We were sat on the terrace of our cottage in Portugal last summer when my husband decided to whittle a knife from some cherry wood pruned from our orchard. We’d spoken about our desire to be able to make something with our hands, to create in a way that would connect us directly to potential customers and had visited craft shows and been inspired by the wood-workers we met. We had even gone so far as to buy a book on small whittling projects, but that was the extent of our idea and we had no clue as to where it might take us over the course of a year…
“Jewellery is such an immediate and tactile way for people to carry something with them from the earth and to connect to you – as a background story”, said a friend recently – I think this is absolutely true and is certainly, we believe, why our jewellery appears to receive the most interest. How it started was that after the cherry-wood knife, at my request (surreptitiously), my husband made me a simple wooden pendant as a gift for my birthday. I loved it and others commented, then my mum asked him to make something out of a piece of pear wood from a childhood tree and at that point I myself felt suddenly inspired to turn my own hands to woodwork. I created a bird brooch for her and then one for myself, quickly falling in love with the whole process of making something beautiful from a forgotten piece of wood that was also wearable. The next time I pruned a tree in our orchard, instead of chucking the twigs onto a mulch pile, I saw the potential of a stud earring and so started a whole new direction.
Attending craft fairs as a non-exhibitor is a really great way to get a feel for the things that appeal to you. If you discover something that really attracts your attention, talk to the crafter and get some background and inspiration. Buying books and a few simple tools is a great way to get started – so many things just require the impetus to get you on your way and if you follow a path that really truly appeals to you, then the rest will follow. There are YouTube videos galore for just about every craft so look them up and teach yourself some simple skills and if you enjoy that, perhaps sign up for a workshop or course in your local area. Finding something that piques your interest and then throwing yourself into it is the best way to begin the journey.
A year on and for us we are now producing jewellery that we are becoming more and more proud of, although there is always compromise and that is something you need to be open to. For us, feedback let us know that whilst people did love our natural pendants, they wanted to see them on something a little more dressy than hemp cord so we made the decision to combine some of our natural creations with bought jewellery findings, but everything with the jewellery side of things has developed organically from part other’s feedback; part our own excitement at finding new ways to do things. In fact, all of our ideas for products have developed organically from personal loves. Door-stops, coasters, light-pulls – these were all things we made for ourselves before thinking about making them for others and having followed a very nature-inspired direction for our daughter’s childhood, natural toys have been a must and because of this personal passion, creating our Miniature Tipi Play Sets is honestly a joy – knowing that we are encouraging the nurturing of imagination and a connection to the earth in other small children never fails to raise a smile. I believe that when you approach a micro-enterprise in this way, choosing something that you truly love or that you have created for yourself first, you cannot fail to succeed – as long as you measure success on authenticity and attracting a small but genuine following.
When developing your idea I think obtaining feedback is essential. Wear or show off what you make regularly, give pieces away as gifts and ask people to let you know what they think. Find out what might improve something for each person, what they would like to see, what they like or don’t like. Tap into your friends network! One friend recently purchased some earrings from us and said, “I’ve simply been waiting for something that appealed to me personally” and that is something to always take heart in. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as ultimately the creation of a micro-enterprise is about generating only enough custom to support a simple self-sufficient journey it’s important to remember that whilst the aim is to sell your creations, you don’t need to appeal to the masses. So stay within the boundaries of what feels right for you and stick by your passions and beliefs. If you remain authentic then you’ll find an authentic market and just imagine, if we can increase the number of micro-enterprises across the world then the spreading of goodness will go further.
Alice Griffin currently lives between a free-ranging campervan and an olive grove in Portugal and is working hard to create an authentic small business she can run from anywhere. Follow her adventures at: