Sally Steel, founder of The Nose Warmer Company & Poppy & Petal
Sally Steel is a mum of three and former teacher turned entrepreneur from Sheffield, who now runs two bespoke craft businesses from her home and workshop in Sheffield. All designs from The Nose Warmer Company – which set up on eBay in 2009 to keep snouts warm in the cold – are made and sold from Sally’s Yorkshire studio, as are designs from Poppy and Petal, Sally’s latest venture (founded in 2012). The latter firm specialises in handmade personalised cushions, bags and rag dolls. Both firms were born as a result of Sally’s lifelong passion for sewing and crafts.
Sally actively nods to the British sourcing and production of her products, and has shipped 6000 orders in the past year to buyers around the world, including USA, Australia, New Zealand and Germany. She said:
“The Nose Warmer Company has benefitted from Britain’s reputation for quality and humour. That’s why I market where our fabrics are sourced from and stamp put the ‘hand-made in Britain’ stamp front and centre. A significant portion of our sales are gifts so my customers rely on good quality, careful customisation, and timely shipping. Ultimately, these gifts can reaffirm their friendship and it’s vital we understand that to keep customers happy. By building on British heritage, we can inspire confidence in customers to choose us over competitors.
“In the US for example, we’ve really jumped on the fad of Bridesmaid proposal parties, where brides will contact me on eBay and we’d create bespoke wedding tote bags, or socks, most of which include a personal message to those the bride would like be her bridesmaids. We’re seeing more and more demand for this kind of customisation, and therefore a reliance on quality service and design.
“While it’s well-documented that the weak pound has increased consumer confidence, I’m aware that uncertainty reigns about future trade partnerships. But I don’t let that distract from growing my businesses. I currently export to 24 different countries and have my eye on entering Poland in the near future. It’s got a young, growing economy where demand for British made goods is increasing.”
Sally’s tips for exporting:
- Seize the opportunity – Most companies are ready to export a long time before they feel they’re ready. The UK is one of the world’s most advanced e-commerce economies in terms of the brands, service and services. Our businesses are truly world class; consumers globally recognise that and shop on UK sites as a result.
- Have a business plan of how you will take your business overseas –Create a business plan, from inventory planning to market your wares in different languages through the likes of eBay’s WebInterpret service and global shipping programme.
- Understand the culture of where you are selling –Understand the culture of international buyers and their culture surrounding consumer goods. If your American customers expect the highest level of customer service when buying, make sure customer service is courteous, clear, precise and timely. This understanding creates a positive experience and create repeat custom.
- Emphasise your ‘Britishness’– Slightly counterintuitively to the above point but build on buyers’ affinity with the British. Don’t be afraid to showcase yours and your businesses personality.
- Be clear about your shipping procedures –Shipping expectation is high, so this must be clear and fully understood by the consumer so you can avoid quibbling about delivery times or returns