Thursday, May 16

Why credit bothers me

Someone told me yesterday that it appears as if I just randomly pluck ideas out of the air and leave people going err where's this one come from???  So, thought it wise to try and give a little context to the banking comments I've been making recently on twitter.

Credit is not bad, unmanaged credit terrifies me, no credit means you get trapped, a poor credit rating these days means that some aspect of your life are halted.  To explain - these days most of our financial dealings are recorded and stored on credit reference agencies, miss a mortgage payment = black mark, pay your credit cards each month = good mark and so on.  Not that tricky to follow their logic - unless you find yourself out of your depth as so many folk do sadly.  Not always through buying expensive holidays but just through normal life choices.

To simplify:
you have £1,000 coming in each month
your credit bill is £150 per month
normally you pay this, but you can't pay much more
then ..... the washing machine breaks so you need a new one

this is where the crunch comes:
you don't have enough spare each month so you put it on credit
your credit bill goes up, and to pay it you need to cut back on something else

next month the car needs new brakes ..... see above scenario and you can see how quickly the debt problem can escalate very easily without a holiday or new fancy telly to show for it.  All you did was replace an essential item (the washing machine) and fix your car (needed to get to work).

I actually speak from very real experience on this matter, several years ago my then husband got into real difficulties and stopped paying the mortage without me knowing.  The first I knew of it was the estate agent querying why the locks had been changed and then over time unravelled a whole heap of inter-linked debt issues.  So the issue of debt and poor credit has had a real impact on my life, it took years to un-link myself and re-build a credit history of my own because without one you are pretty much sunk these days.

Solution: we should each have our own credit limit based on our ability to repay it, whether this be £1,000, £10,000 or £100,000 the figure is not the important bit.  The important bit is that when you combine all the credit you have from store cards, car loans, credit cards etc the total spend available should not exceed your personal limit.  So, if your personal limit is £20,000 you can have 1 card at £20,000 or 20 at £1,000 but the records should be linked so that you cannot exceed it.

Better solution: we join and start credit unions! These are fantastic ideas, you pay in a fixed amount each week or month and it can be as little as £1 and then you borrow against what you have saved.  But, and this is the clever bit - you always pay that £1 and some of it pays your loan and some of it goes into your savings.  So you can borrow and save at the same time, simple yet effective banking :) 

And then this is the really clever bit, there are hundreds and thousands of small businesses that manage their money effectively and don't want the overdraft or loan facility so if we set up a small business credit union we could actually keep the cash flowing so that none of ever get stung by stupidly high charges that appear out of left field because the Chairman needed to pay for gross neglicence on the part of their brokers that took a gamble that failed.  Most of us curse our business bank statements, get fed of being in a queue to someone abroad that doesn't get the question we ask and generally put up with rubbish service because we have to have a business bank account to legally trade.

Personally, think it's about time we took our own destiny back and create our own bank or credit union and will keep plugging away with the questions and the ideas till we can help each other.  Business, and small business is tough enough these days so let's start helping ourselves!

Sunday, May 12

Next stage for the Hippos

It's getting quite interesting at the shop, events and for the Hippos in general.  We seemed to have kicked up a gear, mainly because I actually got myself organised with the back office.  Cannot believe how lovely some of our artists were in not chasing me for information - most of the responses to my humble apology were things like don't worry, figured you were busy.  Without such a fab group around me think I would have gone nuts (no heckling from the back over that comment!).

So, next stage - friend told me about the Own Art scheme which is something I would love to achieve for us.  It's basically a credit scheme backed by Arts Council England where customers can buy larger pieces on credit and the scheme allows us to be a broker.  Win win :) The customer gets to buy larger pieces in stages, we get to sell more originals, artists get to be seen more so everyone's happy!

All the criteria is around having original work from living artists and the permission from the artist to sell them which we do.  Just got to wait till August to apply because we will have been at the shop for 12 months then which is the other criteria.  Can't believe that twelve months ago we were in a little garden shed on a really quiet site and now looking to Arts Council England to apply for their credit scheme - it's just such a positive progress marker.

We now have almost 60 local artists and makers in the shop, all fabulous people with amazing work and all so different.  Truthfully I think that's why it works, because we celebrate that uniqueness, they all come from such different backgrounds and some have had a bumpier ride than others but they meet at the shop on an equal footing.  Personally I don't give two hoots where (or if) you trained formally, some of our best artists have never sat through formal art training!  The thing they all have in common is they like making what they do so it's all good.  And the really lovely thing is we actually know them all to chat to and ask what mischief the dog got up to last week and other normal things so it really is like having a creative family that all trundle along together.

The other thing I didn't anticipate is how much button thumping I would do! This is my non technical speak for all things computer based such as blogging, twitter, websites etc.  Someone kindly pointed out that actually it's only me that calls it button thumping, oops.  Also, didn't anticipate the interest we would generate from other sources.  The amount of customers and artists popping in or contacting me via a referral is awesome, and there's me thinking I just stick a purple Hippo on things.

As always, a huge thank you to everyone that has allowed this to happen - and to allow me to see the possibilities of where we could go next.  Already in discussions about the next cunning plan with someone that sees opportunities the way I do, will share when there's something more definite to share but think it could be rather exciting. 

See you all soon, Hippo xx

Friday, May 10

Craft Fair survival kit!

This is not intended as an exhaustive list, especially if you have very specific needs or equipment to take to a fair but it should give you a starting point of some of the more useful things to remember to bring! 

  1. Table - Are tables provided at the venue?  If not you will need to make sure you have some way of displaying your work and a pasting table or similar is usually a standard size that's useful (and foldable!).
  2. PRODUCTS!!! might sound daft but you could spend ages checking your details and forget to actually take what you made!
  3. Covering for the table - either a table cloth, old duvet cover or door curtain - anything that is big enough to cover the entire table and hang over the edges.  It's sometimes useful to have something that covers the front completely so that you can store boxes etc underneath without customers seeing them.
  4. Banner or poster to attach to the front of the table saying who you are - not essential but if you have one make sure you pack it!  Also make sure you include the pins or string to attach it.
  5. Stall display material - height is a great way to make your display more inviting, rummage around charity shops or DIY shops for basic bits that you can use to your advantage.
  6. Baskets or containers for smaller items you are displaying - also useful if these come with lids so that packing up is made a whole lot easier later.
  7. Boxes to pack away with - where possible make them work as part of your display, cuts down on boxes under the table and makes storage and packing away much easier!
  8. Pricing labels - make sure your items are priced clearly, rounding up or down to make your change easier.  We round everying to the nearest 50p which makes the float tin simple.
  9. Float - don't forget your change! And the tin/box to keep it in.
  10. Receipt book - probably only if you sell more expensive items, but some may ask so depending on your prices may be useful.
  11. Business cards or flyers - how can people find you later?
  12. Notepad and pen - you will need to record your sales somehow depending on your method of record keeping.
  13. Packaging - depending on what you are selling you may need tissue, newspaper or bubble wrap to keep your items safe and bags to sell them in.
  14. If you have insurances for food hygiene, CE proof or CRBs take a copy with you - chances are you will never get asked but better to have it with you just in case.
  15. Useful box - I use a small plastic toolbox just for fairs and keep the following in it:
    1. scissors
    2. string
    3. blutac
    4. drawing pins
    5. pens
    6. plasters
    7. post it notes
    8. cable ties - these end up being used for the most random uses!
    9. roll of stickers
    10. business cards
    11. count clicker - not everyone is bothered, but they are useful
  16. If you have small people with you make sure you have some sweets, drinks etc and toys or games to keep them occupied (easier said than done sometimes) and please make the organiser aware that they belong to you so can be returned if found wandering!
  17. Chair and cushion - if you suffer with back problems or need to sit for long periods take a fold up chair and cushion.
  18. Cardboard - if the place might be cold take an old piece of carpet or cardboard box to stand on.
  19. Bin bag - to clear away any food wrappers etc.
  20. Food! You may be there for a while without access to tea or food so go prepared :)
That's all I can think of for now - please add bits as you think of them, and tailor the list to your particular needs.  And just remember - check it all fits in your car!!! Hippo x