Be Dispensable: the first rule of fair management

By Becky Moore

As some of you know, I’m not just a fair organiser, I’m also a designer-maker myself.  I think that gives me an insight into what our stallholders need and expect from fairs.  They’re looking for a well publicised, well organised, well attended platform from which to sell their products.  It sounds like an easy formula, but it isn’t, as anyone who’s organised a public event can testify.  It takes experience and planning, lists and calendars and more lists, and data bases, and systems, and schedules, and yes, more lists!  And on the day it takes a good deal of people skills, quick thinking, problem solving and negotiation to pull it off and keep everyone happy.

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I recently applied for a stall at a prestigious event.  The application process was a little shaky, mistakes were made at their end that led to a fair few very vocal complaints.  (Also I didn’t get in, but that’s the way these things go, you can’t always get what you want.)  I wrote to the organiser accepting her apology and thanking her for her hard work.  Mistakes happen.  It reminded me just how big a job organising an event is.  I love it, I really do, and I’m good at it.  But sometimes the unforeseen happens.  Sometimes things go wrong.  Sometimes events organisers even seem like they’re just fragile human beings!

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I’ve been doing this sort of thing since I was 16 – organising people and events.  I wasn’t terribly good at it back then, but the intervening 4 decades have taught me a thing or two, and now I think I’m ok at it.  Sometimes I worry too much and get in a flap, (my partner thinks I’m too nice to my stallholders, I think I’m good at customer relations!)  but generally things run smoothly.  Those (nearly) 40 years have taught me how to anticipate problems and head them off at the pass.

But so much of it relies on “me”.  If you run your own micro-business, you’ll know just how much stuff you do that no-one, that’s NO-ONE with capitals – can do.  It has to be you.  It’s all in your head, it’s all about your mind, your soul.  So what happens when you just can’t be there?  What happens when – as I did earlier this month – you trip and fall and smash your face into a tarmac road and end up in A&E with a fractured nose and a bust up lip requiring stitches and you can hardly talk and look like you’ve been in a brawl?  The day before an event?  Yikes!

Well, what I did, was lie on a gurney in A&E and issue instructions on how to run an event, with bullet points and a schedule,  to my son.  Now, he’s helped me set up fairs before, and he’s stood on stalls with me many times, and as one of the chefs at the venue, he knows the place well, but he’s not an event organiser.  He hasn’t got 38 years of experience of managing conferences and festivals and fairs  and shepherding humans.  But there I am, whimpering in pain, covered in blood, and  he’s all I’ve got.

Turns out that all I’ve got is a pretty damn good substitution.  Saturday morning comes and as I lie in bed munching on various forms of analgesic and drinking through a straw, I get messages from various stallholders telling me everything is set up properly and my son is doing a grand job.  Such a grand job in fact that I’m wondering whether I can get away with staying in bed on the mornings of every fair!  (Preferably without having to drink tea through a straw though).

Yoojoo's stall at Design@HEART

Obviously he couldn’t have done it without the help of the venue staff, one of whom is also my partner (full disclosure here!), and also without my impeccable planning.  It’s those 38 years.  See, even though Design@HEART is a micro-business that relies on, and is, essentially ME, and even though I’m … erm … a control freak, the first rule of good events management is “organise yourself out of a job”.  Never be indispensable.

 

 

 

Mei Tai, Bei Dai or Mei Dai? However you spell it, Tag Togs is the place to get them!

Amanda Green of Tag Togs is taking over the blog today to talk about her business making babywear and accessories.  

From a young age I have always sewn things, when I was very young I use to get any scraps of fabric from my mums sewing projects and cut and hand sew them into clothes for my Sindy and Barbie dolls. My mum and nan then taught me how to sew and I started making clothes for myself, I did sewing at school for GCSE and A’Level before it all got grouped in with other design things, I helped make clothes for the school theatre productions, and so it seemed like a natural progression to go to uni and do a textile based degree. The sewing stopped there, the degree I did was technology based with a lot of practical but no sewing. I picked sewing back up about 10 years later when I worked as a factory manager for a pillow and mattress protector manufacturer, the ladies who did all the sewing showed me how to make the products. Now I have moved onto babywear which is a bit more fiddly than making a mattress protector, but it is a lot of fun especially when I go fabric shopping, there is too much choice!

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I started my business after my first child in 2009, the company I worked for closed down, we made mattress protectors and pillows and I ran the business for the owner, once it had closed I decided to start my own business up doing the same thing. This has now progressed onto my babywear brand. I started making the baby carriers in 2013 when my second child was about 6 months old.

I originally went to uni and did a textile technology degree, this included spinning, weaving, CAD, dying and finishing and factory management, I think all these elements of my degree and experience in various companies have helped me to run my own business.
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I have a unit in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield which is great although not ideal, the unit is set out in small offices, I would ideally like one large room with all my sewing machines in together, I am looking at re-designing the layout of the unit which will mean knocking down walls, this is something I am putting off at the moment – the mess!!

The type of baby carrier I make is called a Mei Tai or Bei Dai or Mei Dai. It has a main panel which holds the baby and 2 shoulder straps and a waist strap which ties the carrier to the parent/carer. The carrier can be personalised with a patterned accent panel on the front and the back so this would then make it a completely reversible carrier. I also make baby bags or babywearing bags , and baby clothes which co-ordinate and match the carriers.

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I love being in control of my work hours, (to a certain degree), one of the reasons I wanted to have my own business was to be my own boss and enable me to spend time with my children and attend school events, which is not always possible when you work for someone else.

There’s some aspects of it though, that I’d happily hand over. I find the marketing difficult, I would love someone to come and do all of that bit for me. It can also be a bit lonely sometimes, especially when you need to bounce ideas off someone or ask for someones opinion.

I would like to get my babywear into a few more shops, currently I have some products in 2 local craft shops and would like to increase this and go a bit further afield.

Amanda will be at Design@HEART on this coming Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN

A Passion for Pattern

Preeti Gupta is bringing Pattern Passion back to Design@HEART next week and we can’t wait to see what new designs she’s got in store.  She’s taken over the blog this week to tell us more about her company and work.

Pattern Passion is the home of hand painted and hand drawn patterns inspired by nature which I create lovingly in my studio in Leeds. These designs are digitally printed onto luxury silks to adorn elegant and unique womenswear, scarves, cushions, purses, wristlets and men’s accessories. Great quality digital printing allows all the patterns to capture the original concept and artwork in the finest detail and always retain the handmade natural element. I strive to bring the finest unique wearable and decorative art. Some of the latest additions to my range of products are super soft silk scrunchies, silk headbands, square and long scarves, wristlets, coasters  and ties adorned with new hand painted patterns.

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As far as my memory can take me I have always been a nature lover and always will be. It doesn’t cease to amaze me and inspire. As a child I was naturally drawn to nature. I could sit for hours in silent wonder, literally watching the flowers grow. Little did I know then that I was serving my apprenticeship for my future career.  All artists have many inspirations and mine first came in that garden. My first designs were inspired by that cacophony of colour, so bright, so raw, so vibrant. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I grew up to pursue medical profession but realised very soon that my happiness lay in anything to do with painting and drawing. This led me to take up textile design studies in India which I thoroughly enjoyed and practiced for a few years before coming to UK. My inquisitiveness led me to take up BA Honours in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art which was a very enjoyable creative journey. After working for a few high street retailers such as Dorma furnishings, M&S, John Lewis I decided to launch my own brand; Pattern Passion.

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I have a little studio at home where I begin with painting or drawing loads of motifs. After that I work on the computer to play around with the painted motifs and create some repeat patterns out of them. These are sent out for digital printing onto silks and then made into various products.

I really enjoy the creative side of my work. I derive a lot of joy, peace and satisfaction from creating my artwork and products. The whole process from research to completion is thoroughly enjoyable. I also find the interaction and connection with my customers very rewarding.

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The biggest challenge of running a micro business for me is managing everything alone. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit of a juggle doing everything yourself. It’s about finding the balance between creating, marketing, selling and also having a life.  In a few years’ time I would like Pattern Passion to be known as a brand that can be trusted for great designs and quality. I would love to see it in some top design led shops.