Today’s guest blog is from Sarah Fletcher, owner and founder of Sarah Diane Creative. Established in Bedford in 2018, SDC is a fashion and soft-furnishings brand, bucking the fast-fashion trend and creating sustainable, quality products.
This month, Sarah took her fledgling brand to Spring Fair, one of the industry’s biggest trade shows. We asked Sarah to give us a sneak peek behind the scenes at Spring Fair and to share her advice to other aspiring Bedford makers:
Go big or go home! That was my thinking way back in the hazy summer of 2018, when I took the plunge and signed up to do Spring Fair 2019…
I’ve always been the type of person that once I’ve got an idea in my head, I have to go for it! No beating around the bush or hesitancy, after all the mantra that I base all my decisions on is ‘you will never know until you try’.
That said, since my sign up, I have had many many many moments of anxiety about whether I’ve jumped too high off the deep end for my first year as an indie business.
Why Spring Fair and what was the basis of my decision to explore selling to retail over direct customers? To be honest, I wanted to do both to broaden my horizons to stand a fighting chance of making money out of this. Isn’t that the point?! However, this doesn’t happen by chance. It takes a lot of preparation and research and you have to explore all avenues by gaining market feedback about your business and products across a wide spectrum nationally. Spring Fair is the biggest trade fair in the UK and a big hitter internationally so it had to be the place to gain this information. At least I would know if my business and products had legs!
I had my product developed and spent time leading up to Spring Fair by getting feedback locally and perfecting it. You have to understand your product inside and out and most of all know what is your USP – what makes your product different and worth buying over products already out there and in the same genre. In addition you have to know your numbers.
As a new business exhibiting at Spring Fair, I was offered a ‘Design First’ package which includes a 2×1 stall, table, shelf, lighting, A4 logo and your name on the board. A basic level of marketing is included and the stalls are integrated around each sector. Plus you can pay via instalments which was perfect for a new start up. Outside of this package everything is chargeable and pricing mounts steeply so my advice is if you are a small independent business and new to Spring and Autumn Fair, go for the package.
Fast forward to the end of the five full days at the biggest traders exhibition in the UK…
I have to say I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about the investment (and it is a big investment for indies). It has been an amazing experience.
Day one I was a rabbit caught in headlights and all my preparation still wasn’t enough. A massive learning curve and thank goodness I learn quick and I adapt!
I gained an exhibitor family from my amazing neighbours on my row and the amount of tips, recommendations and advice given was much better than any business seminar! I had to re work my pricing as I made ‘rookie’ mistakes which I adjusted before day two.
Once settled, confidence grew and I just had to engage people with a friendly hello. It worked for me. No one is interested in the hard sell and to be honest that’s not what I’m about. I told my story and proudly talked about my brand, the sustainability of the product and the fact that it is Made in Britain and a bespoke design.
My product is middle to high end and I was realistic to know not every passer by would be interested or had the client base for this level. However, you still get feedback when you engage people and I was delighted that everyone I spoke to loved my product line and the interest was fantastic. I have lots of work to do now to convert the hot leads and pledges from serious buyers and I am so excited that I have a product that I know works and has mileage. The hard work starts now keeping the interest, connections and momentum but I’m raring to go!
Advice to other makers…
My advice to #bedfordindies looking to explore supplying their product to retail or just to know whether you have a viable product and business, is to go for a national trade fair and Spring Fair is the best it gets. Invest in your business and be willing to learn quick, adapt and take on board advice and recommendations. Most importantly take opportunities where they arise and remember investment and exposure doesn’t come for free. Take my recommendation – ‘go big or go home’!
@sarahdianecreative @SarahDianeCreative @S_D_Creative