Small Talk is constantly looking to share and celebrate small businesses and Welsh brands, we value the hard work and dedication it takes to make a small business work successfully, because it ain’t as easy as it looks!
This week we are proud to be sharing our interview with Jade Sims, the owner of Olla Home ware a maker and craftswoman based in Wales.
ST : Tell us about yourself and your background. Where is your business based?
Jade : Hi, I’m Jade and I’m the owner and craftswoman for Olla Homeware. I’ve always been interested in craft since I was a child, but never thought I could make a career out of it. That sort of thing wasn’t really promoted in my school. Art class consisted of observational drawing or copying from someone else’s artwork. It was highly recommended that if I wanted to take a career in art & design that I complete a year of foundation art & design first. This year was a complete eye opener for me as I experimented in every material. It was wonderful. From that I continued my love of materials and moved to Cardiff from Pembrokeshire to undertake a Ba(Hons) Artist Designer: Maker, where my love of ceramics flourished towards the end of my second year.
I currently run a communal ceramic studio out of Meanwhile House in Cardiff, where I offer kiln rental and assistance to budding and experienced ceramicists.
ST : Where did you get the idea for your business?
Jade : What I simply wanted to do was share my love for handmade things with other people. I thought if I could create a ceramic homeware range in various colour combinations over different budget ranges, there would be something that everyone could enjoy.
We were encouraged to brand ourselves for our professional practise module in third year and while most people chose to keep their own name as their brand name, I wanted something different. Simply because I didn’t think my name was memorable enough as a brand! So I chose Olla, which is latin for pot.
ST : What were some of the challenges you faced as a business during the pandemic?
Jade : While my struggles were minimum compared to others, I found that the closure of businesses affected income. On the other hand, it boosted online sales as people were keen to invest in their homes as they had more disposable income.
Another issue has been access to materials and increase of prices. A mixture of covid and brexit has caused massive stock issues with raw materials, which in turn has forced prices to rise. It has made me rethink my processes a lot and I’ve had to make a few glaze changes to be able to keep my RRP’s the same.
ST : What was the biggest challenge you faced as an individual?
Jade : As the same with the majority of people, covid really affected my mental health. This caused me to over-reflect and be too critical of my work and doubt my ability to be successful. There were quite a few days that I couldn’t face the studio because my self-doubt was far too strong.
ST : What is your favourite part of running your business?
Jade : I think my favourite part is selling. That email or “cher-ching” sound that Etsy makes when something has sold. It means someone else has found my work worthy of being in their home and it gives me great pride to be able to give someone I don’t even know some joy when they open their parcel. I really enjoy watching people handling my work at markets and them getting excited over the prospect of buying it.
ST : How do you overcome down days if you have them? Mental blocks, brain fog, burn out?
Jade : I don’t necessarily overcome down days within the same day. I tend to remember that I can’t be on the ball everyday and so I forgive myself and know that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to continue with my work.
ST : Running your business through social media can be difficult and consuming, do you think the changes to the algorithms have helped or made it more challenging to produce more content more often.
Jade : I’ve found that even with growing followers, the likes and saves have been decreasing. I’ve recently picked up using Tailwind, which really helps with scheduling and new hashtags. At the moment I try to schedule about 5 posts (for 5 days) at a time, as it is unlikely that I will post everyday one at a time.
I’ve had some success with paid Instagram ads too, and you don’t need to plough a lot of money into that to make it successful. The trick is knowing who your audience is and doing specific targeting.
ST : Do you have any advice for other small business owners?
Yes – it’s okay not to get it right the first, second or third time. It will take a while. I’m still not getting it right and I’m 5 years graduated this year. Always be aware of what your customers are reacting to on social media and make more of those sorts of products. Don’t get caught up in making what YOU think will sell, as everyone has different tastes to you.
Use tools to help you with social media. There are plenty of free tools out there so you don’t have to worry about paying out for something. Monitor your website (it is worth setting up so that you aren’t relying on Etsy and their high fees) using tools like Google Analytics. Doing a short digital marketing course online will really help you out.
Don’t jump into every opportunity as this will cost a lot of money. Analyse the opportunity – are there fees? What is the footfall like? Is it in the right location and are the customers your target market? Do you really need that service or can you do it yourself?
Find yourself a reliable photographer that can do you some action shots, a good photographer is worth their weight in gold.
You can find Jade and her amazing goodies on her website which is linked below and of course make sure to follow her on Instagram.
Big Love, The Small Talk Team x