Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This has absolutely nothing to do with Twice!

Nothing to do with Twice, but everything to do with living in Scotland which has made us do all sorts of things we wouldn't have done before - like skiing, riding and owning ridiculously large dogs. This photo is of our Scottish Deerhound, Flint, and is for Tracy at Two Crofters who I have just discovered also has a passion for the magificent hounds. This was taken when our Lucas terrier puppy was one bite big about 4 months ago. It was quite something to watch as they romped and romped and then, finally, Flinty would have had enough and just put Pebble's head in his mouth! Gently, of course.

I had always longed to have a hound and when we moved to Scotland four years ago I was determined to make it happen. Initially I wanted a wolfhound but when I was researching it I came upon a bit of information that said that a wolfhound in full flight 'cannot be expected to differentiate between a rabbit and a small white terrier'. As we are also mad keen Lucas owners this was a non-starter and so we went the deerhound route - much more fitting anyway since they are the Scottish dog - and have never regretted it. They are an absolutely joy to live with - so gentle, so elegant.

Tracy - I will watch with interest to see how McDog's training goes - I'm not sure training is possible with these boys! Flinty has just discovered how to fly over fences (I was advised early on in my deerhound career never to let him know he can jump which worked for a while) and he will now just look at us over his shoulder and then pop over fences and off for miles. Sadly for him this now means he's on a lead alot of the time - but when he's let off and picks up speed it is quite something to see.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

To print or not to print, that is the question.

Twice is a business that definitely grows organically. New products come on stream often because I've had an idea in my mind and then I meet someone who can help me bring it to life. Our breadboards and spurtles are a good example of this - I had a picture of my mother's old breadboard in my mind but it wasn't until I met Hugh Leishman and started working with him that I could actually make them a reality. It means that our range is a bit eclectic, but I like it like that.

The other thing which is happening in this organic (some might say, ramshackle!) way is marketing the business. The website happened because it felt like the most sensible way to be able to work from home and around the children's lives. Fairs have happened because I have met someone holding one, or another small business person has recommended one. And everything has usually been done because it felt like it was the right time. It is now feeling like the right time to put together a catalogue - but I am TERRIFIED! It is a major expense for the business both in terms of time and money, but I think it is the next step. I would be really interested to get feedback from anyone reading this blog and I've put a little poll in the top right hand corner - please let me know what you think. Obviously I realise that people who don't buy online are unlikely to be reading a blog - but any information is better than no information!

I've had a miserable day today returning a tiny pony that we got for our 8 year old daughter who has become a very nervous rider. He turned out to be just as nervous as she was, so we had to call it a day - but it's not that great separating a little girl from her new pony. Ow!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ladies who lunch

Lunch with Jane Lindsey of Snapdragon was really good - great to have a chance to chat with someone who knows the ups and downs of small business life so well. We seem to have many of the same problems, but it seems that for both of us the advantages of working for ourselves doing something we love make it worthwhile.

One of the problems that we definitely both find is that because we haven't made a 'name' for ourselves yet outside our local area, it is really hard to get people in the wider world to understand the integrity of our products and the value that we are giving in terms of individuality, the production etc. I certainly find that it is impossible to charge what I need to for the products that we make here in Scotland. One of the things that we thought we could work on together is to try and raise awareness of small businesses like ours that are involved in manufacturing and crafts in Scotland and often run by working mothers. There are a million reasons why it's great to be based up here, but one of the big disadvantages is that we are miles from the marketing hubs.

It also became apparent that life running these businesses is all ups and downs - one minute someone has spotted something you do and supported it and you feel fantastic, or a good order comes in and everything seems worthwhile and then the next, the orders have dried up and you wonder why you are bothering and the guilt about how much time you're giving the children kicks in! Can't win - but we'll have fun trying!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The benefits of being self-employed .....

although it can be really tough running your own business, there are also, of course, some distinct advantages. One of them is that you can work at your own pace and around the other things in your life. Today I am taking time out to meet Jane Lindsey from Snapdragon for lunch in Perth. Jane produces some of the prettiest and most original flowers I have come across and we can sit and chat about the trials and tribulations of small businesses. We met doing the Christmas fair at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh in November and found we had lots to talk (and whinge!) about. We are also both partners on Not On The High Street (http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/) and regularly show at Country Living Fairs, so I am sure there will be lots to talk about.

In the meantime, we are waiting for the gales from the South to arrive in Scotland this evening, so my hatches are being battened!