Wool vs Acrylic

For years I’ve been making dolls out of Acrylic yarn and I’m sure many of us have. Doll and toy making was traditionally done using the scraps and left over yarns we had left over from our precious makes.

It made sense to use cheap yarn for a doll.

Last year I began experimenting with wool for doll making, then with my final uni project I decided to make these dolls using only natural materials. There was one test I wanted to do to compare Acrylic to Wool, but it meant making and destroying two dolls, plus although in theory I knew what they said about the results I wasn’t sure. Today I did the test… I’m shocked!

Anyway before that test, here are some reasons to use wool in doll making over acrylic…

  1. Natural. Wool is completely natural, sheep eats grass – sheep grows wool – sheep is warm in winter – we cut wool – sheep feels cool in Summer – we use wool – sheep eats grass – and so on and so on. No chemists or scientists involved.
  2. Biodegradable. Prince Charles did a similar experiment to mine, but he also tested how quickly wool would disappear back into the earth. He buried two jumpers, one wool, one synthetic. Six months later he dug them up. The synthetic jumper was intact, but the wool jumper had disappeared. In this plastic heavy world, this should be reason enough.
  3. Renewable. Like being a natural source, wool is also renewable. The sheep doesn’t just have one coat, but a continuously growing fleece.
  4. Breathable. Wool wicks moisture away from the skin making your body less clammy. Ok, so it might not make that much difference to doll making, unless you’re a little kid who takes the doll to bed with them. Nothing worse than waking up with sweat sticking a doll to your face.
  5.  Keeps you warm… or cool. Wool keeps you warm when you’re cold and cools you when you’re too hot. Again, a nicer toy to hug at night than a plastic doll.
  6. Machine Washable. Yep, the yarn I use in my dolls is treated to be machine washable.
  7. Stain resistant. It has an outer layer that prevents stains from being absorbed and it’s anti-static properties mean a lot of dust and dirt simply don’t stick to it.
  8. Odour resistant. When it wicks away sweat, it also absorbs the molecules of odour.
  9. Better sleep. New research has shown sleeping with wool bedding or nightwear leads to a better nights sleep. Another reason to take the doll to bed with you.
  10. Healthy skin. Again, research is coming out that shows the benefits of softer wools on skin.

Finally, wool is flame resistant. What does that mean?

Watch this video…



One important message to come from my final project is the importance of making dolls and toys out of wool, but as I researched a wool to use I found little on offer. Ok, you can buy browns and pinks and mustards, but skin tones are not really covered by wool suppliers.

That’s one thing I’ve been looking at with my dolls and what to do after university, perhaps I could produce 100% British wool in skin tones for doll making, the video has shocked me enough to realise it’s got to be done.

See also:

 Woolmark – benefits of wool


Benefits of sleeping with wool

Benefits of wool on skin

Secret Message Kits

I remember one of the rare occasions I received a Valentine’s day gift.

I know, you’re shocked, right? Surely, someone as stunning as me should be taking the morning of the 14th February off work so I can await the postman and his overstuffed sack of mail just for me!

Truth is, even the card from my Dad (who I could always count on) stopped a few years ago.

Anyway, Once upon a time I received a rose, left anonymously on my front door.

Men are strange fellows!

Seriously, if you’re going to pretend to visit my brother and act surprised that I got a rose from a secret admirer, which you happen to find when you arrived…

…Don’t buy the flower from my sister’s florist shop!


I’ve recently been making a series of mini craft kits designed for beginners.

Each kit comes in a small gift box, so the finished item can be given in the presentation box as a present.

I’ve made a couple of animal brooches (more on their way)


They come with almost everything you need to make the finished brooch, you’ll need scissors and maybe a pencil.

My latest kit though is perfect for lucky crafters this Valentine’s Day.


It comes with all the materials you need (Yep, you need to provide your scissors and a pencil) to make your very own Valentine’s day brooch.

The tiny wool-blend hand-stitched envelope is a brooch your loved one can wear, and hidden inside is a hand stitched love message just from you.

What a wonderful way to celebrate the season of love…

…and if any of my family are reading this, hint at my dad that I want my card!

Costing your Craft

Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 14.56.19.pngOne question us crafters ask a lot is how much?

How much should we charge?

I know, as a knitter & crocheter, the feeling of despair when someone asks me how much an item is thinking it will be cheap since it’s knitted.

Or they look at a doll I’ve crocheted and think, since there’s not much wool in the doll it should be cheap.

I’ve been pondering whether my craft stall should include a sign suggesting customers consider the hours it took to knit before telling me their gran could make them one for a lot less, but I don’t want to put off the customers who are appreciative of the costs.

It sounds harsh, but one lesson I’m learning is to not to be too concerned with the passers-by (I won’t call them customers) who just want a look and moan. Those people who think they’re doing you a favour by informing you the going rate for a Primark knitted hat is pennies compared to your hand knitted fair isle beanie.

You can, if you choose to, spend your time discussing the merits of buying Primark acrylic, machine made hats, sewn in a mass market system in foreign parts. You can educate them on the luxury of Shetland wool, the crofters who benefit from them buying a pure wool product, the environmental benefit of buying a product that hasn’t had to fly halfway across the world. These people will probably be quite happy to chat, even seem interested. But I’m learning to let the comments fly and smile quickly before turning to look for a potential customer that doesn’t need educating.

I sound harsh, I know I do. But if a customer is happy to wear a cheap acrylic mass produced hat, then they’re probably not a customer of hand made crafts and educating them won’t change that. Besides I’m paying a hell of a lot for my education, why should they be educated for free.

Simply put, I’m working on my craft stall to seek customers.

That said, if someone seems genuinely interested in why I charge what I do I’d like to know I can justify my pricing and have them see my product as something to be valued.

Still, there are always new crafters wondering how to price an item and I thought it might be nice to go through just one way to decide how to price your item.

Some years ago I wrote a blog post about making a polymer clay notebook pendant, here’s a link


Rather than reveal costings for some new item I thought it would be nice to go through the process of costing the notebook.

Stage 1 – Listing your products

As you make an item, go through EVERY item you use in the making process

MATERIALS – white polymer clay, 0.80mm silver wire x 2″, jump rings x 2, silver chain

Then the tools you use

TOOLS – Pens, Steel DPN, Pliers, wire cutters, work board, pasta machine, cutting blade, oven, timer, baking tray,

You also have your essentials

Heating, electricity, lighting, rent

Lastly you have your time

Once you have your list you need to work out how much of each material you use

This can take some time and working out and I’m going to estimate my pricing here so don’t use it as gospel.


I estimate I could make 32 pendants from 1 block of clay. It’s £1.90 for a block of clay so using a calculator I work out £1.90 divided by 32 = 0.0593 per pendant

Do this for every item.

Clay = 0.0593

Wire = 0.0220 (need to check sterling silver prices from one of many silver suppliers)

Jump rings = 0.0299 (for sterling silver bought in bulk of a 1000)

Silver chain = £1.38 (Sterling silver chains on Ebay can be bought quite cheaply and I’ve estimated from someone selling them in bags of 20 so it’s worth considering getting sterling silver over cheaper metal)

£1.46 for each sterling silver necklace – you can make it cheaper by using a base metal, but customers will probably be more willing to buy an item advertised as sterling silver than silver plated.

Necklace total so far = £1.46

Next your tools, you are not replacing your tools after each product but you need to consider the wear and tear and eventual replacement. This will vary on what the item is, my wire cutters are heavy duty ones and I expect will last many years, my oven is a cheap mini oven but I still expect a couple of years out of it, my markers probably last me a year or two. (I have a mini oven for clay because polymer clay gives off a toxic fume when baking, if you do a lot of clay it is best to not bake clay and food in the same oven!)

Work out an amount of money to add to the price to cover the cost of wear and tear to tools. This is impossible to get accurate and we’re talking fractions of pennies rather than pounds here, I’ll estimate 5p towards wear and tear

Necklace total so far = £1.51

Next is the essential things you need like lighting, heating, having a room to work in, again it’s not much, and if you have a meter in your house you could work out how much electricity you use in one hour, but again, it’s pennies rather than pounds. I’ll estimate 10p

Necklace total so far – £1.61

Finally time. The national living wage in the UK is £7.20 for over 24, and less for a younger person, but are you the kind of employer who only pays the living wage. There is a lot of benefit in paying staff well. Also think, are you happy working for £7.20 an hour, if you are  then this is your rate, but I’m not. I would like to pay £10 an hour, it’s quite a bit more, but if I need help it would be on a one-off basis maybe a few hours a month and that’s a bit unreasonable to expect someone to drop everything for a few hours work for less than a tenner. My rate is £10 an hour.

I reckon, working in a conveyor belt system where I make the white notebook squares, then make the spirals, then the chains, which is quicker than making one necklace at a time, I might estimate 20 an hour. This means £10 divided by 20 to get my wage cost = 50p

Necklace so far = £2.11

This isn’t everything though, you have packaging, are you going to put the necklace in a more expensive box? are you going to make a card display (add time for making the displays) are you just going to hang them on a display and put them in a paper bag.

It’s worth taking a long time looking at packaging as sometimes it’s the packaging that sells the item rather than the item itself. I once worked in a staff canteen in London where we had our sandwiches made and delivered by a big catering company. One morning we received the wrong order and got the sandwiches meant for Harrods.

Same sandwiches, made with the same products by the same workers in the same factory, but because of the packaging and name on the sandwich there was a considerable cost difference.

Since I’m budgeting for a sterling silver necklace, I’m going to budget for a nice but simple cardboard jewellery box. The company has a discount for buying larger quantities so I buy 100 boxes at 16p each (boxes don’t go out of date and I can use them for other items I make)

Total cost of necklace £2.27

This is my base rate. The cost at which I neither make or lose money

Next I want to work out my wholesale rate, this is up to you. Some companies (name brand handbag companies are notorious for this) may decide to add a huge margin. I decide a profit of 100% for wholesale making the necklace £4.54 for wholesale.

Thinking about this I might be sneaky here and round the price up to £5 each, with a bulk buy option of £4.50 each if the shop buys more than 10. That’s up to you, but the whole point of wholesale is to sell more in one place.

Next is Retail price, generally between 40% and 100%

If I charge 100% for retail the necklace will be £9.08. Round it up or down to £9 or £10 and you have the price you charge your customers.

Some people will be wondering whether they should add more money on when they sell on internet shops like Etsy who charge a small fee and Paypal who also charge a small fee (neither companies are working for free and need their cut too). Again, that’s up to you, but I count this into my retail fee, since a shop will have their bills taken our of the retail fee.

It’s also worth asking, if you sell to a shop and they retail the item at £9, is it fair to ask your customers to pay £10 because you have added fees for Etsy and Paypal?

Another question is postage and packaging, do you charge for this?

Again, look at the profit margins and where your customers are and decide for yourself. It might be 80p to post an item in the UK, so making UK postage free is enticing to customers, but if your online shop reaches an American customer the postage might end up as £6 and suddenly offering free postage is losing you money.

Finally, when you have gathered all this information, look again at the price and the item. Would you pay £10 for a sterling silver necklace and handmade pendant in a small jewellery box?

“Hell Yeah” then go ahead and make lots more

“Nah” then look again at the item you want to make, can it be made cheaper? can you buy materials in bulk and cut costs? are your profits too high? it may be that the item is just not worth making to sell and you need to look for something else to make and sell.

I hope this helps, and although I’ve estimated the costings I hope it might inspire some crafters to think about choosing a higher quality material or even inspire a crafter to decide to think about selling their own items.



(Knitted) Quilts of Hope Square 1

For those who have come here from Ravelry, welcome. I encourage you to read my other posts on this blog about the Quilts of Hope project and what we are trying to do.

Being a yarnie and having many yarnie friends I felt a project that only used sewing was just not on. I want to welcome several craftpeople to the project and so, here is the first of several (hopefully) knitted squares for a (knitted) Quilt of Hope.

It’s a simple stocking stitch square with a garter stitch edge, something rather easy to start with. The finished square should measure 4.5 inches. I kept it quite small because I get frustrated knitting plain squares and wanted something beginners could make without getting bored.

If you are making squares for the project (and I really, REALLY, hope you do) please add a note as to whether they are acrylic, wool or one of the many other fancy yarns. This helps with sewing up and washing later.

One project that could benefit from knitted and crochet blankets is the Salvation Army human trafficking unit, who help relocate people rescued from slavery in the UK, Yep, we don’t often think about slavery as a modern day problem, but there are people caught in slavery in the UK, yes, even in Yorkshire.

I was listening to one woman who helps with the relocation of rescued people. Sometimes they’re alone, sometimes in a small group, sometimes with children. They may have a journey through the night, across the country, several hours long.

The people might not speak English, they’ve learnt not to trust, and don’t fully understand what is happening to them. Imagine travelling being that person, in a country you don’t know. I imagined blankets to help through the car journey, maybe with heart patterns on some of the squares (the heart is a bit like a universal symbol). It might help break down the language barrier and at least be a comfort on the journey.

So without further ado, Quilt of Hope, knit square 1

With DK yarn and 4mm needles, Cast on 24 stitches

1-4) knit

5) knit

6) knit 3, Purl to the last 3 stitches, Knit 3

Repeat rows 5 & 6 up to row 30

31-34) knit

Cast off

All done

This is an easy square to get you started with more squares to follow.

If you are in the Leeds area, we will be meeting on Thursday 20th October at Costa coffee shop, Crown Point, Leeds. It’s two doors down from Hobbycraft.

We will meet at 1.30pm till 3.30pm and will be hand sewing squares, knitting and crocheting squares. Come when you can, leave when you need to.

No experience necessary!

The Quilts of Hope Project

There is something special about blankets.

Whether this is the silver blankets handed out to marathon runners after the race,


Or used to provide emergency heat to survivors and vulnerable people.


The thick wool blankets handed out in winter,


or the blankets with arms we use to watch TV.


There is just something magical in how a large piece of fabric can comfort us, warm us and make us feel safe.

I remember staying with my Aunty and Uncle as a child and becoming ill. Being ‘put to bed’ on the sofa and having a blanket wrapped around me. Being tucked in and feeling that, no matter how much I hurt, everything would be ok.

That’s the magic of blankets, duvets, coverings and quilts.

The Quilts of Hope project will bring communities together to make quilts filled with hope and love to vulnerable people.

We’re starting with a simple quilt of squares


If you already know how to embroider you can make a cotton square with a positive quote or something more elaborate. The squares can be 5.5″ x 5.5″ or 10.5″ x 10.5″, we ask that when you make the square you think or pray for the people this quilt might help.

Then send the squares to us at:

Betty Virago

45 West Grange Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 3AP

If you don’t yet know what to do we will soon be selling kits to make your square and using the money we raise to pay for the materials we need to finish the quilts.

email Betty at bettyvirago@gmail.com so we can tell you when the kits are ready.

We’ll be making some video tutorials as well, so there’s no excuses.

If you’re near Leeds you can join us for the magical part of quilt making when we all gather to hand sew the quilt. These are special events where we gather, pray, sing songs and talk together, and remember the people who might use the quilt.

Then when the quilt is finished we present it to a charity, to be used to warm, comfort and bless people in times of distress.

Our first quilt is going to the Joanna Project in Leeds who work with women in the red light area. Read more about that project at http://www.joannaproject.co.uk

But perhaps you know of a charity or group that would benefit from a quilt?

Email us and let us know.



The Romance of Pattern Writing

I came across a funny little story recently in the book “No Idle Hands – The social history of American knitting” by Anne L. Macdonald.

The story tells of a well known bag maker from New England back in the 18th Century. Matilda Emerson, who had a bit of a thing for her widowed parson.

Matilda decided the way to snag the vicar was to become best friends with his sister (and housekeeper). She did this by offering one of her treasured knitted bag patterns to the sister in hopes of getting in with the family. The pattern was for a mourning bag, complete with willow tree, grave and urn images.

Well, it turns out Matilda wasn’t the only lady with eyes for the vicar. Her romantic rival, Ann Green, got wind of the situation and managed to get hold of the pattern. She changed some of the pencilled chart markings, enough not to be noticed, but to result in the bag turning into a bit of a mess.

Back then, patterns were highly guarded secrets so sharing the pattern with the ministers sister was a big deal. But when the sister realised the pattern she had was a dud she was annoyed. She went to Matilda and told her off for withholding the pattern. Then she went and told her minister/brother the whole sorry tale.

Eventually Ann’s puritan conscience make her confess what she had done, but it was too late. The minister had met a woman from another town and married her making both women lose out on their man.

If there was a moral to this story it might be to keep your patterns to yourself. 

It shows that for centuries we have considered questions of how open we should be about patterns and craft techniques. Matilda made her living from her knitted bags and was well-known and well-paid. Disclosing the pattern to one of her bags would open her up to copies being made and her livlihood being diminished.

I guess another moral might be that no man is worth your livlihood, but that’s just cynical spinster me talking.

I remember hearing a similar secrecy to patterns from the Irish crochet families, who kept guests waiting on the doorstep until all traces of the crochet was hidden away. 

Even today, I have a friend who writes her patterns in code that only she understands in the fear that someone might get her notebook and be able to steal her pattern ideas.

I don’t know when things changed, and patterns stopped being passed solely through word of mouth and secrecy and began being published, perhaps as I read the book further I may find out.

As a child watching my mum and others knit it seemed to be a different situation where knitters bought patterns from huge folders in  yarn shops and the idea of writing your own pattern was unheard of. If you liked something a fellow knitter had made you asked for the pattern number and went out and bought your own copy.

Today though it seems the world is filled with people having a go at writing patterns, me included. Websites like Ravelry allow people to have a go at pattern writing and self-publishing without the need of a magazine editor or a yarn supplier taking their cut. Online shops like Etsy and Folksy let you set up business in the comfort of your own home and even the government seem to be noticing the trend in micro businesses. 

This is a great time to try your hand at self employment or pattern writing and I’ve noticed a couple of books recently published not on pattern designing, but on how to write down the pattern. This might have come about from a frustration from knitters and crocheters at the different styles of writing down your pattern. 

In my local knitting group, during a time when we seemed to hit numerous badly written patterns,  I considered doing my final uni project on knitting mistakes and the strange ways people write patterns down.

None of this even covers the question of whether you should charge for a pattern or give it away for free.

One thing is certain though, thanks to the online resources available, more and more people are trying their hand at writing their own patterns, and this is a great thing.

I wonder, as I attend several knitting/crochet groups on different styles and techniques, will the pattern writing trend move into knitting groups and we’ll soon attend a ‘how to write your first pattern’ event. 

Will we eventually see a pattern writing weekend or a write in public day.

I wonder, if Matilda was around today, would she have got her man? Would the outcome be different?

I imagine the pattern would be on Ravelry at a small cost and the Parsons sister would have already downloaded it and kept a hard copy, free from meddling love rivals. I expect though, the outcome would still be the same, because I suspect the Parson already had his eye on the woman he married.

The moral here might actually be, a fancy bag won’t get your man if he’s looking the other way.

The Loneliness of the long-distance Crafter – EPY Week 8

A few years ago I was visiting some friends for the weekend. On the Sunday we went to their church, the guy leading the service spoke about loneliness and commented that some people can go for days without seeing another person.

My friends live in a christian community, so being alone is something they don’t often experience, but one friend found the thought of being without other people quite shocking.

I’ve lived alone for a very long time, yeah, I really am just too choosy. 

After all these years I couldn’t imagine sharing my space with someone else… nope, can’t imagine it, my mind won’t even go there.

All the years living in hostels and that little bedsit in London I dreamed of one day having a place of my own, to live on a ‘normal’street. I’d buy myself a teapot, fancy cups and matching milk and sugar bowl and although I would live alone, my home would be filled with people dropping by for cups of tea and a chat.

I’ve been in my nice little flat for seven years now and although the teapot has been bought, it’s yet to be used. I imagined my parents dropping me off at home after a day out and coming in for a cup of tea, or church friends popping over, neighbours stopping by. My home would be a place where the kettle was always brewing.

Over the years though, as my parents drop me off and drive away, and church people live in posher houses than I could offer, and a neighbourhood where we talk on the doorstep but no further I’ve kind of given up on that little dream and got on with things, hey at least I’ve no reason to clean up so often.

I’ve gone out and met people instead, volunteering, going to knitting groups, being a part of Poverty Truth, going to Uni and well, getting out there.

Then I started this enterprise year.

So, now I work alone as well.

Up until this point I’ve managed to continue the one weekly event where I get to go to my knitting group and spend an evening chatting to friends, but as from next week, that evening is taken over with business lectures I need to attend.

I’ve spent a lot of the past few days working at home, finishing craft kits and making videos. Sitting here this afternoon I have realised I’m about to hit a tough patch and need to plan ahead.

As from today, I have no allotted slot in my timetable where I get to sit down with another human being that I like and chat rubbish. I wouldn’t ever put me down as someone who gets lonely, I rather like my own company, but the thought of working alone and living alone is getting a little worrying.

It’s not that I’m never going to see people, I work in an office with others, but we’re all working on our own projects. I get in, turn on the computer, put my headphones on and work. When I do have a break it’s a quick break and if I chat, it’s small  pleasantries.

On Sunday I go to church, people say good morning and ask how I am, but before you know it the service has started. Then we’re having a cup of tea and everyone’s leaving for lunch. Again, there’s no time to really get to know anyone.

Then at home, well, the cat can only hold conversations about food and sleeping. 

Thankfully, I saw this bump in the road coming and am thinking of a plan, what do you think?

I have two knitting groups I can go to, but these are monthly and I they’re groups where we are learning a new skill rather than a chance to sit and chat. I need to find a group, or start one. I’ve been thinking about a knitting group on a Sunday afternoon, but am looking for a venue to hold one.

University starts again next week, I have a few friends starting their final year and I need to make sure we meet for lunch at least once a week.

I need to make the effort to get to know others in the office, although we’re mostly working on our own business ideas. I red to remove my headphones a bit more and talk to others.

Lastly, I need to get that teapot from the cupboard and forget about waiting for people to come to my home and brew the pot just for me.

Toggle Kits Available – EPY week 6&7


Where was week 6 post I hear you all complain, well, week 6 was spend travelling to London for a Poverty Truth event and then either worn out or tracking down suppliers. This running a business lark isn’t all excitement and games, I’m finding out that a lot of it is pushing doors and google.

But week 7, finally we’re off.

My dolls came first in the Middleton Park annual shows textile competition (and why wouldn’t they?) See that big silver cup just edging into the photo, yep… on my desk at home. Never had a trophy before. So now, I’m calling my dolls award winning, because they are.


I’ve done a lot of work updating the pattern, just need to write some instructions on paining faces then it will be ready. If you’ve already bought the pattern on Revelry it will automatically be available to you.

Also in my Etsy shop are new little sets of buttons.

The big order of toggles and cord ends used in my dolls have arrived and are ready to buy.

The kits contain three toggles and two cord ends in many colours, perfect for a variety of dolls, especially 15″ to 18″ and add a lot of character.

It feels like the hard work is paying off, now I just need a few more customers to settle my nerves on having to spend so much on stock!

Here are the colours available…

togglesreds.jpgToggle yellowgreen.jpgtoggleblues.jpgtogglesblacks.jpg

The Progress of Plodding on – EPY week 5

I sat down to write my now regular post about the EPY week, for about 30 minutes I’ve sat here thinking, what happened this week?

Bank Holiday weekend was awful, as usual, we had constant downpours and the strange hot but rainy weather that often leaves me with a migraine, and what a migraine, by Monday I was fed up of it all. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t have any plans for the bank holiday, but I felt it was a weekend wasted. There is just something downright unfortunate about being ill on your day off, so to make up for it I took Tuesday off but more of a recuperation day rather than a fun day.

Wednesday I went into the EPY office and went to the first group meeting. I remember being asked about the cost of a doll and kicking myself for not being more confident in stating the price, but on the whole the day went by largely uneventful and perhaps I was still getting over the three day migraine (honestly, it was the worst one I’ve had in a very long time).

Wednesday evening I got home to a letter from my housing office informing me that I owed so much rent that I had 7 days to pay or I was going to court. So Thursday I spent the day gathering evidence and making phone calls and eventually a trip to the housing office to find out that a mistake had been made and I’m not going to be faced with eviction after all.

Friday I went to Harrogate for the Great Northern Quilting show, I’m calling it a ‘research’day rather than a fun day out. Honestly, I was researching craft kits!

Well, the week ended with fun at least.

So here I am, sitting here thinking of something useful or interesting to say… 


But then I realised that there are still little excitements to share.

A couple of long awaited packages to put some craft kits together arrived. Lots of little online changes to websites that are finally starting to give me an online presence I’m a bit happier about. Several conversations with a supplier that finally tracked down the exact buttons I want and have been trying to find for months.

There hasn’t been any huge eureka moments this week, no leaving the office feeling my life changing before my eyes, but maybe this is what having your own business (or even a happy life) is about. The daily plodding on that eventually leads to a business connection you’ve been after. The final email of a week long conversation that finally seals the deal. 

People talk about the light at the end of the tunnel and that light should arrive on Wednesday (Monday and Tuesday I’m in London) This proverbial light is the butt of jokes, the description of the afterlife and the hope of many. Yet, little is said about the journey to the light, the long road to the eventual conclusion.

Well, this post is beginning to sound like a sermon so I’ll say what they say at church.

In conclusion…

What I’ve learnt this week is that running a business isn’t always a continual celebration of enormous achievements. The most biggest acheivements this week have come from the long constant plod through the dark tunnel, and in business, as in life. I need to enjoy the darkness, the everyday and the long steady plod a lot more than I do.


The Elevator Pitch – EPY week 3

An elevator pitch is a short description of what your business is about, supposedly short enough to say in the time a lift goes to the next floor (because we all talk to people in lifts), well, maybe not, but we might meet someone who could help us along the journey only to find we don’t have time to go into the details but need to grab their attention.

This is actually quite a useful and important thing to have ready when you think about it. Our little business is something we put our heart and soul into it and we can sit for hours talking about the details and inspirations, but reality is, we don’t have business leaders getting their secretaries to phone us up and book an hours appointment at the local coffee shop to talk about my dreams. Reality is, we might actually be standing at the elevator when we realise the person standing next to me is that one investor or business person that could give me a helping hand along the way. We literally have a few sentences.

The Enterprise team have a simple template to follow for writing your pitch.

1. Who is behind the company? (What is the company Values?)

2. What is my product?

3. What are the key benefits?

4. Who is my market?

5. What is my competition and how do I differ?

One mind map later I was ready to start writing, and this is what I came up with…

Betty Virago is a traditional doll maker who provides dolls, doll making supplies and workshops to inspire the current and future generations of doll makers.

Unlike mass produced dolls that often come with unobtainable bodies and overly made up faces, our soft bodied natural looking dolls are made to look like the children who might own them.

Our materials, where possible, are locally sourced, keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible and our techniques blend both old and new skills to create dolls suitable for boys as well as girls.

Aren’t you pleased?

I think it’s quite a nice bit of writing, it says what I’m planning on doing, and yet…

I just couldn’t imagine my down-to-earth self speaking this well thought out worded speach to a friend, never mind a stranger. It feels rather cold, not at all something I’d want to listen to.

But what could I say?

What do I do?

I make dolls.

But saying I make dolls just kept bringing images of zombie boys “I like turtles” comment.

This is where I’m starting to see the value of a business plan. A document that forces me to consider every aspect of my business and forcing me to sit down and pull out all the ideas I’m used to keeping in my head and examine each one.

What do I want to do?

Make dolls and share doll making skills with others


Because there is just something magical in making a doll for someone over buying a mass produced doll.

There is something special in having a doll, made just for you, and something magical in the relationship between child and doll.

Now how do I put that into words?

I’ve never put much thought into a business plan before, I know what I want so why do I need to write it down? It’s all here in my head. the truth is, I’ve tried writing them, but I come to the money section and get stuck. How do I forecast my finances?

The elevator pitch might not be a word for word statement I pour out at any stranger I meet, but it has forced me to get the plan on paper. I know what I want, but keeping it just in my mind hasn’t done me any favours. Getting the plan down on paper, seeing it in black and white, and really thinking about it has shown me new places I can take my goals, and helped me cut back on the parts of the dream that just weren’t working.

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