Hello there, Alice here!
Last month I celebrated three years as owner of Little Deer - time flies when you're very busy! - so I wanted to take the opportunity to share a little more about the ups, downs and sideways of the journey and my personal experience running and growing a small business.
What Do I Do Again?
I'm so often asked what an average day looks like for me, and honestly, I think my answer changes every time because the truth is that it varies so much that it's very difficult to sum up in just a few words. Running a business is a juggling act!
I might be working with customers on bespoke clothing rails, designing and sourcing new products, planning photo shoots, researching design trends, creating content for our website and social media, or something else entirely!
I absolutely love the variety and opportunity being a small business owner brings, but shouldering the ultimate responsibility can feel like a pretty heavy weight to bear, so I try to keep strict no work boundaries around evenings and weekends so I can have some much-needed headspace! In fact, I find some of the most exciting ideas come when I take my mind off work for a couple of days.
How I Got Here
If you're not familiar with the story, back in 2018, I began working at Little Deer as a part-time maker and absolutely loved It from day one. I'd always had a passion for hands-on creativity but had lacked the opportunity to put this into practice in my previous roles, and walking into Little Deer felt like a breath of fresh air, as cheesy as that sounds!
When the owner at the time made the decision to step back and move on to new ventures, I couldn't pass up the offered opportunity to jump wholeheartedly into a business I loved so much and was absolutely bursting with ideas and inspiration.
Let's Talk Money
In order to be able to make an offer to buy the business, I had to throw all my time into sourcing funding options. After a lot of late nights writing a verrrrrry in-depth application and supporting, plus a nail-biting wait, I was approved for a government-backed start up loan.
This was certainly not an easy process, but looking back, it was such an important step to delve right down into the finances and opportunities for growth of the business to ensure it wasn't just my heart leading the decision but that it made business sense too!
And so, after quite a journey before I'd even started, in 2019, the next phase of Little Deer began.
The Journey So Far
Almost from day one, I set about expanding our offering of dried flowers and pampas grasses after identifying huge demand from our lovely customers, and at the same time, I began working on new copper, iron and plywood designs which are what we're best known for!
Soon we outgrew our Lewes workshop-come-stockroom and ended up moving both our studio and workshop twice in the space of just one year. Since then, we've remained settled all under one spacious roof by the coast just outside Brighton, which includes a purpose-built workshop, so it works well for the whole team. Thankfully, the additional space and (rather boring-sounding) stock management and shipping systems implemented during the second half of 2019 would prove exceptionally important, as we all know what happened next...
Covid had a huge impact on everyone, and it was a frightening and unknown time which we all tried to navigate as well as possible. While we were able to legally remain operational, which I'm so grateful for, this was an exceptionally difficult time for everyone at Little Deer personally, and as many customers turned to online shopping, the demand work-wise was also pretty astronomical. Thankfully being a small, dynamic team, we had the flexibility to act quickly and make changes when required, and we muddled through in the best way we knew how helped by lots and lots of cups of tea.
Since 2020 we've continued on a very topsy turvy path and have seen huge fluctuations in demand as everyone's needs and priorities continue to change so much. Add in Brexit and the sporadic availability and huge cost fluctuations of our core materials and supplies, including copper, plywood and cardboard; it's been tough trading for our little business, which like many others, has been pushed to the absolute limit.
We take each day as it comes, and I have thrown everything into continuing to move the business on in exciting new ways. Thanks to the hard work of the Little Deer team, we've just gone live with our brand new website and have launched our largest NEW collection to date! I'm so grateful for the Little Deer team and all the hard-working, talented women who've joined me on the journey so far.
So, What's Next?
My top priority will always be to ensure Little Deer continues to offer excellent service and beautifully handcrafted and curated interior pieces to our treasured customers. It's also so important to me as a leader to help inspire the Little Deer team and strive to keep the business moving forwards in exciting and innovative ways.
In terms of what we're currently up to, I'm working with a couple of very talented local artists and makers on creating some very exciting and unique pieces for our furniture range, and we'll also be launching something completely NEW in a few months time, which, I hope will be loved by existing and new customers alike. Keep watching this space to find out what it is!
I'm also continually on the hunt for a handful of perfect retail pop up spaces, which offer an invaluable opportunity to meet so many of our wonderful customers face to face and help build our community. Of course, we also love showcasing the designs we work so hard to craft and curate!
Keep an eye on our newsletter updates (sign up now for 5% off!) and Instagram pages for the latest on pop-ups, new products, discounts, and breaking news from the Little Deer team!