What are the rules to running your own business? In short, there are none! MINT member Keely Pearce shares her story.
For those of you who might not know me, I’m Keely and I’m a paper cutting artist. I wear all the hats at kppapercuts, which I started about four years ago now after discovering paper cutting over six years ago.
I originally started paper cutting as a way to unwind on an evening and take my mind off the stresses I was feeling in my management job. At the time I often found myself struggling to sleep and thinking and worrying about my job late into the night. I just couldn’t switch my thoughts off anymore.
I’d tried lots of different crafts (most really badly!!) before I stumbled across a video of someone paper cutting on Facebook. I was really interested in trying it so I bought a starter kit and sat down one Saturday morning to give it a go.
From the very first time I put scalpel to paper, I was hooked
My mind instantly quietened and I got totally lost in what I was doing. It was just what I’d been looking for. I did the whole kit in a weekend and was quickly searching out templates to try and researching where I could get more supplies.
One day, I was struggling to find a design similar to what I had in mind to make as a gift for a friend so I had a go at making my own. It worked! And what was more my friend absolutely loved it! They shared it online and soon other friends and family were asking if I’d make something for them. One friend asked if I sold my work at markets and would I like to have a stall at their Christmas market.
It sounded fun and I definitely had lots of paper cuts ready (at this point I was cutting almost every day) so I said OK and went along without any expectations at all. Having your friends and family telling you they love what you do is one thing, but would anyone else like it??
To my surprise, there were people who did!! It totally changed how I saw what I was doing when one lady came up and told me how much she loved my designs and bought two paper cuts for her home.
This changed my thoughts and made me think that just maybe I could earn a living doing something I really loved rather than something that just made me feel stressed!!
And so I decided to start a business selling my paper cuts. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I knew about Etsy as I’d bought designs on there, but I knew nothing about marketing, accounts, websites, and all the other things you do as a small business owner. I didn’t even know I needed to know some of these things.
Then MINT came along
At a market the following Christmas I was chatting with a fellow stall holder about all these things and she said, you should come join this business club that’s starting up. “It’s run by this lush lady Nicola, she’s a whizz at social media and I think you’d really like her!”
She was right! Nic’s positivity was infectious and suddenly I was in a room full of local people, all with amazing talents offering support and encouragement. And teaching me all the things I didn’t know how to do!! They were MINT!! It gave me so much motivation and belief in what I was doing and that I could do it on a bigger scale too.
I realised that if I wanted to change the balance in my life (at this point i was working full time in management and then doing another two hours every night on my biz and on my days off too) I needed a bit more support and accountability so I joined Bootcamp. It was just what I needed. I was challenged to really know my numbers and to get a clear vision about what I wanted and WHY.
Focusing my vision of how I want my life to be drives everything I do now. It made me realise that I wanted a more simple life. I don’t need all the bells and whistles to be happy. I just need to being doing something I love. So with the emotional support of my Bootcamp crew I made the decision to step down from management and also drop a day a week at my ‘other job’.
I’m not going to lie, it was a scary decision to make. I had lots of thoughts of, what if it goes wrong, what if I can’t pay the bills, what if, what if, what if. But each time this happened I just went back to the vision I had of how my life would be. Of how much less stress I would feel, of how much happier I’d be!
And then, COVID!!!
Initially, I was very pessimistic. I had to cancel all my workshops (that was a big financial loss for me). I couldn’t do markets. How would I earn as much money? How would I keep the business growing?
Again, MINT swooped in!
Through the training I’d had with MINT I’d been able to build my own website, so I focused on improving that and getting more DIY kits on there. I used the experience I’d had discovering paper cutting to help others who were at home, not able to go out and who had lots on their mind.
It even led to me appearing on Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas!!! (that’s a whole story of it’s own).
Another thing that came out of the last year was even more solidity in my vision of how I want my life to work. After all the restrictions we’ve been through it’s given me an even greater appreciation of having a business that I love and that gives me joy every day. In January this year I made the decision that I would drop another day so I could achieve an even better balance in my life.
Easy as 1, 2, 3?
I now work three days a week in my job and I spend three days a week on my biz. I’m quite an organised person so I’ve developed a rota of what I do each day I’m working on my biz.
For example, the first day of the week is admin day. It’s a day to write product listings, newsletters, answer emails and make contact with existing customers.
Day two is making day! It’s my reward for doing all the admin. I get to play with new designs and make orders. At the minute I’m starting to make a few bits of the festive season (I know!) so I’m not losing balance later in the year.
Day three is post day. This is the day I get to write lovely notes to my customers and prettily wrap orders before sending them off to their forever homes.
All this means I still get one day a week I can completely switch off from the world and I’ve got my evenings back to myself too, meaning I can spend more time with my family and friends.
At the minute I’m pretty happy with the balance I have. The next step will be to pay off my mortgage and get back to travelling the world! I used to travel a lot and have been to some amazing places. It’s something I really want to start doing again. I don’t think I’d realised just how much I missed exploring until I wasn’t allowed to travel!
It’s all about vision!
So, if I could offer you all just one piece of advice it would be to get your vision clear! Know what you want from life, what balance you want, and don’t think it needs to all happen yesterday! It’s your journey to take at your pace.