“Necessity is the mother of all invention” it is said and that is exactly how Ellies Beautiful Mess was born.
My son was 3 months old, my daughter had started school and the only household income was my ever decreasing maternity pay from my job as a pharmacy dispenser.
I had to work again to bring in some money but it HAD to be a job with an immediate start, where I could stay home with my children. As that kind of job didn’t really exist per se, I had to create one Ignoring the voice in my head saying “How the flip do you do that?”
That day, I walked with the pram to a shop where I could buy craft supplies. With £70 in the bank, I spent £40 knowing that I HAD to make this work. The pressure was on.
My plan was to make something - but that really was the only part of a plan that I had formulated. I wasn’t sure what to make or how to make it as I haven’t sewn since primary school and couldn’t crochet, knit without dropping stitches, throw pottery, sculpt, paint or fall back on any real skills at all.
I made my son a cloud mobile.
It wasn’t great. It was ok. It took me three days to complete, hand-stitching it all together. But undeterred, I nervously posted the photo on my Facebook account and waited for a reaction (good or bad, I wasn’t sure what to expect).
Ok, here it is. Don’t laugh!!
The people you expect will support you, often don’t. Most of my family and friends had nothing to say. Maybe they weren’t impressed. Maybe they thought I was stupid for trying and it was awful but the important few that did speak up in support were the ones that gave me the confidence to create a Facebook page and just go for it!
Then Facebook asked me, “What is the name of your business?”
Hmmm. I don’t know.
It’s quite difficult to name something when you still aren’t sure what it is yet. I needed something generally crafty and cheerful sounding. But what?
I’d been sat at the kitchen table (exactly where I am writing this now) and keen to follow up my first project I was sat, babe on lap, snipping away at various coloured felt sheets to make a Russian doll. A chaos of multicolour felt scraps covering the table and the floor. It was a mess but not an unattractive one. Quite aesthetically pleasing actually. Say what you see, Ellie.
A beautiful mess. MY beautiful mess. Boom!
The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing. People really are so kind and I had people cheering me on. The orders came faster than I could keep up with. I’m grateful that the whole time the business has existed I’ve never ever had a period of time when I’ve had nothing on the books to make for someone...
Selling to people via their inboxes and sending invoices was time consuming and wasn’t ideal so I created a basic website that looked nice enough and made it easier to press a button and order.
To sell through a stand alone website is harder, in a lot of respects, than selling on a big platform like Etsy or Not On The High Street as you have to generate your own traffic through your own social media. Although it’s maybe harder for people to find you and your products, it does allow you more freedom with zero percentage of your sales going to the ‘management’ which suited me.
The business was our sole income and it has kept a family of four secure and fed consistently. It’s scary putting yourself and your work out there - what if no one likes it? What if orders suddenly dry up? Even now that is a very real, if unjustified, fear. There are times the business has me stressed, pulling my hair out (just like having children) but there are times it pays off in such rewards you can’t even imagine (just like having children!) You can have a moan from time to time but you don’t ever want it to stop because it’s an extension of you. You plough so much into it that over time it does become a part of you.
I needed more and more materials, equipment and space as this mess was growing and growing and swallowing up our home. That was when I decided that EBM needed premises.
What a year 2017 was! I've never been so thrilled, stressed, tired or elated at the year that we "did the shop”. I didn't expect to be signing on any dotted lines, it all started with a simple enquiry, then a viewing and somehow, without really having the funding, I was handed the keys.
I had a huge office all to myself which I decorated exactly how I wanted, a haven of blush pink and rose gold, geometric loveliness. The sense of pride I had was overwhelming because I’d made this whole mess myself, from more or less nothing. The endless late nights and years of working were starting to pay off.
With a large shop area, a little kitchen area, my office as a family room with a sofa and tv, our shop was our second home. I hope the kids will remember our happy times there, dancing about and how we built it ourselves piece by piece, flat pack by flat pack.
If I’d have known what was coming, perhaps an EBM shop wasn’t the best idea. My personal life pretty much fell apart just before the shop opened. I found out I was pregnant and the prospect of having three children was so exciting yet very daunting because stopping work and making things just wasn’t an option with extra work from the shop and the website was busier than ever. But, it was not to be and the two failed pregnancies of 3 months hit me hard. Working was a handy distraction but I’d lost heart in my business and with myself. Soon after, I was a single mum with two kiddos ... and now had a shop to look after (and pay for) too.
The year did take a supreme nosedive but January came around and so did Duggee. The kids were at school and I was sat in my office, sobbing my heart out as I didn't think I had any more in me to keep going. Just then the window cleaner popped his head in and asked me if I'd lost a rabbit. I thought I'd maybe dropped one of the felt ones I’d made for Easter down the back of the shelf.
"That one under your window. He keeps running across the road".
Sat outside my window was a real-life bunny! To catch him I ruined a Cath Kidston towel, a pair of Ugg boots and infringed several trespassing laws but I finally caught him. I knew I was supposed to catch him and I was so distracted that I forgot all about being upset. A little bundle of fluffy hope hopped right into my life at the very moment that mi needed it.
To be continued... This is turning out feature-length style so i keep dabbing back to finish my story when i get the chance.
Thanks for being with us as us as this crazy ride continues
love Ellie xx