The saying goes that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but an old adage like that simply doesn’t ring true when you’ve spent seven years building a successful business from scratch.
Last weekend I exhibited for the first time at The Handmade Fair and overall I had a really awesome experience. I met some lovely people, was in heaven in the midst of such a fun, creative environment and the real highlight was that I got to meet the Queen of Craft herself, Kirstie Allsopp! And I can confirm that not only is she lovely and hugely encouraging but she has also given one of my giant sloth tree toppers a new home.
Talking of toppers, out of my entire product portfolio these were the biggest hit of the show and made lots of people smile and squeal in delight. An amazing reaction and a real confidence boost.
As I’ve said in a previous post, The Handmade Fair was my first big fair, and because I usually sell online I’m used to ‘hiding behind my computer screen’, so to speak. But for this show I decided to put myself out there, meet customers and see their reactions to my work first hand. And on the whole people were lovely, very complimentary and – being crafters themselves – most understood the amount of work involved in each and every one of my handmade products.
What I wasn’t entirely prepared for though were the copy cats. I’m not silly, I knew I was going to handmade fair where most people attending were probably going to be able to sew and design themselves, but I figured people can see my work online anyway so what difference would it make?
Well the difference was that it was right in front of my eyes.
People didn’t disguise the fact they were going to try and copy my range. They examined my work closely, not even being gentle with it and took sly photographs. Often I overheard people telling their friends: ‘You could do that,’ but by far the worst comment of the weekend was one girl who said brazenly to her companion that not only did she have no intention of buying my work, she was only looking so she could rip it off.
To be honest it was a little heart breaking and made me question whether I should have taken such a giant leap exhibiting. Was I safer at home sat behind my laptop?
We all take inspiration from other people and there is no doubt that a creative environment such as Kirstie’s show is hugely inspiring. I myself was buzzing with ideas!
I know I’m not the first person to make a dinosaur decoration. I didn’t invent the dinosaur so I can’t trademark it – but instead of opting for blatant imitation, create your own version of an idea, make something new and that you’re proud of.
It’s taken me seven years since launching my business to get where I am today and I have worked so, so hard. The Miss Shelly brand is hugely personal to me, it supports my family and I’m chuffed at what I have managed to achieve.
Thankfully after a few days of contemplating I now feel like myself again and I’m sad that I let comments like that nearly ruin my experience. As Kirstie said to me herself when we were chatting about my concerns, ‘Yes, some people can make what you have made but they don’t have your originality and they couldn’t do it to the level you have’.
So I’ve no regrets and I’m now buzzing and excited that I took such a big leap.
I’ve also come home from the show with a head crammed full of ideas so I’m going to get down to work and start doing what I do best – creating original, and sometimes bonkers, work!
But I may stay hidden behind my computer screen for a little while longer!
Here are a few images from my stand at the Handmade fair.