Hi, my name is Corinne, designer and chief dogsbody for Powder Butterfly. Nice to meet you. I wanted to share some behind the scenes insights and the inspiration behind my small business, so these blog posts are an attempt at sharing that with you. The picture above is of me outside the former For the Love of the North shop. FTLotN very kindly let me do a pop up shop at their empty shop in Corbridge at the end of 2020 and it was an absolutely joyful experience. I loved every minute of it, and one day I do hope to have my very own little shop so watch this space for updates.
Why I started my business
As a small business owner I do a bit of everything and I don't have a traditional boss. I suppose this was quite appealing to me when I started my business journey. Being able to make decisions without having to get permission from someone or pass it by a team meant that I could move things forward quickly. Don't get me wrong this comes with a huge amount of responsibility and at times stress. Every decision you make affects the success or failure of your business. Slowly but surely I realised that not having a traditional boss can be great, but it can also be quite challenging. I also started to understand that I do actually HAVE a boss, and my new boss is my customer. And in this blog post I want to tell you a bit about my background and why my customers have been the BEST boss.
I wanted to share a little bit about my background with you all, because this will help you understand why my customers are so important to me. In my late teens and early twenties, I used to work in retail. I worked for a well known high street fashion brand and a well known high street music store. And I loved it.
Turn a negative into a positive
I loved serving customers and making sure that they left the store happy. I realised from an early age that when I went into shops sometimes I received really bad customer service. And I would often think about what I would do differently. When I had my two retail jobs I realised that I could use this experience and I could really help change people's experience in store. I would really enjoy it when customers came into the shop unhappy but they left feeling great, and I had played a small part in making that happen.
This early insight into being on both sides of the customer service experience is something that I apply to my business every day. I think about how I would like to be treated as a valued customer. And how I as a small business owner can make my customers feel. Every sale is valued and cherished at Powder Butterfly and I will tell you why. I design all of the products myself and I find all of the makers and manufacturers, all of which are tried and tested before my designs are transformed into the products that my customers love. I quality check every product I sell. Every order that comes through my website and Etsy is packed by myself and I add a little thank you note in your parcel. I pay attention to the experience my customers have throughout the creative, manufacturing, and packing process. And I am always looking to improve your experience. Every time I get a wonderful review from my customers it makes all of my hard work worthwhile.
What my customers say
I also wanted to share some of the wonderful reviews that my customers have shared with me. I have also had some pictures taken of these lovely customers in Saltwell Park which is just down the road from where I live. If you have never been please visit it, it is a beautiful public park in Gateshead.
This is a picture of my lovely customer Ann, she has supported my small business for a number of years and this is what she had to say about her experience.
"I became a fan of Powder Butterfly's Newcastle/Gateshead mugs when I bought some at a Christmas fair some years ago. I'm fussy about my tea and being fine bone china it tastes just perfect out of them. Also, being a proud Geordie, they have become my 'signature' gift for friends and family...which of course ensures I still get a good cuppa when I visit them. The gift that keeps on giving." Ann
Karolynne works in the arts in the North East of England and she is a great supporter of small independent businesses. I feel really honoured that she has bought a number of my angel of the north necklaces and she wears them to meetings where big decisions about creative projects are being made. This is what Karolynne had to say:
"I bought my first Powder Butterfly Angel of the North necklace a few years ago. I loved it so much I bought another two in different designs and colours. I always get so many compliments when I wear them, I love their original and unique designs. My latest Angel necklace includes the map of the site where the old colliery used to be. Powder Butterfly products are always beautifully designed and presented in elegant packaging. A treat for a friend, family member or yourself."
Jacqui has been a very supportive customer for Powder Butterfly and its so exciting that she sends my products to friends and family who live nationally and internationally. This is what she had to say about her purchases:
"I love the original, high quality and design led range of products from Powder Butterfly. There is something to suit any price range and it's my go to place for gifts especially for family and friends living out of the region - a little bit of home (beautifully presented) wherever they are! 5 star every time."
Lucy has been a wonderful support to my small business. Not only has she been a fan of what I do she has also supported me through her shop For the Love of the North Lucy and her husband Paul support multiple small independent businesses in their local area and they are such a hugely positive force within their community. They have raised a staggering £10,000 for the Northumbria NHS Bright Charity as well which demonstrates their commitment to their local community. I feel honoured to have Lucy & Paul's support as a small business. This is what Lucy had to say:
"From the outset our mission at Love of the North was to showcase the very best of the North Easts wonderful creatives and Corinne at Powder Butterfly was high on our list of the creatives we wished to work with. What instantly strikes you about the products created by her is that they are a hallmark of quality using only the very best materials and our customers know that a Powder Butterfly product is of the absolute highest quality.
Corinne is wonderful to work with and we are proud to be a Powder Butterfly stockist. It is wonderful to see that in the time since the shop opened that Corinne is constantly developing her products and always seeking to produce the perfect gift."
Ann is most definitely someone that I consider to be a customer, a fellow business woman and a friend. She has been such an amazing support throughout my business journey and she has helped me with my visual merchandising and I love the tips and tricks she has taught me. Ann now has a consultancy business and she is doing great things to help small business owners reach their full potential. Her business is called Create Intrigue and its well worth checking out. This is what Ann had to say about my products:
"I love Powder Butterfly's stunning range of products featuring iconic landmarks. The designs are unique and the quality is superb. I particularly love my reusable cotton tote bag. It has proven to be extremely practical and durable, much better than buying lots of 5p carrier bags and help reduce plastic waste. I've bought tote bags as useful presents for friends also, it's something that everyone needs and the lovely design is perfect too."
[Ann is holding the luxury cotton London tote bag with double sided design]
"I chose Powder Butterfly because I wanted a product with images of Newcastle-Gateshead I have friends and family all over the world and I'm always looking for presents that will remind them of the time we spent together in the North East of England. I bought t-shirts initially which are easy to pack in a suitcase. I got matching shirts for my mum and stepdad who are very active and their Powder Butterfly shirts have travelled around the states. I also bought a mug which is so beautiful it would bring a touch of class to any home. Corinne was also very helpful in delivering quickly so my presents would reach their destination on time."
Gill has supported my business from the early days and she has bought a variety of the York themed gifts for friends and family. This is what Gill has to say:
"Love, love, love Powder Butterfly. The products are so original and fantastic quality."
[Gill wears my luxury cotton York apron with large front pocket and adjustable neck strap]
My Top Tips for building a loyal customer community
So here are my top tips for creating a community of customers that love what you do, keep coming back for more and can't wait to tell their friends and all about your small business.
Treat your customers as you would wish to be treated.This sounds simple but sometimes we have customers who are having a bad day and they might take it out on you. My biggest piece of advice in this situation is to listen to your customer, understand their concerns and do everything you can to resolve it. Make sure you have some clear policies and procedures in place so that your customers know what to expect from you. This also protects you as well as gives clear guidance to your customers.
Treat each customer as a valued individual. It is important that they feel valued and special and when you are running a small business, where you can make them feel that. Pop a personalised note in their online orders, reply to comments on social media and on your review pages.
Be responsive to their ideas. If customers share some ideas about what they would like you to do next, where you can build that into your business you should do it. Give them an opportunity to vote on your next product or service. Make them feel that they have helped shape what you do, bring them along for the ride and give them opportunities to celebrate in your success. This way they will feel more connected to you and your business and be rooting for you to succeed.
Give back to your customers. Give them opportunities to enter competitions, or give them opportunities to model or showcase your products and services. Share their images of your products in their home. All of this activity helps you celebrate their support and really makes them feel valued.