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Bunyip Craft, an update: week 1

It’s been a week since I sat down to share the news that Bunyip Craft was on the move. It’s been an incredible rollercoaster of a week, with tears and smiles, cake and support from all over the world and lovely, lovely comments and suggestions. I’ve had a piece on Devon Live and been on Radio Exe. I feel held together by the care, compassion and belief of so many people; friends, customers, family and people I’ve never met. Sometimes all your hard work is repaid in kindness.

The strong possibility that we’re not going to find a retail space to move into is slowly dawning, I was hoping something would instantly jump out of the bag, but it hasn’t happened so far. Please keep spreading the word for us.

Really genuinely lovely people have offered to share space with us, with so many different concepts that my business brain has been spinning. I’ve been offered workshop space, party space, a couple of bespoke jewellery range possibilities, those DIY craft pub nights are most definitely going to happen, I’m not the first person to think of the shared makers space and have some of the bigger influences of the arts community on my side.

I’ve been out and about: looking at trading estate office spaces, community spaces, searching about in Topsham, out of the way city shops, city centre offices and more. I have a list of the possible spaces, with pros and cons on each, none are exactly right, though some are very close. I’ve come to a few more realisations; I need to be in cycling distance of my kids school, the main change for us as a family, is that my husband is going to be working full time, so I need to be able to do school pick up and don’t want to get in the car everyday. If we do take on office space, while we wait for a retail opportunity to come our way, then it’s going to be much easier if it’s on the University side of town. I need to be able to store all my stock, paperwork and shopfit, so the office space can’t be tiny. I want to carry on doing parties and workshops, whether out of the office space or from some of the other spaces I’ve been offered, I’d like to be able to do ‘open days’ from any space we take so that customers can still come and see us and the stock before they buy.

I’m petrified of not having the day to day footfall and spend of customers. I really want to hold on to my wonderful staff, and will need to pay for any space we take on, so will need to carry on taking a decent sum each week. Can I do that from only my online sales?, will anyone want to take my crafty kits and jewellery wholesale? Can I have some time off before I start the next adventure, to get my head together and allow some creative freedom? It’s beginning to look like I need the cheapest yet biggest office space I can afford, which isn’t much to ask…

Meanwhile, Bunyip is still running as brilliantly as ever, the Sale has started on lots of end of lines so come in and grab them while stocks last, I will keep on adding more as time goes on. I’ll keep you updated on any further developments in the land of Bunyip Craft.

Enjoy the sunshine, we are!

 

 

 

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What happens next?

I like to think I am an endlessly positive person, especially where Bunyip is concerned, but this is a tough one to write and has been a tough decision. I’ve come out of the other side of the shame and failure, and am trying really hard to see change as good.

Bunyip Craft is on the move once again. The costs in our big, beautiful shop have become too onerous, despite cutting every cost to the bone, lowering staffing hours and working in the shop as much as I can. Business Rates have gone up twice since I’ve been here, and in the last re-evaluation the percentage discount the shop used to get for being landscape shaped rather than portrait shaped was taken away too, so my rates are almost entirely made up of retail zone A, ouch! Being over the VAT threshold doesn’t help either, with VAT at 20% many businesses struggle at this point of their growth.

My lease is up on 1st October and I just couldn’t afford to re-sign it. This is not because we’re not a successful business, we have a good take through the till, and online, but the costs are too high to be able to make the maths work and customer spend is going down. Our footfall is steady, as is our number of sales, but sales are getting smaller as customers feel the pinch and worry about their own incomes, Brexit and the world economy.

So, the upshot is, we are looking for a new premises, something more affordable, smaller certainly, but nothing right has presented itself yet. We would love to have a place with an office and workshop space, so that we can carry on with our parties and teaching, as well as the shop. We don’t mind where it is really, we hope we have the customer loyalty and brand recognition to take being off the main drag. If you know of anywhere, please get in touch, all offers considered!

This might be a chance to change the way I run the business, I’ve been running Bunyip for over 15 years now, and with 2 kids and a husband who can work more hours if I give him the time, life has changed a lot in that time.  I have loads of ideas I’d like to work on, I’d like to wholesale my jewellery making and sewing kits, along with making jewellery for other shops, I’d like to do more shows and craft fairs, I’d like to have time to spend on my website, Etsy shop and blog, I want to run DIY craft pub nights, I want to host Pop ups all over the place, I want to teach more, I want to have the flexibility to be able to run with an idea or offer that comes my way. I can’t do any of this at the moment because I have to be on the shop floor to sell a 40p metre of elastic or 6 buttons. I’m grateful for every person who’s bought that 40p metre, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have survived without you, but this might be time that I get to put my entrepreneurial and creative hats back on.

Retail is an ever fluid market, and the times, they are a changing. I think the future of retail may be in shared spaces, people working together to have the presence and knowledge each business needs to survive. I would love to be part of something like that in Exeter, and be as present in the fight for supporting Independent business in Exeter as I’ve ever been.

Please get in touch if you have any ideas, spaces for rent, wholesale opportunities or just want a chat, I’d love to hear from you on mattie@bunyipcraft.com or in the shop… for a while longer!

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May Sewing Challenge – Stretchy Fabrics

Now that The Contemporary Craft Festival is over, I can finally get around to writing about my May Challenge (yes I’m aware that it’s now the middle of June!). I challenged myself to sew with stretch fabrics for this month as I’d never done it before and I actually really enjoyed it. I’ve always heard horror stories about how hard jersey is to sew with but I didn’t have any issues and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is feeling a bit nervous about it.

I decided to start by making the Joni Dress which is in the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book. I used a relatively cheap fabric so it was quite thin and very stretchy. I realised that I’d have to do things differently to when I sew with woven fabrics when I tried to fold the fabric and got all of this puckering. No way was it going to be possible to cut accurately with scissors so I decided to use my rotary cutter and do pieces that were on the fold individually. I have no idea why I don’t always use a rotary cutter! It is so much easier; I’ll definitely be using it for all of my cutting in the future and it was perfect for this jersey.

Before I started sewing, I changed my needle to one specifically for stretch materials, changed my stitch to a zig-zag and kept my regular sewing foot; so easy so far. The first instruction was to attach clear elastic to the waist and shoulder seams which stops them from stretching out after wearing the dress a few times.

Now the real perk to sewing with stretch fabrics is that sleeves are a doddle! Everything can be stretched in to place perfectly. I inserted the sleeve ‘on the flat’ which was so easy and all I had to do was match up the notches and then sew up the sides of the sleeve and bodice. I’m pleased with the finished dress but I’ll definitely be making it in a slightly sturdier fabric next time.

This was the first month when I decided to make two items for my monthly challenge! As I was flicking through the book, I came across the Stella Hoodie and decided to give that a go as well (not that I ever do anything even remotely active…). I bought some lovely teal sweatshirt fabric and matching lining and jumped straight in. I actually managed to make most of this in one evening from cutting out to being able to wear it. The only thing left to do is the hem at the bottom as I didn’t have a twin needle suitable for stretch fabrics.

Most of the hoodie was really straight forward, the only thing that was slightly different was having to stabilise the buttonhole so that it didn’t pull out of shape. Again, the sleeves were easy peezy and even the cuffs worked well. So now all that’s left is to take up a sport …