Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Vintage Network meeting number 2!

No, I haven't fallen off the earth! I'm super busy at the moment getting ready for a Tattoo Convention that I'm trading at this weekend, and have lots of lovely orders to get ready too - so that's where I've been! I did manage to sneak out for a few hours last night though to go to the 2nd North West Vintage Network Meeting, as organised by Kitty Wink Vintage.
It was held at the impressive showroom of Rose & Lee Vintage, which is in a suburb of Manchester called Radcliffe. There was tea served in mis-matched china cups and saucers and lots of home made delicious nibbles including mini chocolate cupcakes, mini scones with clotted cream and jam, and fudge brownies. I sampled them all of course, as you know I love a bit of tea and cake!
Event organiser, Alice, had a great idea that we could do a 'speed-dating' type thing to break the ice, and have a chance to meet everyone in the room with just a 2 minute window to find out as much information about each other as possible, and exchange business cards! The time flew by, and by the end of the meet up everyone had met everyone else and had a fist full of business cards and inspiration to send them on their way home! A really nice night! Here are some photos....
Outfit: Blouse with sewing related all over print, Limb Clothing.
Cashmere Cardigan, Sainsburys (UK Supermarket chain!)
High waist Jeans - Lady K Loves
Vintage 'C' Initial pin and Cats Eye Glasses, both Etsy
All other jewellery and accessories - Dolly Cool 
View of some of the antiques in the Rose & Lee vintage showroom
Retro cards, candles, soaps, trinkets and homewares for sale
Here I am enjoying my third brew of the evening with Rachael from Marry Me Ink - a fab blog about the tattooed and alternative bride!
More Networking!
Some of the ladies having a look at the dresses and accessories on offer in the showroom
And I loved this screen in the corner! Vintage advert and magazine decoupage at its best
And organiser, Alice from Kitty Wink Vintage wearing the facinator that she made last weekend at one of Betty Bee's weekend pamper and craft sessions.
As previously mentioned, this weekend I will be trading all weekend at the Manchester Tattoo Tea Party convention. If you are coming down, please swing by the Dolly Cool stand and say hello :)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

New from Dolly Cool and a TV Debut!

Phew! My posts are a bit few and far between at the moment, this is as I'm really busy creating my new collections, getting orders made and sent out and have some exciting new wholesale accounts to make orders for! Last week I finally got a small new collection made, photographed and on the website......
It was about time I did my take on an octopus (instead of THIS stupid octopus - don't get me started on this topic of pieced "OOAK" (one of a kind) jewellery = ARGH !) and also some punked up Owls! Little sailor Octopus has already proved really popular and he has been flying (swimming!) out :)
You can find them all on the Dolly Cool Website
In other news, one of my necklaces appeared on UK TV show - The Weakest Link
Yay! Dolly Cool gets its first TV debut. Thanks to my lovely customer Claire for wearing her necklace on the show, and also sending me the link when it was aired this week :)
Hope you all have a nice weekend!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Dolly Cool is Three! :D

On Wednesday, I celebrated my 3rd year anniversary being self employed! Hooray!
The time has literally FLOWN by, and I am so happy that I am making this work, and that the popularity for Dolly Cool is growing, and feel so lucky that I can do something that I love for my full time job!
I thought that I would share a few of my tips for helping you and your business grow, even in the current tough economic climate that we are in. I hope some of you find it useful! I will try and not repeat myself from last year’s post, which you may also find interesting, which is about starting a business in the recession.
And so on to my tips – remember that this is just my viewpoint on things. Feel free to add anything else you think is relevant in the comments!

1. Save Money
I cannot stress this enough. The best way to make money is to save money. You can NEVER have profit if you have debt. My dad told me that years ago, and he is right! I am by no means saying cheapen your product, I’m saying save where you don’t need to spend. Do you REALLY need that iphone4 that will cost you £45 a month? Do you REALLY need that fancy new laptop, or to spend 2 grand on a fancy new website or getting promo photos done? Ask yourself  how can you reduce your everyday costs.

2. Embrace Social Media
If you are a small business owner, especially one with a web based presence, and you are not on social media sites, then not only are you missing out BIG TIME, but you are also a bit foolish! Social media platforms such as a Blog, Twitter and Facebook are an invaluable resource to market your products (for FREE I might add! – see point 1!) but they are also a great way to connect with your customers, and likeminded folk – many who are also in the same position as you. I cannot imagine that Dolly Cool would be what it is today without them, and I have met and kept in touch with so many lovely people from all over the world using social media. Free and Fun – what’s not to like?

3 Be Nice
The industry I am in (where the UK is concerned anyway) – the Rockabilly/Alternative scene - is a small one. By doing shows and events you get to know other people who also trade at these events, and it makes sense to be friendly and get to know them. Even if they are directly competing with your product, it doesn’t matter. Its great to show up somewhere and be greeted with a friendly face! I also keep in touch with the people I have met on FB and Twitter, and its good to share forthcoming events and tips with likeminded people too. As I have quite a few years trading experience behind me (10 years since I did my first ‘craft fair’), I’m always happy to give advise to newbies on how they can help themselves and their business. Make sure you don’t share all of course! I NEVER reveal where I source my materials from, or how I make my products. General biz advise though – fine! We all have to start somewhere, and I have been given great advise by fellow traders in the past.

4.Be Professional
NEVER fight fire with fire, EVER. Never, ever. Not even if you get a really sh*tty email off someone. Take a break, walk away – and reply when you can be professional. Not that this happens to me hardly ever mind you – and its usually an oversees customer who is waiting for a shipment that is taking a while to arrive. If anything, be SUPER nice. I have even had people apologise for their rudeness after my super nice, super polite replies! Oh, and never slag your customers off on Social Media either. Remember that ANYONE can read those things, and you just look bitter, pathetic and very unprofessional. Really not a good look. Have a rant to your other half/dog/cat etc instead!
At the 1st Vintage Network Meeting

5 Networking
Kind of follows on from the social media thing, and making friends with fellow traders in your field. On social media, follow people who interest and inspire you, and also things such as – in my case – craft and design networking sites. You find out first about any business courses, and  classes (sometimes free!) that can be of use, you can find out about shows that you might like to trade at, or attend first. Through networking I have met some really interesting people, joined a local Vintage Network Group – the opportunities arising from this in itself is really exciting – and also been invited to partake in photo shoots, met lovely people who model for me and appeared in magazines. Also promote others too in your field – but who are not direct competition with you or your business. Once you get the ball rolling you will be amazed at how quickly interesting things start coming your way!

6. Decide if you are an ‘I’ or a ‘we’
I know a lot of sole traders, who refer to themselves in the 3rd person. This makes the company appear bigger than it is, and is perceived to be more “professional”. In my case, I am always an ‘I’. This is because I am proud to be an individual designer/maker and I want people – retail and business customers alike – to know that I am an ‘I’. I am not, and will never be a big company - or a 'we'.That is because I don’t want to be and am happy to retain my exclusivity and supply individuals and small independent traders rather than big chain stores. Not that there is anything wrong with referring to your brand as ‘we’ – if you do this though, you need to be consistent. If you are a ‘we’ you need to make sure that everything you publish or have written about you is in the 3rd person, or you start to confuse people!

7. Support your local economy.
Everyone is struggling at the moment so support your local economy where you can. I may source my cool hairtie fabric from oversees (we just don’t have any cool fabric being produced in this country!), but for my sundries such as plain fabrics, threads and needles – I get them from my local haberdashers. Like wise my clays, varnishes, a jewellery findings – I get them from local places where I can. Hopefully the Karma will come back my way! J

Well, I think I have bored you all enough by now! I hope you found it useful!

Thank you all for reading my blog by the way, and your supportive comments on my sewing class post last week. Have a nice weekend y’all!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Learning to sew.....

As some of you may know that follow me on twitter (@dollycool) I have started a college class to learn to sew properly! I can already machine sew, but I am self taught and although I can make alterations on my own clothes, and make my Dolly Cool Hair Ties, simple skirts and put zips in - I've never actually made anything from a pattern before. It has been on my 'to do' list for a few years now, but I have never found any suitable or nearby courses that I wanted to try.
At the beginning of January, the local college posted a prospectus through the door, and I saw that the sewing classes were now being held at my local centre - just a 5 minute walk from my house = result! They were offering beginner, intermediate and advanced classes, so I enrolled on the intermediate class straight away, and started 3 weeks ago.....
Here I am on my way to class today! I'm wearing my Lady K Loves Jeans, and new spotty cardigan from the Forever 21 sale (£4.99) - Hooray that we have Forever 21 in the UK now!
And a close up of my college bag! Isn't it fab? It was a gift from my friend Jen. I love it, and it is perfect for the course. All the ladies in my class want one, ha ha! Unfortunately for them, it is from US fabric store Joann and you can't get them here!
And this is what the sewing room looks like at College - scary overlocker on left! We were shown how to thread it up on week one, but its rather complicated so need a few more goes on it first!

And so on to what I'm making....... I thought I would start with a simple modern pattern first, although my aim is eventually to be able to make things from vintage patterns for myself.
So, I'm making this dress which is from Prima Magazine, a few years ago that I had saved:

Its a 6 piece pattern so nothing too taxing for my first attempt!
Today, I cut out all my paper pattern pieces, and pinned and cut out my fabric.
And a close up of the fabric that I'm making it out of - cool Russian Doll print! 
(And look at my cute panda tape measure! ♥)
All pieces are now cut and I will be tacking it together and trying it on for size this week.

I've already got a pattern, and fabric lined up for project number two by the way!
This is a vintage skirt pattern from 1959 that I got from Etsy for just $5:
Its an 'easy to make' 1 yard pattern, so hopefully this wont be too taxing either for my first vintage pattern attempt. And I have some AWESOME fabric for this one....
Fiesta de San Marcos by Alexander Henry 
I'll keep you posted on my progress and will of course show you when I have successfully (hopefully!) completed them :)