Confessions of a Small Business Owner: An Interview with Joanne Hawker

Confessions of a Small Business Owner creative business tips podcast

Ahead of the first episode with Rachel from @onrshop, I have an exclusive online interview with Joanne Hawker of #MarchMeettheMaker fame!
So, if you want to get a feel for the podcast, and learn some AMAZING tips from someone who's been there and done it, keep reading!
Hello Joanne! Thank you so much for giving me your time today. It's so great to speak to someone who's done so much for our creative community. So, let's dive right in! How did you come to starting your own business?
I kind of fell into to be honest. I left university in 2010 and couldn’t find a job in the industry that I could confidently apply for and those that I did, I didn’t even get to interview.
To be honest, I’m glad about that because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, only that I didn’t like being told what to create!
I started work on a pepper farm and in the evenings I filled my sketchbooks with drawings. I didn’t want them to go to waste so I opened an Etsy shop thinking I could have a little side line and it would be something nice to do. Then I saw some people on twitter had joined NOTHS, so I sent off my application not thinking I’d get through the selection process and that was that! I built up my small business in the evenings and finally went self employed in 2016!
Amazing! It's so great how these things can take off. Do you have a business confession that you'd like to share with us today?
When I rebranded my shop back in 2013 I made little postcards to go in each of my orders. I ordered 100’s! I was dead pleased when they arrived because I printed them on nice card stock and they were bright and colourful. It wasn’t until I realised that they were pushing my orders into the next postage bracket for weight that I stopped using them, and they’ve been sat in a box in my office ever since! And of course, I’ve rebranded since then so they’re no good anymore!
I think so many of us have a story like that! We get well over excited about something we like and come to regret it later! What do you think is the reason we choose the harder path of creating something for nothing? I know in some of my own rock bottom moments I've thought of throwing in the towel for a traditional career path.
I try not to create something for nothing anymore where I can help it. It devalues our profession and exposure doesn’t pay the bills! I’ll only consider it if I genuinely believe that it will have a positive impact on where I’m going with my career.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I think about throwing in the towel, I’ve even saved some leaflets I’ve had through the door in case that day actually comes, but then I realise I love the freedom I have too much and just work through it. I created #MarchMeetTheMaker for me initially and had no idea that it would take off as well as it did but, I enjoy that so I don’t mind making that for free. Besides, I just love the community aspect around it and I made so many amazing friends through it!
What have been your biggest setbacks in getting your business off the ground?
Probably money, and confidence. I was so scared when I bought my first proper printer and I spent months researching my badge machine because it was such a big expense for me! But once you’ve done your research, put in the hours and realise it’s what you need to move forward you just have to hit buy!
How have you managed to turn these minor setbacks into motivation?
Learning that you have to spend money to make money! Once you realise that, it kind of gives you the drive to get the piece of kit you need and makes you even more determined to make it work! And, if it doesn’t, you can always whack it on eBay, learn from your mistakes and move on!
That is literally the best advice I've heard. It's so true - you should never have to go bankrupt for your business, but if you don't have the faith to invest money in it, why would anyone else?! And what would be your biggest piece of advice to another business owner who's feeling like a failure or even thinking of giving up?
DO NOT GIVE UP! It takes time, it took me 6 years before I managed to make it my day job. It’s not easy, it doesn’t happen over night, and it takes a lot of hard work and determination but it’s worth it. If your current product or method isn’t working for you, what could you do to improve? Do you need to up your photography game? Up your online presence? Find other creatives in your field who you can ask for feedback, and bounce ideas around with.
There are groups on Facebook where you can ask for help, chat with other people and feel part of a community. If you’re lost, don’t sit there by yourself struggling, I’ve got a group on Facebook called Hey There Maker where you can ask anything you want! We’re a friendly bunch, I promise.
What inspired you to champion small businesses with the #MarchMeettheMaker hashtag campaign?
I actually started it for myself and asked friends to get involved. I was really bored with what I was posting and couldn’t find anything similar to what I wanted to talk about so I made my own hashtag campaign and it snowballed from there. I was so amazed by how well received it was and all the brilliant people that I met along the way that I’ve decided I want to do it every year!
If I can use my account for good then why not! There are so many inspiring people out there that we’re yet to discover and it’s a great opportunity to chat with like minded people. I’m so excited for the next challenge #MeetTheMakerWeek closer to Christmas, I’ve already started planning it in my head and it’s going to be a bit different this year!
And what advice would you give to someone who's trying to start their own hashtag or looking to find a way to build up other business owners?
Try to find something that hasn’t already been done, something a bit different, those seem to do really well. Take Allison Sadler's, ‘free up my insta’, it was something new and something totally real and people loved it! Try to get your friends involved too so that it gets that first initial boost!
What a babe! Am I right?!
A huge thank you to Joanne for all these little nuggets!
I hope you're as excited I am to get into the podcast now!

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