Craft Yourself Silly – which designs and manufactures proggy kits – has won the New Exporter of the Year prize at the National Business Awards. The firm was praised by judges as an “excellent example of the best of British design, successful thanks to its unrelenting determination and energy to make its overseas foray a success”. The awards were presented by BBC Breakfast host Louise Minchin with other winners including Hotel Chocolat, the Handmade Burger Company and Sir James Dyson.

We caught up with Hayley Smith, Director of Craft Yourself Silly to discuss how the business started, inspiration and what it takes to export your products to a new market.

How did Craft Yourself Silly Start?

“Craft yourself Silly started as an off shoot of a business that I had with my Mum, Pots and Pancakes, we noticed a gap in the market for people wanting to learn new crafts so began running classes in all sorts of things.  One of the crafts mentioned again and again that customers wanted to learn was rag rugging, so I found out how to do the basics and we ran a few classes from there I tried to develop smaller projects that used the same technique and that lead to our first product range, Proggy ®.”

What have been the biggest challenges to ate and how have you overcome them?

“Our biggest challenges to date have been keeping up this the rapid growth the we have experienced, within 3 years we have gone from producing 2000 kits a year to over 200,000 kits per year. With accelerated expansion comes lots of paperwork especially for the export market and finding the right staff who understand the craft market place and can work within an industry which is constantly changing is also sometimes challenging, but we have an amazing team now who are all as mad as a box of frogs.”  

What inspires you to bring new ideas / products to market?

“Loads of things inspire us for new products and we’re never short of new ideas at Craft Yourself Silly, for us the hardest part is working out which ones to do first.  We’re a very creative bunch and always willing to push the limits and try out new things.” 

What do you  find is the best channel to take your products to market – e.g website, social media, exhibitions etc?

“As most of our business is business to business, we find that the trade exhibitions like Stitches in the UK and CHA in the US work the best for us.  Our Big break into the American market came through exhibiting at the CHA show in 2015.   We also find that working with the TV shopping Channel Hochanda gives us a fantastic platform to showcase our products and get instant feedback on our new ranges.”  

 

You recently won New Exporter of the Year at the National Business Awards – what was involved in getting nominated?

“For both the regional and national export award we have recently won we were nominated by our DIT advisor Ron, we then had to fill out an application form with lots of details about the business and the products we make.  When we were told that we had made it to the final I travelled to London to make a presentation in front of a panel of Judges about our export journey.  My presentation was more about telling our story than facts and figures but it took them through all the trails and tribulations of beginning to get a product launched in the states.”  

What advice can you give to other companies who are thinking of exporting their products?

“My advice to new exporters would be to get in touch with DIT they were an amazing help for us both with advice and some financial support as they often have access to funding to assist with growing your business internationally.  Secondly look at all of the costs involved as product testing to comply with US regulations and your business insurance will sky rocket.  There is also a huge amount of patience and paperwork involved but any one looking to get their products in to the US can get in touch and we will see if we can help.”  

How do you think Brexit could affect your business now that you are exporting?

“At the moment Brexit is not a bad thing for us as we make everything in the UK our costs haven’t risen with the fall of the pound against the dollar.  That also means that we get more for our money when we sell to the US too.  The down side is that exhibiting and traveling to the US has become more expensive but the increase in this cost versus the business we gain means that exporting is still the way forward.”  

Ecommerce is so important to small businesses – what advice could you give about running a business online?

“I think its really important to have an online presence as the first thing people will do if they hear about a new company is to google them and head straight to their site.  I think your site needs to be up to date and have relevant content as this is often the first impression your company will make.”  

Finally, what is your favourite craft?

“I am a soft crafter and that’s what we specialise in so I have to say Hand Sewing.”

The awards were presented by BBC Breakfast host Louise Minchin with other winners including Hotel Chocolat, the Handmade Burger Company and Sir James Dyson.

Craft Yourself Silly regularly demonstrate their products on Hochanda, one of the UK’s leading craft channels – more information on Proggy can be found at http://craftyourselfsilly.com

Interview by Michael O’Connor, Grey Sergeant PR – michael.oconnor@greysergeant.com