We are thrilled to be showcasing these striking African print lampshades as third runner up in our #lampshadebusinessinabox competition !
Tola is lucky winner of a lampshade manufacturing pack to help her on her way with her business! We just couldn’t resist the stunning African wax print designs (Ankara in Nigerian circles) and pro-active, determined nature that Tola approaches her work with, always sprinkled with a good dash of humour! We asked Tola to give us the low-down on setting up and running a new craft business with tips and warnings to inform anyone interested in doing the same.
My handmade lampshade making business kind of evolved out of my existing one – interior design. I officially started in January 2013 when I opened my Etsy shop and have never looked back. I have even gone a step further and rebranded my business last year by changing its name from ‘Dezine Konnections interior Design’ to ‘DETOLA AND GEEK’.
Tola left a long career in accounting and finance behind her in order to take the plunge and set up her own lampshade business.
Oh yeah I was a boring Bean Counter, But in a way that has helped me in keeping organised as I run the business alone.
My handmade journey started a little something like this……
With my crazy love of Ankara, The popular African wax print fabric used originally in making clothes for all occasions – be it for everyday, evening, wedding or party wear. vibrant, eye-catching, colourful and easily adaptable. What makes these African Prints SO unique is the way the patterns & colours run and appear.
I can never get enough of Ankara fabrics. And literally Ankara has exploded globally. It’s everywhere. You even see it on famous fashion runways, famous brands now use it in their products and they are used in fashion and home accessories. This is where my two worlds collide: My love for gorgeous interiors and vibrant African Wax Print fabrics.
So I thought to myself one day, as you do, “you know what I can do one better! With my love of interior design, I didn’t want to delve away from interiors, home decor & accessories. And I have always wanted to make products myself, by hand, using these gorgeous fabrics. And then I had a light bulb moment- No kidding, It was REALLY a light-bulb moment! LAMPSHADES!!!! Pun so intended, And the rest is history!”
In a nutshell I create “Colourful African Wax Print Fabric Lampshades & Home Décor. My designs maybe Bold, Geometric, Retro & sometimes Geeky too!” There is something to suit most tastes (I hope).
After deciding to start making my own handmade lampshades my next dilemma was to source the lampshade making materials. I actually had no clue from where and thus turned to old reliable Mr. Google and boom Needcraft came up trumps ranking at No.1. I rushed straight to the website, quickly read through it and ordered my very first lampshade making kit – 30cm Drum. I squealed with joy when it arrived in the post!
I wanted a small business I could run from home that fitted around my life (family and all). I already had the basic necessities – a dining table cum home office desk, a laptop, some African print fabric and other bits and pieces needed as well as some savings to start me off.
I find the internet so full of handy information, as long as you know that you are looking for. There’s so much help available from social media, running small business, to keeping records and completing tax returns. When I first started I went to quite a number of networking groups, filtering them down to a few once I’d sussed out which ones worked best for me and my needs. Nowadays I only go to a handful of events. Also, I only exhibit and sell at a few select handmade/ craft fairs. I have also added another line to my business which is teaching lampshade making workshops.
But more importantly when selling online I learnt that clear & good photographs of my products are the closest thing to touching them. I cringe now when I stumble across my early days of product photography. I find the ‘Etsy School’ series & Live online labs (they are free!) have been some of the most helpful tools in running my home-based business. Its a lot of hard work and my mantra is ‘No pain, no gain’. Simples!
When I started out making lampshades I wasn’t that confident but I totally think that by exploring and exploiting a niche in the market has been a massive boost in making my lampshade business a success. It has certainly exceeded my expectations. My 5 star online reviews in my Etsy shop can confirm this.
I tend to source and use rare, retro and, at times one-of-a-kind African print fabrics which give my handmade lampshades the ‘WOW’ factor and make them stand out. I also use non African Print material such as Cotton, Silk, Hessian, Burlap and Linen and take bespoke orders using the customers’ own fabric or sourcing on their behalf.
Any business whether big or small faces risks and challenges. Being a one-woman business is where my multi-tasking skills are tested to the limits. I am not just the designer / maker behind Detola and Geek but also the Photographer, Order Tracker, Parcel Sender, Driver, Record Keeper, Stock Taker, Blogger, Materials Buyer, Social Media Manager and some…
The team at Needcraft lampshade supplies have listened to what their customers have said and need and have gone on to develop products to meet customers’ demands. I really do love Needcraft (and am not just saying this because I would like to win!). You have been so helpful in more ways than you think… Your staff are awesome. Quite friendly that I feel like they are my friends. They can also be dead funny on social media too. A lively bunch I must say! Needcraft are my number one ‘go-to’ lampshade supplier” – Wow! thanks Tola, we’re blushing 🙂
What still really excites me…? Without a shadow of a doubt I really love making the big lampshades like the 40cm / 45cm drum ones. My heart beats faster when am making them – especially the hand-rolling part – all single handed! I can’t wait to make one even bigger. To take Detola and Geek to the next level, I will be exploring some new ideas especially using African wax print fabrics in making soft traditional lampshades using your frames. Also making patchwork lampshades as well as mixing different fabrics nd textures together. I also want to try my hands on the 2-tier lampshades. Watch this space! 😉
Three tips for new craft entrepreneurs:
Do your research / ground work first. Both online (Google everything) and offline too (attend networking groups, free workshops / seminars run by the Inland Revenue etc).
Practice, practice and practice your craft skill till you have gotten it right. Learn from your mistakes going forward
If you sell online make sure your product images are top-notch. Seriously!
Make sure your policies & terms and conditions are clearly stated
Don’t waste time worrying about your competitors doing / selling better than you. That can put a real damper in your spirits.
Tola’s favourite websites:
Blog and Buy Sale http://www.blogandbuysale.com/
Find Detola and Geek:
*Redeem your prizes by email: email@example.com
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