Starting my own merchandise has been a lot of fun. I love creating stuff and bringing it to the world. It’s part of the reason I’ve fallen so much in love with photography over the years. There’s a huge amount of satisfaction I get from having an idea, executing it, and then popping it online for the world to see.
At the same time, I’ve found parts of creating a brand (I guess that’s what it is now?) absolutely frustrating. Like many things, there are subtle intricacies that I’ve had to learn to make a web store work properly. I’ve never trained in website creation or management. Everything I’ve learned has been entirely self-managed. I gleam a lot of new information from YouTube and articles online. Other stuff I’ve figured out through just getting it wrong and then clicking enough buttons to fix it. And there’s the creation side of things. Some ideas go down really well and there’s instant love. Other stuff just seems to get no attention at all. Sometimes things I think will work just don’t. Sometimes the stuff I don’t think will work takes off.
A while back, I threw my hat in the ring and bought some beanies (excuse the pun). I knew I wanted to do something simple with them so learned about leatherwork. I cut my own tags for them, stamp them myself, and then assemble them. To start with, I tested the water with a tiny order. They sold out even though we were coming into summer. That was a nice shock.
I also spent a lot of time sketching out a mudguard design and negotiating a deal with a printer to get the right price. I thought for sure these would be a hit – they’re a little different to the usual black guard with a logo and folk like quirky stuff, right? Quite the opposite, in fact. For whatever reason, they’re not shifting as quickly as I’d thought.
That’s the most difficult thing in running a little web store off the back of my blog. I don’t really know what will work and what might take a while to get off the ground. When something does work, it’s sometimes a bit of a surprise and I use the profits to reinvest in more stock or something new. When something doesn’t take off as planned, it’s dead money sat in my office waiting to be sold and used again. That can be frustrating at times.
On top of that, it’s a one-man show. I do the whole lot myself. Design, contact with suppliers, managing orders, promotion, website shop management, shipping… That’s a blessing and a curse. I love the fact that the whole thing is entirely in my control. It means I get to do nice things like throw the occasional freebie into an order. I can write a note to everyone who supports me. It also means that I have to figure out postage prices and know-how to get things from my house to different countries when I get an international order. There are a lot of moving parts.
Starting selling my own stuff has taught me a lot and I’m grateful for the chance to make things. It’s also proved how much community there is around bikes. Folks love to support small-time creators and I’m really grateful for that. It’s exciting being able to make things that I like, that I would wear and use. It’s always the question when a sample comes through to make sure it’s actually good enough – “do I like this?” If the answer is no, that’s the end of the road for that. And there has been plenty of stuff that never made it past that stage, things you’ll never see. But, at the end of the day, the stuff that does come out I’m proud of. And that’s why I’ll keep making stuff and stocking my shop.