Etsy Captains Summit 2017 - Etsy HQ, London

In march I was invited to Etsy HQ as part of the Etsy Captains Summit. Team captains from across the country were invited to London for a whole weekend of networking, talks, tea drinking, eating amazing food and workshops. I've been asked numerous times how I got on and what I got up whilst I was there. So, I thought I'd do a little post on it so you can find out a little more.

Firstly, let's start with what a team is for anyone new to this. A team is a group of people who sell through Etsy and who have come together with a common interest. Teams can be regional, or have set focuses like advertising and promotions. My team, the Somerset Etsy Team is a regional team for people who live and run their Etsy shop from Somerset in the U.K. We come together each month to help each other in various aspects of our shops or to just chat about everything small business and Etsy related. We also talk and support each other within a closed group on Facebook where everyone is free to ask questions and chat. More of this later on in another post!

I ventured up to London on a Friday afternoon where I met up with the lovely Merseyside Etsy Team captain, Becka Griffin. Saturday morning soon came around and we wandered on down to Etsy HQ where we were greeted with a breakfast that catered for all, and tea on tap! I won't lie, despite Internet appearances, I was terribly nervous, because to me, meeting new people is incredibly daunting and my mind just goes blank and nothing comes out of my mouth! Luckily, everyone was really friendly and Becka already knew most of the people there and introduced me to lots of other captains from across the country.

One of the things that I noticed first about their amazing offices is, not only are they playfully decorated and have puns for meeting room names, but they are also fully accessorised with handmade products from the site itself. I recognised a number of prints on the wall and even the mugs we drank our tea from. It's great to see that level of support from such a big company.

Once we'd all scoffed down our breakfasts and had a good chat we moved into the main offices where we got to sit on super comfy wheelie chairs. I LOVED these. I love wheelie/swirly chairs anyway, but swirly chairs on a wooden floor = fun... The team at Etsy introduced themselves and we jumped straight into ice breakers and talks. Jessika Hepburn of Oh My! Handmade delivered a great talk on 'the power of when people get together'. This was incredibly interesting because it made me realise all of the things that we could do if we worked together on our Etsy team. We can help each other grow and succeed. We can share our knowledge and fill skills gaps. We can overcome obstacles and help to grow each others confidence. We can create a support network that helps people to feel less lonely and more connected.

After lunch we did some more community activities and Etsy updated us on a few more things, but I was much more excited about something else. The amazing Rachel from OH NO Rachio! came to do a little ceramics workshop with us all. I've wanted to have a go at something ceramics based for so long, so this was fantastic. Not only that, but I'm a big fan of Rachel's work and she is just so full of energy and super friendly!

In the evening we were all taken out to Only Connect for food, where the Fabulous 698B not only served up some amazing food but also put on an incredible show. It's difficult to describe how amazing the show was. Imagine desserts being created in front of you via theatrical performance and then you get to eat the results of said performance!

On Sunday morning, we all popped back down to Etsy HQ for another great breakfast and another day of great talks, tea, cake and activities. I left that evening feeling very inspired about the things I want to do with my team and how I can best help them. Speaking to other team captains has given me lots of new ideas and ways to get the most out of the team and I can't wait to get started on implementing them. One of them was taking on a team leader, which I did as soon as I got back and it's helped make things so much easier. Luckily, the lovely Joanna from Adventures And Tea Parties said yes!

I can't thank Etsy enough for inviting me. They are such a friendly bunch of people and they looked after us so well. If we had a question, they did their very best to answer it. They also took note of all suggestions to feed back to the relevant people. It's not just another selling platform. It's a whole community and I feel very grateful to be a part of that. Many people don't realise this, but being a team captain isn't a paid role, it's voluntary. We do it because we love it, and want to help people and create our own local community of makers. And I felt we were really appreciated for this. So, thanks for having me Etsy, I had a great time and met some amazing, inspiring people along the way.

5 Things I Learnt From #MarchMeetTheMaker

#MarchMeetTheMaker came and went in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, it was over. For anyone who doesn't know, I set up the Instagram challenge in February of 2016 to give people a solid month of content and so we could all get to know each other a bit better. It started off as a bit of fun and snowballed into something much bigger, quicker than I could have ever imagined. People from all over the world joined in and it really is a great community to be a part of and I've met some amazing new friends through it.

So what did I learn?

1. The power of social media is so much greater than I have ever given it credit for. This challenge wouldn't have the following that it does without the power of the regram or friends tagging other friends to take part. I owe all the success of this challenge to people spreading the word. Without them, I'd be doing it on my own. It actually blows my mind if I try to imagine it in numbers.

2. Preparation is important, like really important. I photographed most of my images way in advance because I knew that I would be away visiting Etsy HQ for a couple of days and I'd orgranised a surprise day out for my family. This took off so much of the stress of finding something interesting to post about and I found it actually made my posts a bit more interesting to read. Probably because I had to really think about some of the prompts. During the first year I'd spend at least an hour every night trying to do the round up and trying to scroll through everyone's images. This time I found it better to check several times throughout the day. This way I didn't have to spend so much time in the evening doing it, and it meant I got to see so much more content. Also, it was much less stressful.

3. That you can't please everyone and you can't like everything. At the start of challenge, I was trying to reply to everyone and trying to like everything posted to the point that Instagram blocked me from liking posts for an hour. I wanted to thank everyone for their help and for taking part but it got to a point that I was finding it really stressful and felt anxious every time I picked up my phone. It took me a while to realise that it just wasn't possible to like everything and thank everyone (even if I did try my best to do so). I also realised that I had to switch off otherwise I would do no work, no orders would get made and I'd waste hours online stressing. I don't allow any push notifications what so ever on my phone so once I'd closed the app, that made it a lot easier to try and get on with things. Although there was always a niggle in the back of my head telling me to go and like more.

4. We're all in the same boat and have A LOT in common. I noticed so many similarities with other creative types during this challenge. One of the things I noticed the most is that we all seem to like the colour yellow (my favourite), stripes (another favourite) and denim dungaree dresses (I still can't find one in my size!), we love working in our pjs from time to time, and that's just the start of it. I also noticed a number of people saying how lonely it can be running your own business, especially when your friends and family don't quite get it, so having this opportunity to make friends with like minded people was a really good thing. I also had an overwhelming response to this post:

Day 30 | Top tip – I had decided on something completely different for today’s post but last night I had a sudden change of heart. My top tip for today is learning to believe in yourself (something I’m not great at doing). Social media can be bit of a buzz kill when it comes to being creative. You get sucked into all the pretty, well composed posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, and before you know it, you’ve lost all enthusiasm to do what you set out to do because everyone has ‘done it better’ or you don’t think you can reach some ridiculous high standard you’ve set yourself in your head and you just sit there in a ball of stress. Step back from those images. You ARE good enough. You know you are really, but because you’re comparing your start to someone else’s middle it doesn’t feel like it. After all, comparison is the thief of joy and all that. Those beautiful images don’t show you, the hard work, sleepless nights, worries, balance of two jobs and stress that goes on behind the scenes. All you get to see are the best bits. So, my tip is, when you find yourself getting sucked in, switch it all off. The longer you stay comparing, the worse you’ll feel. Turn off those push notifications, make yourself a brew and relax. You are good enough, you just have to believe it. #Marchmeetthemaker #toptip #believe #believeinyourself #youaregoodenough #comparison #comparisonisthethiefofjoy #youcandoit #positive #youvegotthis #encouragement #easiersaidthandone
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As creative people we're constantly looking at what other people are doing and we seem to compare ourselves to each other and it usually ends up leaving all feeling a little deflated. From time to time we let comparison be the thief of joy and that's just not cool.

5. Creative people are really friendly and will help pick each other up. This is the best thing that I learnt over the course of the whole challenge. I saw a few people who were genuinely nervous about taking part for various reasons and strangers on the Internet would help to give them the confidence boost they needed to get going. There was no bad vibes, no horrible criticism, no competition, just positivity, confidence boosting and friendliness. Day 10 was a great example of this because that day was all about recommending a fellow maker or small business. Everyone gave glowing reviews of whose business they were particularly loving at that time. Imagine the love those recommended people must have felt, especially if it was completely unexpected. Day 14 was all about creative friends, and again, that feed was rammed full of love, positivity and people bigging each other up. Day 30, top tip, was definitely my favourite though. There was so much helpful advice, positive messages, and people coming together. There was no competition, it was a very 'real' day if that makes sense. We have the tendency to only show off our highlight reel on social media and here people were very real about their struggles by sharing their experiences or how they were feeling that day. It really was a great day to be part of such a great community.

I can't wait for #MarchMeetTheMaker next year. The community has had lots of great ideas of what they'd like to include. I just need to sift through them to make the final plan! Keep your eyes peeled for February 2018 for more on the next challenge.

20 Things About Me

Recently, a '20 things about me' quiz has been doing the rounds on Instagram and I was kindly tagged by Joanna from Adventures and Tea Parties. So, if you want to know 20 random facts about me, then do read on.

  1. I've lived in Somerset my whole life... except for that time I moved to Cardiff for 3 years to go to University to study BA Graphic Communication.
  2. I really dislike driving. Traffic lights make me feel really anxious as does going to new places.
  3. My little car is called Bug
  4. Public transport also makes me anxious.
  5. I'm nearly always early for everything.
  6. I'm growing my hair for charity. It’s really annoying and I want to chop it off now, but I also want it a bit longer. Gah!
  7. I pull funny concentration faces.
  8. I try to visit a new country every year.
  9. I am exceptionally good at killing house plants.
  10. I regret not doing French at A-Level but I could only choose 4 so Business, Fine Art, Product Design and Geography won.
  11. We’re getting a rescue dog soon (once we’ve redecorated the hall) and I can't wait!
  12. I'm always cold and my feet are often numb.
  13. I am obsessed with Disney’s Moana at the moment and can’t get enough of it.
  14. Not a day goes by where I don't speak to my online business friends, Tanya (from Tanya Garfield Jewellery) and Becka (from Becka Griffin Illustration).
  15. I find it easier to talk to animals and bugs than I do new humans. I talk to all of my neighbours cats (the partially blind one is my favourite) and the spiders in my downstairs toilet (Pirate and Rayna). Sadly, Lanky got squashed by someone.
  16. I'm very shy, nervous, don't know what to say to new people and can find social situations a bit awkward. (A lot of people couldn't believe this one!)
  17. I swear a lot.
  18. I always get searched at the airport. I must have a dodgy face or something. Or just bad luck.
  19. I get a headache if I don’t drink at least one cup of tea a day.
  20. If I was allowed, I’d paint our entire house yellow.

So there we are! 20 random things about me. If you haven't been tagged yet, why not give it a go?

#MarchMeetTheMaker 2017 Free Planner

Like last time, I like to be organised, so I designed another little planner to help me to plan ahead for my #MarchMeetTheMaker Instagram Challenge. A number of people found this useful last time as it gives you a chance to think ahead for some of the prompts that maybe a little tricky. You can also tick off the prompts as you go along (everyone loves a tick list). So, I've made another and added it as a free download!

To download this free planner, simply click here and then download and print or save for later. I've printed mine off and have already started scribbling on it. I hope it helps!

#MarchMeetTheMaker 2017

I can’t quite believe how quickly this has come around. It seemed like only yesterday we were all telling our business stories through the first ever #MarchMeetTheMaker in 2016.

For 2017 #MarchMeetTheMaker has had a fresh new make over and has been completely spring-cleaned to include new prompts and challenges for you.

This challenge is to help small businesses, such as myself to tell the story behind the brand. Because, let's face it, selling online means that our customers don’t always get to see the hard work and smiley faces behind the scenes who create the lovely handmade products. It aims to give an insight into the face, process and hard work that goes into creating all of the beautiful products we have to offer. Don’t be camera shy! This is your time to shine, show off your skills and tell people all about you and your small business.

The challenge kicks off on Wednesday 1st March 2017 and absolutely anyone can join in, in fact, the more the merrier! All you have to do is post a daily photo to Instagram relating to the prompt of that day and tag it with #MarchMeetTheMaker to take part. It’s that simple! Of course, if you’d like to share the challenge with your friends or other creatives I’d love you forever. I can’t wait to see what you post and learn a little more about you and your small business. Have fun!

If you would like to see my posts be sure to follow @joannehawker on Instagram!

Scratchcards & Secret Messages

A card designed especially for mums on their birthday, mother's day or just because you want to send them a her a heartfelt message, a surprise announcement or a special gift. This is also available for stepmums.

Over the year added a whole host of scratch cards to my range (and I'm still adding to it!) and they are still by far my most favourite thing to make. Some of them offer standard messages such as 'will you be my bridesmaid', but some of them are designed to hold much bigger questions or surprises. Since I've been making these, I have written messages for gifts of gig tickets and experiences, to trips to visit Father Christmas in Lapland and even a number of marriage proposals. I just wish I could see peoples faces as they scratch off to reveal their surprises, gifts, secret messages and proposals.

Let me take a moment to introduce you to my 'write your own' range.

These are part of my wedding range where you can create a character to look like yourself to ask your friends if they will be your Bridesmaid, Maid of Honour, Flower Girl or any other role within your wedding party. You have a choice of writing the message yourself or having one printed so these can say whatever you need them to say giving you much more freedom when it comes to asking your nearest and dearest to play a special part in your day.

These are probably one of my most favourites to make at the moment because they feature either a cute little rabbit or polar bear. They're not just for asking people to be Godparents, Godmothers, or Godfathers though! They can also be used as baby announcements, for telling your parents that they're going to be Grandparents, surprising your best friend with the news or even letting your first born child know that they're going to become a big brother or a big sister. They're also perfect for surprising a mother to be with a baby shower! There are so many possibilities with this one!

This one was designed with Valentine's in mind, but as there is no mention of Valentine's anywhere on the card, it can be used for anniversaries, birthdays or just days when you want to send your favourite human a special message or gift. I love the happy faces of these two little love birds.

I've been dying to do some black and white line art for such a long time that I decided my newest botanical range would be black and white with the splash of gold for the scratch off section. There is a hint of colour too, (very pale pastels) but that is hidden until the panel is scratched off. This too is a multipurpose card. Like the image suggests, it can be used to ask Bridesmaids and Maid of Honours to take part in your wedding, but it can also be used as a wedding proposal or to ask someone to be your witness on your big day. Aside from all the weddingy things it can also be used as a more classy gift card, birthday card or secret message card.

The best thing about my 'write your own' range is that you do just that. You can opt to hand write your message yourself so that it is properly a personal experience for you and the recipient or I can print the message for you, the choice is yours. The questions, gifts, surprises and announcements are endless! Should you want to write a special message to someone special then all of the above plus more are available in my Etsy shop. I hope you enjoy them as much as I like making them.

#MeetTheMakerWeek Free Planner

As I'm someone who likes to plan well in advance, I have made another little planner for the #MeetTheMakerWeek challenge too. A number of people asked about certain prompts last time so, on this version I have elaborated a little on the planner and have made a list below to help out. I've also made a small list of useful apps and some hashtag suggestions as well.

To download this free planner, simply click here and then download or save for later. I've printed mine off and have already started scribbling on it. I hope it helps!

The prompts - remember, you don't have to get all of these questions into the photo. Make good use of the caption space to also tell your story. Choose a photo that will pull people in and want to know more.

Monday 28th  - Brand
Logo, Business name or Brand image - so that people can get familiar with your brand
Where are you based - are you local to any of your followers and they might not have even realised?
What do you make? - and is it giftable for Christmas?
How did it start & what is your story? - everyone loves a good story. How did it begin? Was it a hobby that slowly progressed into a business? Was it by complete chance? Did you just decide to quit your job, take your chance and just go for it?

Tuesday 29th - You 
Who is the face/s behind the team? - Are you doing it solo? (if so, high five to you) Do you have a small team? It's nice to see the person or people running the show and to show customers that you're not some big faceless corporation.
Who does what? - What is your role? Do you do it all? Or do you have a team where you split the jobs and people have a certain expertise in each area? Designer, maker, accounts, packing etc.
Introductions - Introduce yourself and/or your team. Who are you? Maybe a quick line or two on what you like or don't like? Just so we can get to know you a little better.

Wednesday 30th - Your Space
Workspace, premises, office - the general area where you spend the most time working on your business.
Where do you work? - Do you work from the kitchen table? Do you have a sewing room? Maybe you have a studio in your garden? Or do you have a nice spacious office or studio somewhere?
What does your creative space look like? -  Is it tidy? Is it in a big creative mess? How is it decorated? 

Thursday 1st - In action
In action - you or team in action, making, designing or packing etc. Give a feel of day to day life.
How is it made? - You could show how something is made, or if that's top secret just a small aspect of how something is made. Or perhaps the machinery, tech or tools that are used to create your goods.
Is it handmade? - If so, let's see you in action. 
Hyperlapse opportunity? - This is a great opportunity to have a play around with an app called hyperlapse. Simply set your phone to record mode and film yourself doing a task, such as packing orders or making something. Don't worry how long it takes because you can always cut it down later. Once you've got your recording, play with the speeds to either speed it up super fast or slow it down super slow. It's good fun to play with and this could be a fun way to show how your studio works.

Friday 2nd - Customers
Who are your customers? - Are they online? Are they at craft shows? Do you have a bricks and mortar shop? Are they mums or parents? Are they other small businesses? Are they people buying gifts for friends or treats for themselves?
Make the most of the #FeedbackFriday hashtag, what do your customers say about you? - Take some of your best feedback from customers and spread the positive things said about you, your company and your product. Be proud about the service or products you provide. Don't be shy! It's your time to shine so dig out those glowing reviews!

Saturday 3rd - Sell yourself
Where can people buy your goods? - Do you sell online? Are you stocked in any local shops? Are you attending any local craft fairs in the run up to Christmas? Where can people find you and your products or service?
Shop local, shop small - Today is all about shopping local and shopping small. Perhaps re-emphasize that you're a small business, where you are from and if you'll be buying from small companies in the run up to Christmas.
Why should they buy from you? - Why should people shop with you? What sets you apart from everyone else? Do you have a unique selling point?
This day is also all about Small Business Saturday. To find out a little more about their aims, other small businesses and how you can join in, click here.

I hope that helped a little and that you enjoy this little challenge. I can't wait to see your posts!