Case Study: Stephanie Carswell, Hawthorn’s Handmade Menagerie
Hawthorn’s Handmade Menagerie Goes Digital – Stephanie Carswell
Stephanie Carswell is chief Wool Stabber and a Rural Dorset Entrepreneur and is proud to have a true family Cottage Industry. It’s a description that truly describes her expanding enterprise. The crafting community adds a credible £450 million to the UK economy each year and is thriving due to the expansion of the online communication channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Etsy and Instagram.
Stephanie’s business, Hawthorn Handmade, designs and distributes beautiful contemporary needle felting and crochet kits from her studio in Luccombe Business Centre in Milton Abbas, the very heart of rural Dorset. There is even a duck pond outside her window. Whilst she has never worked from her kitchen table, the designs are inspired by the very local countryside Stephanie loves. And Mum? She turns Stephanie’s ideas into crochet designs.
Previously, Stephanie had a Craft Gallery in Blandford for four years where she began needle felting as something to do on the quiet days. She started teaching workshops. The sheer joy and sense of achievement everyone had as they left with their finished piece was the inspiration and the initial spark for Hawthorn Handmade. So when the Gallery’s lease ended, Stephanie decided to concentrate on building Hawthorn Handmade, a wholesale felting kit business. Even before the shop closed, she had 40 wholesale accounts which she generated through an email campaign and her customers soon included The National Trust who she met at a trade show.
Since then, her business has continued to grow by what might be considered traditional methods, the phone, trade shows exhibitions and direct email. However, Stephanie wanted to harness the power of building the Hawthorn brand online.
She began participating in Marie Forleo’s B-School online learning for entrepreneurs and during lesson three, Ms Forleo said “Go network”.
Stephanie wasn’t too keen, especially with the idea of mixing with many ‘Grey Suits’, nevertheless she looked online for opportunities. When she found Dorset Business Women Go Digital, funded by the Government Equalities Office and delivered by WSX Enterprise, she was delighted. It was offering intensive support through facilitated small monthly network meetings with other local business women. Each wanted to grow their enterprises too and were exploring how they could use technology to help them overcome various business challenges.
She got so much support from the launch event and she hasn’t looked back.
“I was having a problem with recruiting someone to help me.” Stephanie said. “Talking through the problem with other women in business was great. I now have two part time staff so I can create more designs and concentrate on building my business.”
By her own admission, Stephanie has had a scattergun approach to social media. “Planning my strategy to connect with my online audience is my must do 2015 task.”
Since becoming involved in the Go Digital programme Stephanie has got to grips with Google Analytics (in her words she has “become a bit obsessive!”) and now has a much clearer understanding of which bits of her on-line activity are working for her. She is busy revamping her on-line offer and is starting to see the results. Twitter is her favourite social media channel for its simplicity; to date she has a following of 3,700, but she recognises that there are other channels that are visually more engaging. She has recently created a YouTube channel adding “There are free resources, tutorials and videos which we plan to grow and become the ‘go to’ destination for all our customers’ crafting needs.”