If you've been following my updates recently, you will have noticed that Paraffle is having a bit of an overhaul. The continuing craziness of lockdown - part of which was HUGE amounts of people exploring new crafty skills - means that I've recently been scaling up, drinking excessive amounts of caffeine, staying up far too late, and (perhaps most importantly) having a serious think about the kind of business that I want Paraffle to be.
When I first started making embroidery kits, I was happy enough to be producing something that could teach people a new skill, or could give someone that little slice of meditative time out that crafting is so great at providing. Being environmentally friendly and an ethical consumer was something I (imperfectly) tried to practice in my daily life - but when it came to running Paraffle, I hadn't given it too much thought. I'd had dreams of eventually running a business that was considerate to the planet, as well as our communities... But for whatever reason, I saw this as something far off in the distant future; something to consider if the business was ever 'successful' (whatever that means).
Well, as the business began to grow (thanks to you!), the areas that needed improvement also began to weigh on me much more heavily. Actually, I think the moment which gave me a much-needed push was a very genuine message from an Etsy customer, commenting on the plastic hoops that were included in the kits (long story short, the hoops had a wood effect - which did look quite nice - but were 100% plastic - far from ideal). It's always hard to hear criticism of something you've made; and sometimes even harder when you know that that criticism is entirely valid, and that you need to act; but, I have a lot to thank that person for.
So, I want to let you know what I've done recently to improve Paraffle - and rather than this being a self-congratulatory post, I want to invite your thoughts on how else I can make sure I run my business in a wholesome and sustainable way:
- You might be aware of the Rainbow charity kit I launched recently, which has so far raised more than £1000 for a local Edinburgh charity (Steps to Hope) that helps people who are homeless, and those struggling with addiction - I intend to keep a charity kit offering as a permanent fixture, and potentially expand it to a range of charity kits supporting charities in different areas. I plan to do an animal design, for which I'll donate £10 per kit to an animal sanctuary in Bolivia (Inti Wara Yassi); and would love to create a design to raise money for women's education or refuges. Suggestions for other areas and charities are welcomed!
- For postal packaging, I was previously using poly envelopes lined with bubble wrap to send out my kits - these have now been scrapped (hooray!) and replaced with paper envelopes, with card inserts (to stop the kits from being bent or bashed around too much). I'm really proud to be working with this supplier (Kite Packaging), because not only is their packaging sustainable, they are also an employee owned business - again, something which is inspiring to me!
- As mentioned above, I was using flexi plastic wood-effect hoops - I've now managed to source some lovely wooden display hoops, which are WAY better looking, and still have a hanging hook to pop them on the wall when the piece is finished. They cost a little more, but the prices of all the kits will stay the same :)
- Each of my kits include a stitch guide and instructions - which, up until now, I printed myself on my own little laser printer, using paper from a nearby shop (with no sustainability claims whatsoever!). No longer! I've found a local printers (Out of Hand Scotland), who can print these on sustainable forestry paper, using environmentally friendly ink.
What else do I still have to change? Well, probably a lot. But I'd love to hear your thoughts or ideas on how Paraffle can improve even more! Do you have experience in trying to make similar changes? What areas do small businesses tend to overlook when working to get better? What is it about a product that makes you think, 'yep, that's a responsible business'?
I'm looking forward to these conversations!