Friday, July 31, 2015

Moving on again

The summer holidays are Finally here  Yay!!!... well actually not yay at all.

All year when things have been quiet in the studio we have made excuses and commented that when the summer comes it will be busy and it will make up for a rubbish half term, Easter and bank holidays.  But alas nothing has changed in fact the first week of the summer holidays has been quieter than ever! So we have to admit we have made a mistake basing ourselves at heartlands.

I guess this has been a classic case of not doing good enough research.  When we looked at it, it was quiet, but that was in November so we hadn't expected anything else.  We spoke to the other studio holders who all told us it was great and when the summer came then they made enough to not worry about the quiet winters.  Then there were the figures we were quoted, of how many people on site at busy summer days, I can't remember exact figures but they were very impressive.  And events, there were loads of events planned , one nearly every weekend from June onwards. We thought, "this is going to be good".  Well it isn't.  In retrospect we should have made ourselves aware of the local bad feeling towards the place and to advertising budgets and staffing levels.

Two of the very same people who told us it was busy are leaving. And the figures.... Well here is a tip for the future, check where the counter is placed !!!!!   Because there may be people on site but they are all in the adventure playground, and I have  hunch that with the children running around there may be some double counting going on.  So basically we are paying a lot of money each month to be near a busy playground.
I don't want to criticise the management, they are doing the best they can under very tight restrictions , low staffing level, no money and a lot of inherited bad feeling,  but the crux of the matter is, if you build it, they won't just come, you need advertising, you need good signage and you need events!

There is one large event organised  in August...Geek Fest and I am sure it will be a great success, but apart from a craft fair there is little else, we have just been told 4 events have now been cancelled.  So from our point of view, how are comic book/gaming  fans on site going to benefit a craft studio that sells leather handbags, belts, seaglass jewellery and Art.  Yes we could make up leather costumes, or paint comic book pictures, but how worthwhile is it and how much can a small business invest in a three day event?? 

So we have a plan, I can't go into all the details as it's not formalised yet, but we have told Heartlands we are leaving.  They are of course disappointed because after we leave there will only be two studios , actually used as studios, left.  They have their excuses and reasons why the site is not working, but in the short time we have been there, and for whatever reasons, there has been a shift from making it a joint tourist attraction and community centre, to being totally for the community.  An article in the local paper confirmed that for us a couple of weeks ago. In such a deprived area, the local community do not have the money to be buying expensive handmade goods, or booking workshops. so there is no point us being there, if there are no tourists .

All is not lost though, we have learnt a valuable lesson .  We know what we are doing is good as we get great feedback from those who do come in and our conversion rate is very high,  we get a sale for approximately every 10 people who come through the door.  Add that to the outside events, markets fairs  commissions and online sales and we are surviving. We knew we would have to do some of that anyway, we had just not realised that we would have to do as much away from the studio and had hoped the studio would at least pay for itself, otherwise we would have based ourselves at home.

We are stuck for the time being as we have a years lease, which doesn't finish until after Christmas, so will have to right off the rent and service charge for the rest of the year and cut our cost at Heartlands to an absolute minimum. This will mean not opening as often once the summer is over and basically turning it into a total workshop, where we will just produce lots of stock for our coming new adventure.

So please please please,  learn from this whopper of a mistake we made and if you are thinking of opening a small business  DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!!!!


  1. What an absolute bummer! I don't think you can totally blame the Heartland people because the economy sucks all over and many artists are feeling the pinch. Good luck with your next venture.

  2. hope it all works out for you, I look forward to seeing where your new plans take you

  3. All the best for your new venture - it looks like a great little gallery spot. I think this post is wonderful, your candid account of the perils of craft/art centres is I think the most honest I have ever read. It is hard to makes such places work unless there is a ready market of likely customers to encourage further to come to events etc. Well done, you gave it your all and now you move forward with those lessons learned - thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Thankyou for your comment, as always very much appreciated.