been locked up in! Typically workshops last 3 hours, beginning with a mini tour of some of the graffiti around Bristol, before getting hands on and participants having a go themselves. They start with practicing their tag, before trying spray cans on boards, then finally having a go on walls. There’s a lot of white washing involved when it comes to prepping the classes!

 

Read more

DragonBird Theatre Company

DragonBird Theatre – prepare for a land of make believe!

When I was a new mum (all those many moons ago!) and grappling my way round the ‘baby circuit’, I was at a loss some days for what to do. Not because there was a lack of activities in Bristol, almost the complete opposite- I found myself overwhelmed with opportunities. The trouble was, Jemima wasn’t a fan of the car, or pushchairs – so wherever we arrived, she was usually having a meltdown, we were both stressed, hot & sweaty & everything seemed to start on the back foot.

Eventually, I decided it didn’t matter where we went, we were going to arrive in a pickle anyway, so we might as well make it something worth getting in a state over. I plumped for DragonBird Theatre Company, despite it being the other side of town for me, I was drawn to them as it was the first time I’d come across theatre for babies.

I wasn’t let down. In true form, Jemima & I arrived in our usual ‘post meltdown car journey slightly stressed’ fashion, but it was worth the effort. I can still remember it now. The session began with the performers (and brains behind DragonBird Theatre) Lotte Norgaard and Tilly Langdon, walking aroung the space & greeting every one with hand puppets Dragon & Bird, singing their signature ‘hello song’. You get used to ‘hello songs’ at groups, they’re usually nice enough, but sung with a slightly forced smile. This one was far more beautiful, almost folk like & soothing – in fact, almost 3 years on and I can still hum the tune.

They then began a short performance of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – everything larger than life & almost like a real life cartoon in front of your eyes. The children were spellbound. Completely caught up in the moment. The performance itself was only around 15 minutes, so no time for attention spans to wander, before the audience was invited to join the adventure. The room was divided into different areas so the children could experience ‘walking through the squelching mud’ or the ‘swishy swashy grass’, making the whole thing larger than life & completely interactive.

In terms of ‘the baby circuit’ that was some time ago, but the memory stays with me- it completely captivated all the children & gave them that first taste of theatre. Capturing their imagination, from the safety of their parents laps and showing them the power of make believe.

I’ve followed DragonBird Theatre ever since and although I can’t make it on a regular basis, I love what they do. Both Lotte and Tilly were drama teachers, before they formed DragonBird Theatre and both felt compelled to work with early years. Both of them have complete for what they do & radiate a real warmth. Their philosophy, is it allows families time to enjoy playing together – to think about nothing else for those 45 minutes and just indulge in the experience.

The sessions are all carefully structured for short attention spans, incorporating all the senses – so they’re engaging from the get-go. They’re aimed from birth – 5 and you can really see it working on every level. In fact, they don’t stop there – coming up they’re performing The Tempest as part of Shakespeare for Babies at The Egg. How’s that for ambitious?

DragonBird Theatre Company was a little chink of sanity & escapism, in the midst of a very full on time for me. To watch little ones get caught up in the fun and spirit of adventure, is a joy for any parent. It’s part of their childhood I want them never to grow out of.

SeeingSticks

You could say it was Victoria Jackon’s Grandfather who influenced her business. When it came to keeping her & her brother entertained on long car journeys he was a whizz at devising fun entertainment packs. At the beginning of every journey, he’d give them a pack with things to look out for – things that were happening on the route. The first one was always the Unigate Diary that was on the flyover on the way out of London – so the first thing they had to spot were the Unigate concrete cows! Once they’d spotted those, he’s give them the next envelope, or get them to open the next clue & send them on their next spotting mission. It was a welcome bit of entertainment, which got them through the journeys & kept them happy along the way.

In many ways, it’s the ethos & approach that Victoria has adopted when it comes to her business, SeeingSticks – which takes children on an art adventure. They provide art & craft packs with a difference, for 4- 11 year olds. It’s all about engaging with children and getting them to look at the world around them.

SeeingSticks on a craft tableSeeingSticks is so named as ‘SeeingSticks’ are all the implements that allow children to draw what they see – chalks, pastels, paint brushes, crayons – they are all part of our ‘Seeing Sticks’.

I once had a friend whose Dad called a pencil his ‘thinking stick’ – it’s exactly the same principle that I love for children, we see, we draw, we think, we engage.

 

As a mum of two young children, Victoria found art packs are more a case of ‘following instructions’ & staying in the lines – rather than looking out of the window, which is a huge part of creativity. Although there are huge amounts of arts & craft packs on the market for children, none seemed to offer an interactive element & so SeeingSticks was born.

SeeingSticks wedding explorer packWe recently got married & as we’re at a point in our life where every one (including ourselves) had children, we decided to invite children as well. Which is no mean feet when there are 40 children at a wedding! It was important there was something to keep the children entertained & part of the day, rather than ‘silenced in the corner with a pack of pencils’. SeeingSticks provided a crafty helping hand. Every child was given an ‘official wedding explorer pack’, with fab questions like ‘what traditions did you like’, ‘what did you wear’ & included activities like ‘when you hear music, dance a pencil over this space, make it move to the music’.

 

Not only that, it was in keeping with the day for the adults to get involved on the art adventure too – so SeeingSticks provided postcards for both grown ups & children to draw or write down their favourite memory & pop it in a jam jar at the end of the day. As both a mum & the bride, it was a real joy to see so many people interacting & jotting down memories, as a fun keepsake. By far, my favourite jam jar memory was a the tale of a little boy who listened carefully to his Dad, as he explained it was the part in the service when they would pray & that prayer is a time to wish for nice things for your family. So he dutifully held out his hands & wished for more biscuits!

 

child colouring in with SeeingSticksIt’s moments like this that SeeingSticks allows you to capture & hold. To see the world in a fun & different way & allow children to harness it.

Their graphics are all hand drawn & written, which have a lovely personal touch to them. You can’t but help think Victoria’s Grandad would be rather proud, to see the SeeingSticks world that he’s help create today.

Zoe Hewitt Designs

As Bristol becomes the Green Capital, Zoe Hewitt explains how up-cycling can inspire your home. This post is featured in the January issue of The Bristol Magazine.

I first met Zoe Hewitt nearly 3 years, as both our girls were ‘early birds’ and spent time in NICU together. One of my stand out memories, is of us chatting in the affectionately named ‘pump room’, while Zoe described her daughter Olive’s nursery scheme. While most parents had opted for mute colours, Zoe went into detail about the wildlife wonderland wallpaper she had chosen, which sounded so magical your mind could wander a thousand adventures.

Scroll forward several years & both our ‘babies’ are now ‘big girls’ and are very much making their mark on the world. In Olive’s case, she seems to have inherited her mums love of colour & loves her bonkers bedroom. It makes sense when you discover that Zoe is an interior designer, with a love decorating work & homes.

With a background in theatre & set design, she’s used to making a splash in spaces – only now it’s in peoples homes, rather than stage or screen. In many ways, says Zoe, it’s very similar. Instead of taking a brief from a director on stage, with the text, she takes the brief in their home & makes her mark there instead.

 

Part of her offering includes a newly weds nest design – to help newlyweds successfully consolidate two separate lives’ worth of belongings into a blended & balanced scheme. Looking around at my home, I wonder if we could have done with that! Our love of browsing brick-a-brack shops, means we seem to own a strange array of furniture, which in my minds eye was more stylish, but in reality feels more like a mish mash.

Zoe Hewitt painting a chair design in BristolIt would seem we’re not alone in that, Zoe explained, the eclectic look is one of the strongest trends emerging at the moment (‘trend’, I knew we were starting something!) with up cycling being a part of that. So can our brick a brack belongings be given a breathe of life? Yes they can – to quote Zoe they can ‘tarted up a bit’, tired items can be given a new lease of life with a lick of paint, upholstery or even decoupage. Just one of the many ways you can stay stylish, up cycle and be green. As an interior designer Zoe can do the work for you, or you can try your own hand & have a go at one of her workshops.

As a woman who seems to be a dab hand at up cycling, does Zoe have a favourite medium to work with? Decoupage seems to be her signature style, which in simple terms, is cutting & pasting. Building up layers of paper, with small pictures – a bit like a scrap book on table tops. You can be as bold & as brave as you feel – some people opting to cover just table legs, while others may cover the whole thing. The important thing is, you make your mark & personalize your look – varnishing along the way to give a smoother feel.

While I found myself wondering, if this would simply add another layer of muddle into the melee, Zoe explained you could pick a theme – like music sheets, or maps. Plus if you used out of date maps, you start entering a real up cycling zone.

As I write, there is a background orchestra of builders, extending our house & making a playroom for the girls. If ever there was a time to make our mark, it is now – lets see if I can take a leaf out of Zoe’s book & enter the world of up cycling. No more brick-a-brack brown!

With kind thanks to Simon Regan / Red Dog Productions, for the beautiful photography.