What is it?
If you love making hats, and are thinking that you would like to ‘do something commercial’ with them, but have no idea where to start, The Business of Millinery is the absolutely perfect millinery course for you. It’s a 10 week course, focusing on a different topic each week, with lectures and a weekly one to one tutorial to encourage you to think about key aspects of growing and developing your business.
It’s run by Jenny Roberts Millinery, virtually via zoom. Jenny herself is one of the tutors, along with Marie, another extremely experienced milliner. For our social media training we had the input and guidance of another expert, in Lee Casey which was absolutely invaluable!
Why did I join?
I’d made the decision to start selling my hats in 2019. I spent a lot of time and money that year attending fairs, attending networking meetings and in person business training, but actually made very few sales. With the start of COVID, I started signing up to multiple online training sessions and taster sessions, but was struggling to apply the learnings to my business. I set up an etsy shop in June 2020, and did have success in selling masks from there, but wanted to convert these to hat sales.
I had an initial exploratory call with Jenny over zoom, before signing up and was honest with where I was. I’d read the course outline, and knew I knew ‘a bit’ about several of the topics. After that conversation, I knew that the course should fit that elusive jigsaw piece I was looking for, as in how to apply the knowledge to millinery.
Who else attended?
There were 10 of us in total on the class, with a broad range of experience. Most of the others had taken Jenny’s ‘Design a collection’ course, and were now preparing to launch themselves! We were geographically a very diverse bunch, including someone from Australia (Well done Mary)!. As the course progressed, our individual styles and products became more apparent. And we all want to experience Abby’s customer service!
Exploring your ideas and values
The first few weeks were essential to building the foundations for your business. After having spent 20 years in corporate life, I was really happy with the concepts of about identifying your goals and objectives, but applying it to my own millinery was a challenge.
I started by identifying all my potential products and services, and all the potential markets, and came up with three main business ideas. Jenny encouraged me to ‘get them all on one page’ to see the synergies and linkages between them. My goodness that was hard, but it worked so well!
Developing your brand and your style
This was the real ‘lightbulb moment for me. I had lots of disparate ideas and themes spread across lots of Pinterest boards, covering my personal tasts and my favourite hats.
.In consolidating these, and being really strict with myself, I was able to see a very clear link between my own personal likes and tastes, in décor, architecture, shapes and the colours and shapes of my hats. It is definitely so much easier to create something you are passionate about, and also gave me the confidence to be clear on what I DIDN’T like.
I’d already done some work in the past on my brand logo and colours, so it was a huge relief to see that it actually all fitted together!
Upfront we all said we struggled with how to price our work. Jenny talked us through setting up templates to record ALL of our income and expenditure, and explained why it was useful to categorise them to do future analytics.
I think we really started working together as a group this week, as were all similarly baffled, and started a great collaboration in sharing on suppliers (there’s no one best place for everything!)
As an ex IT nerd I was really into this, and of course made my own version of Jenny’s template with cross referencing formulas and wasted hours trying to track down why my front page cost were 4p different than the subsequent pages…. Rounding differences can make a critical difference in clinical trials, but in the pricing of a hat, not really!
Social Media and Marketing
The whole world of ‘ecommerce’ and social media is such a huge growth area, and Lee Casey did a brilliant job at unravelling it for us. She combined practical easy to follow steps for us backed up with great stats, and many of us then braved Instagram stories and reels for pretty much the first time. The excitement of then actually seeing our posts being viewed by other people, and getting ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ from people we didn’t know was like getting a star at school.
I’ve been able to ‘reuse’ so much of my ‘homework’ from the course. It’s has helped tremendously in providing me content for social media. Also, I think the fact that I was paying for it, actually made me do and focus on my homework!
I loved volunteering as a guinea pig in ‘customer service’ week and having some of the other students design a hat for me to go with a new outfit I’d just acquired! Deb – I’d wear any of your emerald green ones ‘at the drop of a hat’! Anne you may still have a long wait to get me in feathers!
The course has definitely given me far more confidence in ‘putting myself out there’ – Jenny and Marie were absolutely great at ‘challenging’ and taking me out of my comfort zone. I definitely would not have considered even applying for a business mentorship before the course. I did, was interviewed, and got a place (more of that in later blogs)
Most of all, I’ve loved being part of a likeminded group of individuals. I guess on paper we are all ‘competition’ for each other, but in real life we all have different styles, locations, markets, and some of the greatest pleasure has been in celebrating each other’s successes. It has been wonderful to debate ‘potential names and logos’ with Cheryl and Torie, and ‘what side should I wear my hat on’ ,and thinking ‘oh, wonder if Fran’ has seen this post for her dragonflies technique.
Do watch social media and follow the #JRMillineryCollective on instagram for news of how we all grow and develop in our millinery journeys. And the quotation heading up this section is thanks to Valerie, who posted it so appropriately the last week of our course.