Next up in our Creative Start-ups series, Rebecca Morris Knight of Pretty Dandy answers a few questions on creating a party atmosphere at craft fairs, supporting other creators and makers and how she’s been inspired by Nottingham’s DIY scene.
What is Pretty Dandy?
Pretty Dandy is an online boutique full of treasures for your home. We sell creative homewares including handmade items, vintage finds and pieces from up and coming designers. It’s important to us that everyone should feel good when they put their key in the door. Your home should be a place which relaxes and re-energises you – we all need that in our busy lives today. Part of achieving that is having a home that really speaks to you and expresses your individuality, so we sell beautiful things to help you create that dream home.
How do you select work to sell?
The main rule is that I have to love it. If I don’t love it, it’s not in. I find items for the site in lots of different ways, from thrift fairs and flea markets, auctions and online. I look for homewares which are beautiful, useful, interesting, well-made, creative and with a little bit of magic. Then I think about how they fit with the rest of the site and if it feels right, I go for it.
How did you fund starting your business in the first place?
I worked and saved up. I saved up first and foremost to pay for the build of the website and to buy initial stock. Then I carried on working while I established the business a bit to allow me to have funds available to keep things ticking over. It made it hard work at first, but it was a labour of love, so I didn’t mind too much.
What kind of support did you have on the practical side of setting up your own business?
My dad is a business man, so he provided advice and tips on how to go about things. Then other support came from friends who had set up enterprises and businesses and from my accountant who helps to calm me down when I’m panicking about tax or complicated forms!
What is your background in the creative world?
I worked in the arts for a while for a charity which aimed to get businesses to become sponsors and supporters of their local arts scene. This was my real introduction to the organised arts world and I loved it. Theatre, cinema, craft, galleries, dance and more – hugely inspiring stuff, and all on our doorstep. I was also Chair of a charity called Art in the Park in Sheffield, a fantastic organisation which gives people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to engage with art in lots of different ways.
I have also long been involved with the DIY music scene in Nottingham, organising gigs with friends and that led to being a part of the creative scene in general. From a more personal point of view I have always loved photography and making, so I combine the two with my business as I take a lot of the product shots on the site and also make things like cushions, cards and more.
Pretty Dandy Flea Market seems a step up from the usual craft fair. What makes it different?
It’s really fun! Not that craft fairs aren’t usually, but they tend to lean towards a certain style of event. My background in parties, gigs and the DIY scene meant I came at it from a different angle. For me it’s all about people coming, seeing & buying these amazing things that people are making right here in Nottingham and then sitting back, listening to some music, having a piece of cake or a gourmet sandwich and generally enjoying the atmosphere. I didn’t want to make it a ‘come in, buy something, leave’ sort of do. I wanted it to have a buzz, feel exciting and to be a cool event to hang out at. I’m happy to say that has definitely been the case! Plus I’ve got big plans for the next ones too…
You’re based in Nottingham. Do you feel this has affected the identity & role of your business in the creative sector?
I couldn’t have set up this business anywhere else. The support and interest from friends and creative people in the city has been great. Plus, I think it gives Pretty Dandy a little stand out edge. We have cool items from the local area which you just don’t find on other sites, like an exclusive art print from Katrine Brosnan and up-cycled candle holders made by Steve Handley. These things give us an edge online and show people that we’re coming from somewhere more individual and interesting than some other businesses.
Do you have any websites you can recommend to other creative start-up businesses?
I really like Creative Boom and Ideas Tap. Creative Boom is super-useful for creative business stuff. I also read SEO (search engine optimisationg) & online marketing blogs as much as I can, such as SEO Mix. The hardest thing about running an online business is getting enough people to hear about you, so any tips for that are always gratefully received!
Anything special lined up for the near future?
More Pretty Dandy Flea events. We are changing venues, so keep your eyes peeled for the date/time/location! We’re planning two before the year is out, each with something a little different to surprise and delight!
All images © Rebecca Morris Knight