First of all, how have you been coping with the pandemic this year?
We’re doing ok thank you! It’s obviously been a strange and worrying time but we’re in a very fortunate position that has allowed us to carry on working and also take on homeschooling. It’s been much more of a juggling act than usual with two young children at home and a lot of late nights catching up with work, but we’re so grateful for the flexibility that working for ourselves allows. We’ve had lots of lovely messages from customers placing orders to be sent to loved ones during lockdown, that’s been so nice to see on a daily basis during a tricky time.
Has it affected how you operate your business?
Pre-COVID we probably spent 10% of our time doing work from home but in the last 5 months, we’ve spent the vast majority of our time working at home, just taking trips to the office to send out orders. We set up a temporary office in our living room which has pretty much turned into a permanent workspace. Our operating hours have also changed a lot, working around our kids full time means grabbing 10 minutes here and there and then catching up properly when they’re in bed.
How long have you been selling on Etsy for?
We’ve been selling on Etsy since 2015, although our brand launched in 2008.
How did Alphabet Bags come to be?
We launched Alphabet Bags in 2008. Back then we were living in a small flat in south London where we’d been running an online gallery (thecalmgallery.com), which we had launched a few years earlier whilst at university. We really wanted to branch out and create a collection of tote bags and had the idea to make a collection of 26 very simple and bold initial prints. After spending a lot of time finding the right materials and UK manufacturer we took the plunge and made over 1000 bags in our first batch. In hindsight that was probably a bit risky as we had no idea how people would respond to them, but we were so lucky that they were well received and we had some fantastic press in the early days which was so important in getting our brand out there. We never set out to start an accessories brand beyond that first collection, but we were soon bursting with ideas for other ranges so we got busy designing!
What is Alphabet Bags mission statement?
To create long-lasting accessories with a focus on simple, bold and cheerful design.
What’s your best seller?
This changes all the time, but at the moment it’s our ‘Everything’ oversized canvas totes.
What are you currently working on?
We always have lots of new projects on the go! At the moment we’re working on our first range of greetings cards, some new enamel pin designs, expanding our range of keyrings and sampling some new sweatshirts for autumn. We’re also trying to choose the perfect colour for a new range of oversized totes and pouches. When we make canvas in a custom colour we have to dye a lot, so we really take our time to choose the exact right shade.
How did you find the process of creating products for the Zoella X Etsy Collab?
Zoella and Etsy have been amazing to collaborate with! As a brand, it’s really important for our collaborations to fit with our aesthetic and personalities and we found that particularly true when working together on these products. We’re so pleased with the results and really excited to share them with everyone!
What’s the best thing about working together?
We always find this question difficult to answer, not because there aren’t great things about working together, but because it’s all we’ve really known. We’ve worked together for over 13 years since leaving uni! We have always enjoyed working together but never set out to create a family business. I think the flexibility that comes with running a family business, especially when you have children, is such an important thing and we’re really grateful to be able to spend so much time together and with our kids.
How long does your end to end process take when designing and selling something new for your shop?
This varies from product to product. For some product types, we can have an idea one day and then be launching the actual item within a couple of weeks. Other items or large collections might take several months or even years to go from concept to reality. We keep many of our staple items such as totes and zip pouches in stock ready for new designs to be printed. These are the fastest items for us to turn around when we have new ideas. There is much more involved when working on a brand new collection, especially if we need to find a new manufacturer or go through a lengthy process of sampling and tweaking to get the samples just right. We’re still working on one large collection of enamel pins which we’ve been trying to get right for over two years now, but we’re not giving up!
What inspires you?
These days it’s being parents of two young kids that provides the most inspiration. Things like our ‘Everything’ oversized canvas totes probably wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t experienced days out with the kids while carrying most of the contents of our house! Other items such as our Snacks bags and Ice Cream Appreciation Society collection were created for them to use, and we’re so lucky that other people seem to like them too!
How do you relax outside of work?
There hasn’t been a lot of time for relaxing the last few months, but when we do get some downtime nothing beats a hot bath and a good book or podcast.
If you could give one piece of advice to our audience who want to start making their own products what would it be?
Be original! We think that is one of the most important things that would help with your success. If your offering is unique people would be so much more likely to find you. Starting is often the most daunting step, but it doesn’t need to be. Many businesses can be launched and tested without a large investment, it’s definitely good to start small and grow gradually. With Etsy, you can get your brand in front of a huge worldwide audience relatively quickly which is such an amazing opportunity when starting a business.
*This post is part of a paid collaboration with Etsy.