Nicole from Cloudcraft.co.uk was one of the first people I spoke to after setting up my business. She replied to my request for volunteers to test out my mentoring services and I loved chatting with her about her new embroidery kits for children and pretty embroidery scissors that she sells to other retailers. As a retailer she has unique insights to both buying and now also being on the other side selling so I asked her a few bonus questions, on top of my normal mini-interview of five questions and I love her answers.
Nicole started her website in 2012 and offers a carefully curated selection for the modern makers. If you're on the lookout for anything crafty, please head over to Cloudcraft.co.uk to have a look around.
How do you find new suppliers?
I use a variety of routes! I keep an eye on Instagram and craft magazines to see what’s new. I also attend Stitches each year, which is a UK trade show for needlecrafts. Businesses also reach out to me by email or via Instagram – I’m really keen to support independents because their products are usually more interesting and of better quality.
What makes you say yes to a new supplier?
New products need to be a good fit with our current range. We are online and currently space is tight so the size of the packs and minimum quantities are also a consideration. I’m really interested in eco-friendly packaging and how easy it will be to post the item. I look at the pricing and make sure that there’s a decent margin to be made, or if not, if there is anything else to persuade me to have a try (like sale or return). I would also be more likely to say yes to an exciting new range which isn’t in many other shops yet.
How do you prefer that potential suppliers introduce their products to you? Email, social media, or trade-shows and how often do you think it's appropriate for a supplier to follow up on an initial introduction?
I’m happy with an email or DM. I like to take my time to decide whether to purchase so I wouldn’t mind one or two follow-ups within a month or two. Trade shows can be a good way to meet the people behind the businesses but in my industry it seems to be the same businesses you see every year with few new inspiring products.
What makes a supplier a good supplier?
A good supplier is one that makes an effort to get to know my business and requirements and works to develop a relationship over time, maybe following and chatting on social media and collaborating on promotions. They follow up to see how their items are selling. It’s those suppliers whose products then sell well for me, so in turn they get repeat orders. The bigger suppliers have reps who visit with new ranges but if that’s not feasible it’s nice to see new products via email as soon as they are available.
What advice would you give to someone starting to think about wholesale?
Think carefully about your pricing. Most VAT registered businesses in my sector will want around x2.4 mark up. If your products are priced for wholesale and you are also selling direct to customers you have a nice margin to play with but don’t be tempted to do lots of discounting because that will only annoy your shops!
How have you found developing your own range to wholesale? What challenges have you come across? and how have you overcome them?
It’s been much harder than expected! Deciding on the packaging was quite tricky because we wanted to make sure that our kits looked great on a shelf but were also slim enough that online businesses could use large letter post to keep their costs down. We would have loved to have some bespoke boxes printed but, to start when you are testing the waters small runs of these work out very expensive. In the end, we found a solution that works for us for now.
Why did you decide to develop your own range?
We spotted a gap in the market – we just couldn’t source good quality embroidery kits for kids with great instructions so we made them ourselves!
How are you finding it to be on the other side?
I’ve definitely got more understanding of how soul-destroying it can be to send out lots of carefully worded emails to shop owners, with lovingly compiled catalogues, only to hear nothing back! It’s easy to give up at this point but I would say try again – they may have been having a super busy time or your email may have got lost in an overflowing inbox. Persistence pays off.