Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Tess Baldwin – I’ve started two businesses Tess Creative Co. and bead & thread
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Tess Creative Co. started in May 2020 when we were in our first COVID lockdown. I was out of a job due to the pandemic, and wasn’t having any luck finding a new one. So, I decided to give freelancing a go as I have a background in Marketing and Graphic Design. After a few months of freelancing under my own name, my casual freelance gig was turning into a full time job and a full blown business so I rebranded to Tess Creative Co. – a Creative Studio offering Brand + Website Design to passionate small business owners.
bead & thread began in August 2021, during our second COVID lockdown. I had been on the hunt for a chain for my sunglasses for ages, and couldn’t find anything that suited my laidback, coastal style. I finally decided to try making my own! When I started wearing mine out in public I was constantly complimented on my sunnies chain, with many people asking where I got it. I decided to start selling them – but naturally, as a Brand + Web Designer, I wanted to do it right from the start so I created bead & thread.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It’s such a difference launching a service based business vs a product business. Tess Creative Co. didn’t really have a launch plan or a huge process at all because at first I didn’t really expect it to become a proper business! Essentially I just developed some branding, built a website and started to put myself out there on social media and in local Facebook groups.
bead & thread was a different story. At first, before decided to actually create the business, I posted in a female business owner Facebook group asking if anyone would actually purchase my sunglasses chains. The response was overwhelming – I had hundreds of people saying yes, absolutely. So, I began working on developing the brand strategy, designing branding, building a website, putting some teasers out on social media, building a bit of an email list, and at the same time working on sourcing materials, packaging, brand collateral – all the bells and whistles!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Tess Creative Co. – honestly, word of mouth has been my best marketing asset. As someone with a marketing background I can honestly say I have done the bare minimum to market this business. But I think that comes with the territory of graphic design – people don’t trust just anyone to do the job, they’re much more likely to work with someone who a friend has suggested, or they’ve heard good things about in general. I do live in a small town on the South Coast of NSW, so to get my first clients I knew I needed to get in with the local crowd. My first clients came through a local facebook group where I posted about my services – and since then all I’ve really done is maintain a social media presence. So it’s definitely been majority word of mouth, mixed with showing off my portfolio on social media.
bead & thread – this business is still quite fresh so I am still in the attracting phase! As mentioned in the previous question – I had an incredible response from that facebook group post and so when I first launched the website I contacted each person who had shown interest to let them know the sunnies chains were available. Prior to the launch I also began a waitlist so that I could build a bit of an email marketing list, and of course have created a social media presence to attract new customers. I’ve also started to attend local markets to sell my products and have began to reach out to like-minded boutiques to wholesale the pieces and hopefully reach new customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Tess Creative Co. is doing really well. I’ve had ups and downs of course, and have had to learn a lot about saying no, and balancing my workload. But I’m currently booked out for the rest of the year, and setting my sights on helping more small businesses in 2022. I’m beginning to think about outsourcing and finding ways to serve more clients while maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
bead & thread is in early days, so I’m currently just working on getting the brand out there and showing my pieces off to more and more people. I’d love to expand my product range into a variety of accessories, while maintaining the vision of accessories for slow, coastal living.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have definitely grown as a person through starting Tess Creative Co. It’s such a vulnerable thing putting your creativity and talents/abilities out there, but it has helped me grow so much. I have become much more confident over the past year and a half since starting this business. One thing that sticks out as well is that I’ve learned, really importantly, how to take care of myself. I’ve burnt out one too many times to know that self care is crucial, and I can’t be the best at the work I do if I’m not in the right headspace. So I’ve learned to say no when needed, and to make time for myself – there’s no need for ‘hustle culture’ or working 24/7. The beauty of starting a business is that you get to make the rules and can work as little or as much as you’d like.
Another thing, particularly through starting bead & thread, is that I’ve been able to get so much insight into what goes into creating a product business – which I think is super advantageous as a Brand Designer. I now have this whole new perspective, and can help my product clients more than ever before.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Social Media – Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook
Time Management + Planning – Toggl, Asana
Project Management – Hassl
Emails – Google Workspace
Website + Hosting – WordPress, VentraIP
Payment Processing – Square
Email Marketing – Mailchimp
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Honestly, I don’t really read or listen to many podcasts that have to do with business – I know that probably sounds silly! I think when I switch off at the end of the day, or at least try to, I want to totally clear my mind and focus on other things so I can take care of myself and de-stress. That being said, connecting with and speaking to other business owners is definitely the best resource. I’ve met so, so many incredible small business owners since starting Tess Creative Co., and their experiences and expertise has been so helpful through everything. I’m a firm believer in creating a community, rather than competition. It’s incredible how kind and helpful people can be when they decided to let go of competition.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You don’t need to know it all before you start – I sure didn’t. You’ll learn a lot along the way, and you’ll change your mind a thousand times. If you want to start, just do it, you’ll figure it out as you go. Oh, and make sure you have a clear brand, of course.
Where can we go to learn more?
tesscreativeco.com.au @tesscreative.co beadandthread.com.au @beadandthreadau