Having weathered the pandemic, small businesses are squaring up to the fresh challenges of the cost of living crisis and the UK’s 5 million or more artisan makers, café owners, creatives, street food chefs and entrepreneurs are applying their imagination and innovation to keep on attracting customers.
Ballymore is a major supporter of small businesses through the commercial space and events in its neighbourhoods; these provide platforms for new and growing businesses, as well as giving the public the chance to meet distinctive and often local craftspeople and snap up extra-special products.
September’s Summer Fête at Royal Wharf Park, in east London, demonstrates just how important that platform can be for micro and small businesses. The event, organised by Ballymore with its events management partner Ace Events, brought together local artists and small business owners in a bustling art and craft market, alongside street food and drinks vendors, musicians and entertainers and local sports clubs.
Those showing their wares included actor and ceramicist Hephzibah Roe, who found eager buyers, particularly for the 8oz coffee cups and plates made by the HR Ceramics business she established last year in Hackney. “Local events and markets are great for a small business like mine - it’s lovely getting to know not only the other market holders but also the local people from the area,” she says. “I am the sole operator of my business and part of my ethos is to bring joy in the usage of everyday items - I love making them and it’s great to see them go to a happy home!”
Jasmine Boadi delighted the senses of fête visitors with her MEFIYE luxury home fragrance brand. Jasmine’s east London studio, also established last year, sells products inspired by her Ghanaian heritage and UK upbringing mainly online, and for the fête she brought her core collection of fragranced soy wax candles and market tested a new range of Mini (votive) candles. “With our current primary product category being fragrance, encouraging customers to ‘blind buy’ online, without previous experience of the scents or the stories behind them, can sometimes be a challenge,” she explains. “So, events such as the Royal Wharf Summer Fête are key for us to hear from attendees and gain immediate insights into which products work for those new customers and why, so that we can continue to improve and grow as a brand.”
Fête visitors clearly loved the products. “We completely sold out of our DUA Mini candle,” she says. “I was very lucky to have our studio based not too far away from the fête’s location so I could do a quick re-stock - or two - during the event.”
Another of the fete’s success stories is Sleepgoddess, a brand of vegan silk accessories and aromatherapy products designed to promote a better night’s sleep. “My Beauty Sleep Shower Steaming Salts were very popular at the fête and were sold out! That was very exciting for me,” says business founder Laurelle Darroux. The products, made using natural ingredients and wrapped in eco packaging, are created by Laurelle at her Dagenham home, where she began her business in 2020 after redundancy. “It is so important for me to get in front of the local community to engage with them and present my product to receive feedback that I can use to further develop my business,” she says of the fete. The interaction with visitors resulted in online orders too, and Laurelle says the event, “has also been useful in building my small business network, as I interacted with other vendors and got and shared useful advice”.
Craft markets and online are key sales routes for Henrieta Kolecani’s natural, plant based candles, room scents, body products and handmade ceramics, the latter made to order. Her La Scent business focuses on natural, recyclable and recycled low carbon footprint products and production, and those eco-credentials encouraged customers to talk and buy, she says. “My bestsellers were my Enchanting Spa range, which nearly sold out,” she adds. “Royal Wharf Summer Fete is a wonderful way to bring the community together; it is a fun day enjoyed by everybody.”
More businesses can be found at upcoming Christmas events.
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