You might be wondering who I am and why I have founded Creating a Craft Business? My name is Clare Yarwood-White and this is the story of my journey so far.
The first part of my career was working in advertising and marketing roles, which taught me a lot about how the ‘big boys’ build retail brands, and how multi-national corporations are run. I did this for 12 years, but by 2003 my enthusiasm for the corporate world was waning, so when a friend got me into beaded jewelry, I re-connected with my creative roots and launched a tiny jewelry business called Yarwood-White from my spare room. I spent £50 on my first bag of beads, and from there I grew the business organically, through a cycle of selling and re-investing in the business, whilst still working full time in advertising.
I sold to my friends, family, through parties and shopping events that I organized in local wine bars. I roped in other local craftspeople and designers and we shared the promotional costs and marketing.
At the same time, I founded a networking group for creative women who were in various stages of starting/growing kitchen table businesses. I can’t stress enough how valuable this was – we would share skills, tips and encouragement, and we acted like virtual colleagues for each other. I never felt alone or isolated.
Giving up the day job
After one year the business was starting to look promising, and I felt brave enough to reduce my day job to part-time, which gave me the luxury of 2 days per week to work on Yarwood-White (plus evenings and weekends, of course!) By 2005 I was turning over enough to pay myself and give up my day job altogether. It felt wonderfully liberating.
In 2006 I was awarded an Enterprising Business Award for Innovation & Entrepreneurship from university consortium West Focus, which meant I could attend free business lectures and was given students free of charge to work on my business (which I used on SEO and financial planning projects; areas which both felt like dark arts to me at the time).
I plucked up the courage to start approaching retailers, and by the end of 2007 I was supplying over 20 shops throughout the UK, including the jewel in the crown, department store Liberty. The same year, my first book was published by Bloomsbury as part of their jewelry handbook series, simply called Bridal Jewellery.
By now Yarwood-White was becoming a recognized name in the wedding industry, and I had employed three part-time jewelry makers to help with production. We were thrilled to be awarded Best Bridal Accessories three years in a row in 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Wedding Ideas magazine, and we were a finalist on a number of occasions in the Wrapit Wedding Awards, and later the Perfect Wedding Awards and the Sheerluxe Online Shopping Awards.
There were so many exciting opportunities that came my way over the next few years at Yarwood-White. Highlights include taking part in a live discussion on Radio4 Woman’s Hour about impostor syndrome (that nagging feeling that in spite of your apparent achievements you are still, somehow, winging it. Sound familiar?!) We designed jewelry for celebrities including Cheryl Cole, Katie Price, Dannii Minogue, Charlotte Church and Sharon Osbourne, and our designs featured in Trinny & Susannah book The Survival Guide. We collaborated with charities Cancerbackup and The Royal British Legion to raise funds through limited edition jewelry designs.
By 2011, with two boys under the age of 3 and some complications with my health, I was beginning to find it hard to keep all the plates spinning. I wanted to give Yarwood-White the chance to continue to thrive, but I didn’t feel I was the right person to run it anymore, so I took the difficult decision to put it up for sale. It took a while, but eventually, I found the perfect buyer, and I am thrilled to have now sold to someone with both the experience and enthusiasm the business deserves. In 2012 I started, and it has been growing since then.
So this brings us up to date. I – possibly just like you – am a mom juggling work, family and home, and rarely feeling like I have struck the perfect work/life balance. But I love what I do, and I hope by sharing my experiences and the lessons I have learned (the hard way!) I can help you make your craft business dream come true too.