This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Jen Moffat-Hallam, the sewing entrepreneur behind Pikelet Workshop. I had the pleasure of working with Jen on some projects for Lucky Break, and I’m so excited to be able to share her fun creations with you.
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Jen: It just happened without much planning. I made a toy as a gift and suddenly everyone wanted one. I set up a Facebook business page to keep my personal feed clean of toys and it went from 5 to 500 likers in a month. Now there are over 2000. It was nuts.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Jen: I create unique plush toys for people of all sizes. And I also teach kids to be creative with yarn, fabric and thread.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Jen: I thought I would supplement my income with the selling of toys and fit it in amidst my family responsibilities. My daughter had just started kindergarten. I probably saw it as a step up from a hobby but not much more than that at the time.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Jen: You can find our products in our Etsy store.
LBC: Walk us through a typical work day.
Jen: The beginning of my day is all about getting my ten year old off to school, though I do check my social media during breakfast. After I drop her off at the bus I try to go for a walk and run errands and am usually home around 10.30. There is often housework to deal with at this point. I check emails and do computer-related things before lunch and plan the rest of the day. Then I’m hopefully sewing until I pick up my daughter around 4. She has after school activities like most kids and I often take some hand work with me to do while I wait. Dinner. Bedtime and books and yoga with my kid. Then I’ll often do a little more stitching before bed. If I have a deadline most of this goes out the window and I work solidly whenever possible. I’m very lucky to have a gorgeous basement studio equipped with a big tv to keep me company at night. And two cheeky black cats who mostly drive me crazy.
LBC: What are the some things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Jen: I think it’s imperative that your work is of a certain quality and uniqueness before you launch. You need confidence in what you are selling from the get go. Pricing is probably the most difficult aspect in a maker’s business life and this problem doesn’t really ever resolve itself completely. You have to position yourself comfortably within the existing market. I wish, though, that I had started with a higher price point at the beginning. I guess that comes with experience and confidence. You need to be organised and know what sort of tax implications exist for small business and become aware of legislation and safety requirements before you start selling.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Jen: Usually exercise. Though I’m often loathe to do it when I feel busy. I’m also a chronic list maker. It must be either on a chalkboard or using a pen and paper. I don’t find electronic lists particularly motivating. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than physically crossing things off a list. But, like most creatives, I am at my best when I’m under pressure and have a big deadline to work towards. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Jen: I previously operated my business in Australia and at one point I felt like I was drowning. I outsourced some machine sewing and that was enormously helpful. Creative time opened up and I wasn’t burning the candle at both ends anymore. This person also became a great friend and co-conspirator. A great friend to bounce ideas off. Priceless. Of course, we then decided to move to Canada so I am in the process of starting my business all over again in both a new market and a completely different financial climate. Since moving to Toronto I have begun teaching crafty classes to kids and my gut tells me that this is exactly what I should be doing. I believe it will grow enormously once established. It certainly supplements my income apart from toymaking and also feeds my creativity at the same time. I enjoy it immensely. I’ve also worked harder to pursue some wholesale accounts more recently and that is starting to come together nicely.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience.
Jen: Recently I invested in attending a very big craft show in Toronto which lasted five days. We don’t have anything like that at home in Oz so it felt like an enormous undertaking. It was. Unfortunately I can’t rave about all the money that I made, but I did make some important connections, find some new retailers and awesome crafty friends. It was worth it. I an now focusing on some DIY products to sell at Christmas time as well as a new line of more “Canadian” characters which are very popular here. Without doing the show I wouldn’t have all these new ideas and the confidence to move forward. But it was a blow to my ego to not come away from a show with the kind of sales I’m accustomed to from home. A good blow, but it took a while to see it that way. I have applied to do the same show again at Christmas (which is 11 days!) and while this seems very risky sales-wise, I plan to bring new product and ideas and reinvent the wheel somewhat. Again, it’s a leap of faith but that’s what it takes. Every time. If I wasn’t a risk taker I’d still be living in Western Australia, wondering.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you’re particularly passionate about?
Jen: We have a sponsor child in Brazil, as we used to live there. Other than that I am working on the best way forward in this area. My hope is to find ways to teach kids who are in need. Last year I ran a knitting club at my daughter’s school and we made blankets for a local women’s shelter. It was very rewarding. I am looking into teaching children at the children’s hospital in Toronto and there are some other interesting opportunities here I want to research further. New city, so many options. They are still unfolding.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox you can’t do without?
Jen: My smart phone. I only upgraded to a ‘real’ smart phone last August and what a revelation it’s been. It’s so much easier to keep track of social media and Etsy sales and every other little thing. Paper and pencil. I try to carry a notebook around with me for scrawling ideas and lists. I still use an old timey filofax as an organiser. It was a gift from my sister, and I love it. The internet. I work from home in the basement. Without the internet I wouldn’t have made the connections and friends I now have all over the world. My relationship with Lucky Break Consulting wouldn’t exist, for example. Forums, social media, Pinterest, podcasts. All a big requirement for me.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Jen: I would like a core group of loyal North American customers, like the wonderful ones I still have in Australia. I think I will continue to be making toys and playing with those ideas, though it would be great to be able to outsource some of the repetitive aspects of that work again. I would like to establish which craft shows work for me and which don’t and become regular attendee at a select few of them throughout the year. It would be awesome to find one in the States to do as well. Summers will be spent teaching kids and unlocking their own creativity, and I would also like to have an adult sewing club in full swing as well. I don’t want the business to grow beyond my control. I just want it to be self-sufficient, to pay me a reasonable wage (sigh) and to keep me working in a creative field. I like the challenge of determining my own path, within the confines of the ever-changing market. It’s fascinating and difficult and ultimately very satisfying.
LBC: If you’ve been a client of Lucky Break Consulting, which specific products or services have you utilized and how have they proved helpful?
Jen: I haven’t yet. But I expect that to change in the coming months. I have loved collaborating with Lucky Break so much, and I look forward to continuing to grow this relationship.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Jen: Magazines. Be they crafty or about decorating. I love them!
LBC: Tell me a few of the places on your travel bucket list.
Jen: Iceland. Hawaii. New York is a repeat offender on the list, we can’t stop going back for weekends. I haven’t explored as much of the UK as I would like. Parts of it like Cornwall that have so much history. And almost all of the USA is a mystery to us. Prince Edward Island because I grew up obsessed with Anne of Green Gables like most girls.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loathe doing, what would it be?
Jen: I thought I would answer with the repetitive stuff on the sewing machine. But in truth I really loath photo editing and setting up listings on Etsy. Gah! That requires so much self-discipline. I put it off when I shouldn’t.
LBC: What’s your favorite quote, and who said it?
Jen: I’m not big on quotes and remembering them. But I can honestly say that “Just keep swimming” from Dory (Finding Nemo) pops into my head often. I may also drive my kid crazy with it.
LBC: What is your spirit animal?
Jen: A cat for sure. I just want to lie around with no responsibility, requiring care and then being left alone to sleep in the corner.
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, family, or friends, how would you spend it or give it away?
Jen: My daughter is going to be a teenager soon and I hate the ultra-heightened media world she has to grow up in. I would create a social media empire which portrayed girls and women and sexuality of all types in a very different way and make sure there was balance in the media we consume. We need a new ‘normal’.
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love your line and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Pikelet Workshop! We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!