Quilling 201 - Handmade by Norma May

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

We spoke with Handmade by Norma May, one of our summer vendors. Check out part 2 of our interview with Norma May and Naomi below:

What has it been like starting a business with your daughter?

Norma May: It works well. We have different personalities. Naomi is pushy…

Naomi: Or bossy!

Norma May: But in a good way! Where I am the more patient one. Our personalities work well together.

Naomi: Yeah, our personalities match and we balance each other out. I’m thinking about the costs of the cards, the business, while my mum focuses on the art and design of the cards.

Norma May: But I’m learning! I just enjoy making the cards

Naomi: Yes exactly! We’ve become a lot more professional since time has gone on. We didn’t have an understanding of the business at first. The longer you do it the more you learn. I think as I became more professional about it, my mum did too. And I go to her whenever I’m feeling stressed about anything because she has such a calming presence. 

How do you build time to spend on your business?

Norma May: I think if you are working full time, you have to commit to the evenings. If you’ve got home and you’ve eaten, maybe to set maybe two or three hours that you can set aside for the business. 

Naomi: Yeah, I think you have to be quite disciplined and sacrifice some time. So if you’ve already scheduled a meeting in the evening but someone at work has said oh do you want to go for after work drinks, you have to decide. After work drinks are fine but it’s not going to help my business. We have certain times that we want to post content each day, and to maintain momentum we have to stick to those times.

I think it’s really easy, especially when you’re mum and daughter, to make things casual. I’m not like that at all! I like to have lists, deadlines and trackers - it’s really important when you start out to have those things in place. What is your plan, what are the steps needed to achieve them.

For advice for people starting out, I would say have a plan. It doesn’t need to be a five year plan but just know what your next step is going to be. Even if the next step is small then that’s all you have to do. Also don’t be too hard on yourself. Social media can make it seem like people have businesses overnight, they started it on Monday and are millionaires on Tuesday. But I don’t know anyone that that has happened to. The first one to even five years of a new business starting out is going to be hard, it’s going to be a struggle. But it’s worth it.

It’s also important not to take knock backs too personally. Even though we love the cards, there are going to be people who hate the cards and will tell us that. That’s fine, you’re not our audience then, we’re not catering to you. It’s important to not let the knock backs defeat you. Push the negative comments to the side and believe in yourself as much as possible. 

How are you adapting your business to COVID-19 environment?

Norma May: It’s actually been a bonus in a weird way. The BLM movement has helped us too. We’ve gotten much busier.

Naomi: We did have events booked that were cancelled, which meant that we didn’t receive the expected income. But there have been more virtual interest, people are searching online and are finding us. We’ve been able to attend virtual markets and our online presence has increased, thanks to events such as Black Pound Day. 

Some days can be monotonous especially since we are all working from home. But when opportunities like this come along, it’s another energy boost. It really helps that we are getting support from our community. 

With Black Lives Matter and Black Pound Day, has this changed things for Handmade by Norma May?

Naomi: Things have changed! We’re posting about ways to donate, things to read, sharing petitions, the narrative has changed because of everything that’s going on. We’re also actively leaving reviews and comments on other Black businesses as well. 

We are on Etsy because it’s easy to use and it’s well known. But we also wanted to get on Black business directories. That was important to us. We sell our products on Ebonyx which is black owned as well. We had a sale after two days of uploading our products and we haven't even advertised that we’re on there yet. I think with everything that’s going on it’s motivated us to review, purchase, like and share more Black businesses. We should have been doing this all along but it’s better late than never! 

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