FK talks to Bec about her Melbourne shop, Little Shop of Handmade
Tell us a bit about Little Shop of Handmade and the idea behind starting it.
Little Shop (and seriously we are little) sells handmade/crafted goodies made in Melbourne and rural Victoria all retailing for under $50. It’s a treasury of handmade goodies to say the least! We cover Newborn to Nanna – not to much stuff for the boys – but we have certainly made it easy for a boy to pop in and buy a gift! My husband Jon was beside himself at Christmas – I made it a bit tricky for him by stocking all the things I like!
I actually live 1 minute walk from the shop – and have lived in the area for about 3 years. We are pretty close to the CBD and the area is full of professional 30 something couples with young families. Our local shopping strip really does not reflect the demographic that lives here at all! We have only recently got a great coffee shop on the strip. The space came available about 3 weeks before I was going to India for a month’s holiday. Originally it was going to just be my studio for making my own goodies as I had totally outgrown my spare bedroom just making stock to sell at the markets, online and wholesaling. I have had such great success with selling my own brand at the markets so I thought why not open a shop selling the best of what you can find at Melbourne markets. It all happened very quickly and the next thing I knew I opened a shop! Little Shop of Handmade is such unexpected find in the area – the locals just love it! It’s nice to also have something quirky represented on the South Side of Melbourne.
What is your background and how did it determine the direction of the shop?
I certainly did not grow up in a nurturing household full of craft, baking and bed time stories. I am very much a self taught creative and crafter and that only really started in my late 20’s, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I have always been very independent and entrepreneurial and have worked for myself since I was about 25. I was running my own bar with my husband for 4 years and I would design all our posters and flyers but after working from 8pm till 5am 5 days a week I wanted a BIG change!
I decided to study Graphics Arts as a mature age student and luckily landed a pretty good job in design half way into my 2nd year – which I subsequently took and dropped out of my course. I then spent the last 9 years in Product Design for the mass retail gift market working my way up from the graphic designer to the product development manager. By the end of the 9 years I was so over it – basically it was the same product year after year with new packaging, and a product I would never have purchased myself in a million years!! I did come away from Product Design with a pretty savvy business head though – I just soaked up as much knowledge as I could from my last job, so I walked away knowing how TO run and NOT run a business.
My business head knew retail is a very competitive market and to be successful you need a really strong concept – shop selling handmade not entirely unique, shop selling handmade in unexpected shopping strip – unique, shop selling with a maximum retail point very unique. There are so many shops in Melbourne that I just adore, so instead of copying their greatness I actually drew inspiration from their weaknesses. But the most important thing for me was I wanted to be doing something I loved, 100% on my terms and 100% inspiring to all involved! It’s a swell ride to say the least!
What made you focus on only Melbourne designers?
How hard is it these days to find awesome stuff from around the globe – it’s so accessible to everyone online. Little Shop stocks over 50 Melbourne and rural Victoria designers. About 20 of them are actual local residents (Mums and Teens with amazing craft skills)! I really did not have to look too hard – Melbourne has some amazing talent – so why not support and nurture your own backyard. I am happy to give anyone who fits the bill a chance at stocking at Little Shop of Handmade. Some of our designers are painfully shy – it’s great to be able to give these folks the confidence I am so excited when something sells for them. It’s inspiring to say the least!
We do stock international and interstate craft kits and books – but then our customer goes ahead and makes it in Melbourne, so it still fits the theme!
What are some of your favourite products in the shop right now?
Yikes – for the record – everything is my favourite! But big shout out to Rummage Style – adorable bloomers and frocks made using recycled/up-cycled vintage fabrics, Betty and Hamish Softies, Elly Oak Cards, A Girl Called Mike stirling silver button rings, plus I am totally loving our “Little Shop of” dinky acrylic earring packs…too cute!
How do you get the word out about Little Shop of Handmade?
Having a stall at the markets every week has been a great form of marketing – I go through about 500 Business cards every Sunday and that’s 500 people who want to take our card. Also having a great product at a great price helps – dealing with suppliers in the past has made me pretty ruthless when it comes to getting the best price possible! People love talking about the bargain they just scored – so word of mouth just cant be under estimated. Of course we have a blog (reality is I don’t have the time to post to it at all) you can find us on Twitter and Facebook which are ingenious marketing tools. All of our stocked designers are very proactive on the internet and have been a tremendous help with spreading the word – I feel very grateful that it really has been a “build it and they will come” success. The shop is actually busy as it is just servicing the local residents without the need to be marketed at all – which is FAB! I have also been fortunate enough to have had some designs in Frankie – which has been instrumental in sending people to my website and also Angela from Leeloo who is one of my online stockists took my wares to the Finders Keepers Markets in Sydney and Brisbane and that kind of exposure in big capital cities is priceless.
What has been the most challenging aspect of running your own shop and label?
Well Little Shop is pretty much a one woman show and it’s not all granny squares, cupcakes and cups of tea let me tell you! I wear a lot of hats thats for sure! My awesome husband Jon helps with deliveries and helping to make up the market stock every Saturday and he also comes along to the markets every Sunday which is ACE.
Definitely balancing having the time to create vs time in the shop is the biggest challenge for me at the moment. When I opened the shop last July my brand was stocked in only 10 shops that has now risen to over 40 shops – hurrah! But I am also the front person for the shop and most customers generally want to hear about the concept, designers, how things are made etc and that can take up most of my day sometimes – it does not help that I can have a chat too. I do work 7 days a week and my brain never switches off so finding time to relax at the moment is a bit tricky. Everything in the shop is placed on consignment so the weekly paperwork associated with that is challenging to say the least – I too have stuff on consignment in various shops – and lets just say some of them really suck at paperwork (and payments)! I like to lead by example and be diligent (diligent = time consuming). Organisation is the key but it’ s really organised chaos and I would not have it any other way!
What do you love doing in Melbourne unique to the city itself?
Melbourne is such a fantastic city. You can never be bored in Melbourne I am constantly in awe by what we have to offer. I love just popping over the other side of town for a coffee, dinner or a drink and always being able to find some place amazing without looking too hard. It’s the best place to be a grown up for sure!
What plans do you have for Little Shop of Handmade in the future?
Plan is a second shop in Melbourne, most definitely a ” Big Shop of Handmade”! Hmm maybe a “Little Shop of Handmade” in each state – who knows, the possibilities are endless. With the “Little Shop of…” brand we are moving into sterling silver and home wares which is exciting. We bought a new toy that cuts paper, fabric and vinyl – but I need to find the time to plug it in for a play. Oh and hopefully my husband Jon can come onboard full time this year too! Since I am 40 next year maybe think about chucking a “little shop of” baby into the mix too!
All the specific details:
Little Shop of Handmade
8 Woorayl St
Carnegie Vic 3163
Wed – Friday, 11am – 6pm
Saturdays 10am – 4.30pm
Closed: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday