Interview Contact Name and Job Title: Helen Rogers, Self Employed, Designer Maker
Website URL: www.misheleneous.co.uk/
Social Media Links:
Number of outlets: None, I’m an online business @Etsy www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MisHelenEous
Location: Prestwich, Manchester
Market: Homeware, pet accessories, gifts for her, dog & pet lovers gifts, accessories, bespoke, handmade, personalized, pet product trade
Other relevant info: I attend some Craft Fairs and events in the area local to Manchester, health permitting. I’m a member of the official Made in Britain campaign and also of the Manchester Makers Collective. My Etsy shop was one of those chosen in 2014 to be in the first ever EtsyUK TV advert but I was unable to attend filming in London due to ill health.
Modern Retail talks to Helen Rogers owner and designer of MisHelenEous, she makes bespoke and unique products for and of pets – yes she has confirmed that she made a personalised bandana for a pet rat (he’s called Algot and lives in Sweden!)
MR: How would you sum up your target customer?
HR: Someone who is bored or disillusioned & unhappy with cheap, same-y, mass produced goods and wants something unique or different, something bespoke or personalized and something Made in Britain; by someone they can talk easily to and discuss options with. They don’t just have to be dog owners or pet lovers either. I provide the time, opportunity and skills they require to create a special gift, whatever it is, whoever it’s for. Despite selling a lot of what could be termed ‘Gifts For Her’ I have a broad customer base that includes young people and older customers, from the UK and overseas, and also what I like to call, my ‘Merry Band of Gentleman Shoppers’, who return time and again when they need something else. Either for a loved one or for themselves. I’m delighted every time someone shops with me but to have so many ‘regulars’ means I must be doing something right!
MR: Why should people shop with you?
HR: People should shop with me as I take on and complete as many bespoke handmade orders as I possibly can, alongside my online shop stock of gifts for home and hound. MisHelenEous by name, miscellaneous by nature – if you have a specific request just ask! I am by my own admission fairly easily bored and I like the challenge that offering this service gives me. I’ve been asked to make all manner of items for in the past 4 years, and in a variety of materials including fabric, felt and wool. From bandanas for pet rats, to 40 feet of bunting for a canal barge whose owner runs her dog-based business from there.From a single hand sewn keyring of someone’s beloved pet (I don’t just make dogs: there have been guinea pigs, tortoise, llama, crocodile and cats) to a single order for 85 hand-sewn Christmas ornaments in numerous recognized Kennel Club Breeds and cross-breed dogs. Along with Bride to Be & Hen Party brooch sets, cushion covers, squeaky duck dog toys; football club, wedding and personalised bunting & bandanas, knitted dog collars, coats & tea cozies, and carrier bag holders. I never know what I’ll be asked to make next and that’s the way I like it!
MR: What do you want to do differently to your competitors?
HR: Offer a personal service to the online shopping experience, with customer interaction and satisfaction being one of my aims. Gift wrap comes as standard with all my orders and is often commented on in my Etsy Shop reviews. I imagine how I’d like to receive a parcel and see it more as sending out presents to shoppers, whether the item be for themselves or another person as a gift. I also love stationery and want to pass that joy on. I include little surprises and extras too sometimes and whenever I break another 100 sales I send a free gift to that particular customer. I theme my parcels and gift wrap around my Made In Britain membership using red, white and blue branding contained within my own logo too, but ring the changes for the different seasons like Christmas. My 2-year-old assistant, Border Terrier Heidi, likes to help out with the MisHelenEous mini Christmas Cards I include around the festive season too!
MR: What challenges do you face as a business, and how do you aim to overcome them?
HR: The main challenge to my business is my own health. There will always be a limit to how much I can achieve or how much my business can grow as I became self-employed 4 years ago due to prolonged serious ill health. It was impossible for me to maintain a conventional job. I work alone and design and make everything myself by hand but luckily have seen a steady increase year-on-year, on growth and sales. Long may that continue! I’ve extended my business’s scope by producing new items that use my logo or branding as inspiration and worked with some great creative people so that I can now include acrylic laser cut dog tags in my range, courtesy of Mark at BooBooAndTed. Also new cotton tote bags, compact mirrors, enamel and metal pin badges, and postcards too. I have a few other ideas in that direction to explore in the future. As with many other small handmade businesses my challenge is to stay relevant and popular with my customers and to make a living alongside the many other, bigger fancy goods and giftware operators.
MR: How do you use technology/media/ecommerce to improve your offering?
HR: I use technology, social media and ecommerce daily, almost without thinking as my business is mainly online. Twitter and Instagram are my absolute favourite medias and are a force for good. As well as being ideal platforms to advertise to a wider audience, (I’ve shipped goods to 31 different countries in 4 years from Manchester) I just love the fun and interaction you can have with your customers. Customers who are dog owners themselves, who become friends, who have useful advice and contacts, and many of whom I’ve met in person now! As I’m self-employed, working on my own from home could be a little isolating but my Twitter and Instagram communities are a kind and generous bunch who came into their own when we suddenly and unexpectedly lost our first dog Whiskey, who was the inspiration for my business, 2 years ago. I’ve also worked for, or collaborated with, many of the people I’ve encountered on social media. My branding is designed by Michele & Graham Witts of Witts End Design who I discovered on Instagram and who just happen to have a Border Terrier themselves! There is a wealth of creative talent online and working together to produce an order or a concept is incredibly rewarding. I chose Etsy as my online handmade business host 4 years ago and haven’t left it as it has such a good reputation and a worldwide reach. I shop on there myself from many of the other artists and makers and I can say from the other side of the equation that it’s a very pleasant shopping experience. I also use Red Bubble ecommerce website to host my range of cards and printed goods using images I’ve taken of places in and around the area I live.
MR: What do you love about your work/business/brand?
HR: EVERYTHING! Ok maybe not the post office run in the Manchester rain then. My previous career, before illness but after gaining a BA Hons degree in Painting & Photography in 1995, was in art education at High School & College level and this job now satisfies my creative nature perfectly.