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Eleanor Allison, First Impressions UK Ltd - Guild Member of the Month February 2017

This month we have selected Eleanor Allison, from First Impressions UK Ltd as our Keepsake Guild Member of the Month!

Eleanor started her Keepsake Business just over a year ago and has achieved so much!  Altough Eleanor was taken ill shortly after starting her business, her own positivity and determination has ensured that her business has continued to grow and prosper, despite her poor health!

Watch this short video to hear Eleanor's inspiring story

and to hear her top tips on how to run a successful Keepsake Business. 

Hi my name is Elli and I am the caster at First Impressions UK Ltd. I started casting because we were already a bespoke framers, we were also a professional photographic studio and I knew that if I wanted to start casting I could do the casts and present them in a way that’s totally different and unique to anything else I’d ever seen on the market in the UK. But when I looked into this initially it was all franchises which meant that it was going to be costly, with set prices and I was going to have very little control over what I wanted to do.

So, I searched online and I found The Keepsake Guild and I became a Guild Member. What The Keepsake Guild has offered me is support and guidance as well as training with The Craft Ecademy. If I have an issue I am only a message or email away from either the Facebook support page or the Helpdesk. It also offers me the ability to continue learning in different aspects of the 3D Casting and Life Casting, which is what I intend to do this year.

When I joined The Keepsake Guild I realised I did not need to join a franchisee which was going to cost me a minimum of £10,000 upfront, which is what I had been asked for before.

I set up my business on 1st February 2016. Since then I have not looked back! My customers come in, I sit them down and get them a cup of tea; we then discuss what the customer wants and what finish they would like before we start. They chose the finish that they want; we talk about the décor, then look at the colour of mount boards that would complement their décor and the casts. We have a huge range of frames which they can choose from to finish off the casts. I will then put it together to give them an idea of how the finished piece is going to look. They can then choose the wording that goes on their engraved plaque, of which we have a choice of finishes to compliment the casts. We then do the castings upstairs and from then there is a 3 or 4 week turnaround. Currently its mainly babies and pets because that is what the market demands. I also do family castings but just single hands at the moment.

My plan this year, going forward, is to do the Wreath of Hands Course with The Craft Ecademy because I am getting asked for this more and more. Although I have tried this cast and it has worked out absolutely fine, I feel I want to do the course for my own piece of mind so that I know all the pitfalls should I come across them and I can offer the perfection to my customers which they have become accustomed to. Again The Keepsake Guild offers me the support I need to be able to do that. If I have any issues I know they are only going to be a message or email away using the helpdesk.

Not being a franchise gives me the control that I want. It also gives me the ability to put offers on as and when I want to. It lets me set my own pricing and it means that I can make my casts that little bit different. When setting up a business, the one thing that you need to be is different; you have to have a unique selling point that makes you, irrespective of price, that go to person. What I find, all be it in a relatively small area that I deal in, that I pretty much have the market summed up. Not because of price but because I give people choice and customers will go for choice over price if you are that little bit different.

I was honoured to be asked to be Guild Member of the Month. It was something I wasn’t expecting. We have just celebrated our 1st Anniversary and in that year I have lost count of the number of casts we have made. Sometimes after Christmas it can be relatively quiet and this is where your marketing will come into play. All year long I market, much of this is through Facebook; I promote my posts, I share them on lots of buy and sell sites, when I boost them I make sure it’s to friends of the friends of the page, which means some people on that page will have thousands of friends, and they will see my post too. So I am increasing my market by the day. I have also found that word of mouth is a massive seller for me: every time my customers come in they will say ‘such and such has been to you and I have seen their casts and that’s why I have come to you’.

"What I would say to everyone going forward is that – through marketing, after Christmas I have been busier than I have been, even in November and December. So month on month my business continues to grow." 

So what I would say is; if you were thinking of setting up a business:

  1. Do your research
  2. Know your market
  3. perfect one area first before moving onto another
  4. Don’t try to be all things to all people
  5. JOIN THE KEEPSAKE GUILD Through The Keepsake Guild you will get the training that you need but not only that you will get moral support from all the other members. You will get guidance, you will get tips, you will get suggestions on all aspects of your business.
  6. Build a work-life balance I don’t make any of my plans before 11am; I don’t have them before that time for a reason. It means I can do the school run, I can come home, get myself ready, I can do the washing, tidy up the house and then I can go in and I am relaxed because I know that I have got a lot of jobs at home done so that when the children come home after school I am ready for them.  
  7. DO YOUR MARKETING! This is an absolute key factor, in getting your name out there. Promote your work. Marketing needs to be done weekly, even if you are just sharing a post on social media or boosting posts. Make sure you do it! You can do it in the comfort of your own home whilst you are watching TV and the children have gone to bed. JUST MAKE A POINT OF DOING IT because that will get your name out there more than anything!
  8. Ask clients for referrals. As long as your customers were happy with your work they won’t have an issue with recommending you to their friends. So ask them for that business.
  9. Don’t undersell yourself For the time, effort and workmanship that you put into your work.

The highlight of my year in business has been seeing customers’ faces when they come to collect the piece and to see the joy that it brings them; the fact that they have this piece and I know that they are going to cherish it. Because of all of this, my business has grown month by month and it continues to grow, for that I am very grateful. But it is a case of you get out what you put in. Above all what I would say is ENJOY IT! You are creating a memory in time, that is never going to be created again because that moment has passed – you are creating a piece that is timeless and that alone is priceless.

On that note, I will wish everyone Good Luck with their businesses going forward and hope that 2017 is a good year for us all.

Take care and goodbye for now.

Elli x   

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