How I started... a craft business

Natasha Gawthorne is the founder of Pumpkin and Pye, a business creating bespoke button bouquets, centrepieces, brooches and more. Using buttons, silk flowers and a variety of other objects, the bouquets are a quirky alternative to the  traditional flower bouquet, and - best of all - they last forever. Here's how Natasha started her business.

Location, location, location

My business is based in a little summer house in my garden in Exeter, Devon. Most of my orders are placed online and aren't from the local area, so I don't need a physical shop.

Deciding to take the plunge

After years of not thinking I was good enough to run my own business, it was my husband that made me realise I could. I was running other peoples' businesses for them as managers - so why not take the leap and do it for me? I haven't looked back, and it's the best decision I ever made.

Qualifications and skills

For a business like mine you don't necessarily need formal qualifications, but you do need a creative eye. Most of my skills are self-taught, but I do have floristry qualifications, which help a bit. It's mainly important to have a good eye for putting together colours and textures - common sense helps too!

Important equipment

I don't need anything big or expensive. All I have is a computer(which I already owned), a desk space to work, pliers, scissors, lots of wires, and thousands of buttons, brooches and pieces.

shells

Tackling market research

I constantly do market research,even if is something as simple as a Facebook poll, as I think you have to to keep yourself ahead of the competition. I also get approached quite often by students who are doing their thesis on the alternative bouquet industry. If you help them out, they generally give you copies of their findings, which is incredibly useful for staying up to date.

Budgeting

I started with about £100, and was granted a start up loan of £5000 which has helped allow me to reach more customers.

Marketing pre-launch

I opened an Etsy shop and Facebook page and started getting myself onto free directories or blogs to get the name and brand out there as much as I could, before officially launching Pumpkin and Pye.

Launching

The launch was nothing fancy or hyped up - I just put my website online and promoted it via the social media I'd already set up. I was lucky in that people just started to find me from the start. The first order came in three days after the launch, and I've had orders in every day since.

What were those first few weeks like?

Exciting - I don't think anything can beat how excited and proud you feel when you receive your first order!

Tips to entrepreneurs hoping to start a craft business:

- Do your research - it's an ever-changing industry.

- Start with a business plan, set achievable goals, and take baby steps. It takes a lot of hard work, but if you put the effort in you will get there.

- Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice.

Connect with Pumpkin and Pye on Twitter and Facebook.

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan