Blog > Site of the Month: Elizabeth Ackerley
Posted By Create
June's Site of the Month is the fantastic Elizabeth Ackerley, which offers a range of bespoke personalised products, perfect for treasuring any memory.
From Gingerbread families to Tooth Fairy pillows, Forever Letters to bespoke Hearts, Elizabeth's products are perfect for all occasions and capture those moments you want to keep forever.
This month we spoke to Elizabeth about her inspiration for the business and her creations, as well as important design elements for her website and her top tips for other business owners.
Interview with Elizabeth Ackerley
How did you start your business? Was it a hobby that grew or did you always aim to sell online?
Ever since I was a teenager I have wanted to have my own business. After teaching for twelve years, I gave up work to be a full-time mum to my daughter, Daisy. This gave me the opportunity to pursue my long-term dream to start a small business. I’d always made gifts for friends and family, and when Daisy started school I began by having a stall at our local farmers’ market and craft fairs, where my most popular products proved to be the personalised ones. This meant I had less time to make stock for the fairs, so I had to explore other avenues. I set up a Facebook page, which was a great way to test the market and try out ideas, but it definitely has its limitations, which is when I realised that I needed a website.
What do you think the benefits are of using your own name as your company name?
Using my own name gives the business a much more personal feel and when you’re doing something creative and bespoke this is a benefit. As the work is mostly made to order, I work closely with each customer and they like to know who they are dealing with.
Your website has some great photography. Do you have any tips on getting shots of your products?
I’ve always loved taking photos and the best tips given to me were firstly to buy a basic SLR camera body and to invest in a good lens. Then the second tip was to take the photos in natural light and never to use a flash when photographing my work. I take most of my photos on my white sewing table or sometimes I’ll take them in the conservatory. When the light is low I use some large sheets of white card to bounce some extra light into the room.
My third tip would be to consider composition. You can have a top of the range camera, but if the composition is wrong then you might has well have used any old camera. Either go for a plain background or style your photo in a location or with props that create the right mood for your product, without distracting from it. If you’re not sure what will work best then just take as many photos as you need to and you’ll soon see what works best. That’s the great thing about digital cameras, you can just keep clicking!
There is a home-made feel to your products. Was that a choice or something that built up over time?
It wasn't so much a conscious decision, but more what I’ve always done. I’ve always been sentimental and keep all kinds of paraphernalia that mean something to me, and this is reflected in my work and website. It’s realising that my customers like what I do and want me to create something similar for themselves that has allowed me to turn what I love doing into a business, and my design ideas have evolved from there. I love embroidering the tiny details and listening to the customers telling me their stories, it’s like I’m sewing their story and recreating it in fabric and thread.
There is a real trend for nostalgia, retro, and upcycling at the moment, so what I design and make fits right in with that. My products are aimed at quite a niche market and I prefer doing one-off commissions. More and more people are appreciating quality handmade products and supporting British artists and makers too.
How important is brand consistency to your business and website?
Brand consistency is very important and is recognisable at a glance. The font for my logo is quite quirky and fun without being childish, but I didn’t want to overuse it so I went for a more traditional font for the rest of the writing. Fewer fonts on a website give it a cleaner and easier to read appearance.
It's the same with colours, I didn’t want the website to look cluttered and for the main focus to be on the photos. There are some very colourful and busy websites out there that do work really well, as they have been carefully thought out - it’s all about getting the balance right.
Do you have any advice for other users, perhaps things to consider when building your website?
Firstly, do not rush when building your website and accept that it is an ongoing process. I wanted mine to be totally finished before I launched it, which was a mistake, as there were quite a few hiccups along the way! The structure of my website was built by a web-designer, using Create’s WDK package, however I had to finish the site off myself, which was a totally new challenge for me. But with help from my Account Manager it's been quite a learning experience and I’m feeling a lot more confident about managing my website now and tweaking it whenever necessary.
The second piece of advice would be to use social media to promote your website. Facebook is still the perfect platform to engage with customers and potential customers and I get a lot of feedback there, and really appreciate the opportunity to interact with my customers. I’ve also found Twitter useful as a business-to-business tool.
Thanks to Elizabeth Ackerley for taking the time to chat to us, and congratulations on being Create's Site of the Month for June 2014!
If you'd like to see your Create website featured as a future Site of the Month, or if you'd like to nominate one, share your story and get in touch! If you've won or been nominated for an award, we'd love to hear from you! Send your awards stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.