On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about building a craft kit business with my guest Stephanie Carswell.
Stephanie is the Founder and Creative Director of Hawthorn Handmade, a textile craft kit design company based in Dorset in Southern England. Hawthorn Handmade began in 2013 with a small range of needle felting kits, and over the last 9 years has developed from a small side business started in the back room of Stephanie’s previous business, a gallery and haberdashery/workshop space, to a well-known creative company selling their embroidery, cross stitch, needle felting, weaving and felt craft kits through almost 600 stores around the world including over 250 in the US.
Stephanie lives in a rural village nearby to their business unit with her rescue lurcher Clodagh and partner Owen, who is also Hawthorn’s website developer. When she’s not busy with the business she loves playing tennis, pottering in her garden, and crashing on the sofa in front of Netflix.
This episode is sponsored by WARP+WEFT TEXTILES.
An online fabric store operating on Coast Salish land.
WARP+WEFT TEXTILES is an online fabric store operating on Coast Salish land. WARP+WEFT is a plastics-free business offering woven fabrics and independent patterns. As one of the few stockists of TAUKO Magazine, WARP+WEFT shares the quarterly sewing publication’s emphasis on climate, culture, and community. This month, Craft Industry Alliance listeners are welcome to take 15% off fabric at WARP+WEFT with discount code: WEFT15CIA
We begin this conversation talking about Stephanie’s childhood when she loved to draw, and her education in arts and events management. Stephanie opened Hawthorn Contemporary Arts and Crafts in 2010 as a way to showcase the handcrafted goods made by artisans in her area. When the traffic into the gallery was slow, she began needlefelting, first learning with a kit. When she realized there were very few kits available for that craft in the UK market, she started producing her own to sell at the gallery.
Soon, the kit business took off in a way that the gallery never had, so she closed the space and began focusing on producing kits full-time. Stephanie walks us through the stages of this business, including finding warehouse space, expanding into other textile crafts, and hiring the right staff to help the business grow.
We talk about the tremendous uptick in sales Hawthorn Handmade experienced during the pandemic (which we covered here) and how Stephanie had to recalibrate her business during extremely stressful times. Stephanie also talks about the value she sees in trade shows and her experience growing her business through attending these B2B events. Stephanie says that today the majority of her retailers are placing their wholesale orders for her goods through Faire.
We also talk about how to create beautiful, consistent product photos and about the clean and easy-to-use direct-to-consumer website that Hawthorn Handmade runs.
In this conversation, we reference:
And, of course, I ask Stephanie to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Stephanie recommends:
Keep up with Stephanie on the Hawthorn Handmade website, and follow along on Instagram and Facebook for updates.