Thursday, November 29

We are having a shuffle around!

We are aware that the Hippo names have probably caused a little confusion over the months, wasn't intentional just a natural progression of things!

It started with the idea that Chez Hippo would make the glass and Little Hippo Presents would be the shop selling the glass and work from other makers and that this side of it would become the community business.  However, it's got a little muddlling over time.  So, we've decided to re-name things properly so folk can follow our logic (or not I hear the hecklers from the back - Sarah, Justine and Rachel I will see you lot after class!)

Ahem, drum roll please .....

The shop will still be called Little Hippo Presents, because after all I am Little Hippo and I am presenting other fantabulous work from superb makers so that name still makes sense.  Plus I get to tweet as #happyhippo #busyhippo and all the other hash tags that keep appearing.

The glass will be made under the name of The Glass Shed:
still exactly the same products, still available from the shop just under a new name is all.  It just makes life easier when we try to explain how the names are split, the fact that yes the Hippo's sell their own product but they are a seperate maker as well and the umbrella organisation is a different entity.  Also if we want to do craft fairs we can now ask 'do you want us as the Hippos, a community group or as The Glass Shed, a separate maker?'
Might seem like we're being a bit pedantic over names, but as things progress with Little Hippo and the other projects that are bubbling away it just seemed appropriate to do this - plus it was getting confusing as anything thinking 'am I putting this post as us the maker, or us the shop??' 
You may have noticed that the blog name has changed too, it now reads as Little Hippo Presents, again to allow The Glass Shed it's own blog should it want one - though quite what a shed would write about is anyone's guess!
Hope that's not too confusing, or if anything settled some existing confusion we previously created!  See you all soon, Hippo xx

Sunday, November 18

Useful and Helpful things

This page contains downloads and documents relating to the Hippos, whether as a business or for helpful and useful notes relating to craft fairs.
If there is something that is useful to your group please contact us and we can send you a word format document.  We don't mind folk borrowing our ideas but please, if you do borrow it do us the courtesy of telling people where you got it from! 

Our business plan: Little Hippo- Big Idea

Friday, November 16

We sincerely apologise for being viable!

Hippo's on a slight rant, so step away now if you are just tucking into your tea and winding down for the evening!

I am getting increasingly cross that people seem to be missing the point of what we are trying to do, or rather what we are actually doing - and more's the point, winning!

We are a community business, in extemely simple terms we take work from other artists and makers and sell it in the shop for a percentage commission of the sale price.  We take this % because we have bills to pay such as rent, card machine and packaging to sell their lovely work to happy customers.  What we are not is a pity case.  We only stock work that is well made, by hand and by brilliant local makers who will hopefully each make the transition from hobby crafter to professional crafter (but only if they choose to - that's their decision to make not ours to impose).  Sellers or Hippo-ettes offer time to support the shop, either in delivering leaflets for events, marshalling cars at events, or working in the shop for the day.  No staff are paid, we all do it to support the wider ethos of the Hippos.

What irks me somewhat is that because we have a great shop, in a great location full of fabulous things that are so well made we are sometimes viewed as a purely commercial venture.  We didn't set out to look like a community business, we set out to look like a good place to come and buy some quality gifts - and not surprisingly, we're doing just that.  Yes we do make money, not much though!  Yes, we do have a very decent turnover, and yes we have hit breakeven after only 3 months trading which is no mean feat in this climate.  But that's because everyone works like mad in the background as a group.  We have to beg, borrow and barter our way through it all.  One of our painters who is world known lends us an easel to stand his work on because we don't have the resources to purchase one! 

However, because we don't look like a 'needy' group, we all work extremely hard at what we do.  We don't ask for charity - of course we'll accept the easel and other such helpful things but we want to be a proper trading community business.  So, my apologies for not putting posters all round the shop showing you all the people that are actually helped by customers loving what they make, my apologies for trading effectively and not requiring external grant funding because we got our budget right, and my apologies for us working hard and not just going cap in hand to councils for a hand out because we can't get our business model right.

Here endeth the rant! I will now go off to find some chocolate and watch drivel on telly while thinking of our next cunning plan to put a Hippo on your High Street too!  Hippo x

Wednesday, November 14

The Hippo Pages

A new cunning plan from the small brain!

We've all seen this image:

But ... what if it looked like this:

And what if, it contained a listing for as many crafters as we can find?  It's quite a simple idea really, in the same way that people used to have a listing in the Yellow Pages crafters could have a listing in the Hippo Pages.  That way, crafters get some advertising and those looking for a crafter know where to look for them.  Not sure on the details as yet, because with all these things it starts as a small, easy to manage project and before you know it it's snowballed and become a whole entity in itself! However, the snowballing would be rather fantastic if it did happen :)

Because we ultimately want to become a self sustaining co-operative it may become a brilliant project element of the business in it's own right - time will tell.  But for the time being I will stick to chuntering with my facebook and twitter buddies and we will begin to shape the first Hippo Pages - will let you know how it all goes.  Hippo x

Monday, November 5

finding that USP

It's taken us a while to figure out who we are, who we sell to and more importantly why people buy from us.  In the early days of business you are so caught up with the shiny bits like 'wow, that's my branding on that bag' that you don't really get chance to sit back and analyse it.  Or more importantly, you don't really twig why you should analyse it.  There you are with a shop full of beautiful things that you adore, so why shouldn't shoppers adore them too?  But, that only works if your shoppers are exactly like you!

We twigged a few weeks ago that our USP or unique selling point is the stories behind the product.  In reality there are hundreds of fantastic photographers selling up and down the country so why buy ours?  The reason is  that we can tell you who took it, the giggle he had trying to set up a tripod in the snow and the daft sheep that were trying to escape while he balanced on the gate.  And, we can tell you his name, point out the track across the field he takes to get to us and the fact that it turns out he taught one of my friends at school.  Now you start to get our USP - and we can do that for all our products.

I was taught a long time ago by a fantastic PR guru the importance of connection, but didn't realise the importance of this till now.  People buy from people and love being able to chat and meet the makers.  We have a really unique service because we can say 'hang on, I'll call and see if they're in and able to pop down for a chat' when the customer asks 'is it possible to make that slightly bigger?'.  And while the customer goes across to the cafe for a coffee, the maker will trundle down to meet them.  Now, that's customer service by the Hippos!

The other thing that comes back to us loud and clear and on a regular basis is that our crafters love meeting up with each other, they like being part of the Hippo family as we have now become.  Our last craft fair on Sunday was full of hugs and 'how lovely to see you again' along with the err bribery of cake so that I would put people next to each other! We seem to be gaining a really fabulous bunch of happy makers that all share, get along really well and the amount of pitching in for gazebos by committee is fantastic. 

We see these building blocks as more important than the till receipts.  Get the foundations right, create a happy experience for everyone and people will come back for the next story - and they do! We have a real core of returning shoppers now eager to see what new stuff has been made.  They have a sit, and then tell us stories they know and the spider web of connections is becoming so interwoven that it's now a patchwork of people and stories with overlapping seams everywhere.  The day job has shifted - I am now a storyteller of journeys :)