This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Knit With Attitude and Of Cabbages and Kings. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please do get in touch, it would be wonderful to tell your story here too.
When I'm working with people to problem solve business solutions or map out progress, one of my big questions is always 'what networks are you growing around you to make your growth sustainable?' It would be easy to keep taking a booking from someone who needs that critical friend to think through business ideas and while there's a place for that, there is enormous power in joining forces in business in order to achieve.
Visiting Knit With Attitude and Of Cabbages and Kings is instant confirmation that creative solutions for small business owners are a great way to grow and nurture your ideas. I've had the pleasure of watching both Maya and Jess start their separate shops before they joined forces to create the beautifully inspiring space that they live in now. If you're in the neighbourhood, please do pop in and say hi. The light is fantastic and there's so many beautiful things to find.
I asked them to share how collaborating has led to growth for both their individual businesses.
Please explain the unique set up of your shops and what each business represents.
From the outset we wanted to divide the space up equally, but in a natural, cohesive way. As you approach the storefront you will see both business names above the door. The front and right-hand side of the shop is Of Cabbages & Kings, and to the back and left-hand side is Knit With Attitude. There isn't really a straight line division between the shops though, so you'll be looking at necklaces and then be looking at buttons.
Of Cabbages & Kings is a gallery and shop specialising in limited edition prints, jewellery and homewares. Everything is made in the UK and there is a big focus on local artists (most of the artists are from the neighbourhood) and supporting local production and people. Exhibitions rotate on a bi-monthly basis with the biggest wall dedicated to that artist for the duration.
Knit with attitude is a yarn shop with a focus on ethically and environmentally friendly yarns. I try to find out as much as possible about how and where each yarn is produced. There is then a lot of outreach on the blog and with customers about making more informed purchasing decisions and sharing that information. This means that I am working with more and more local dyers, such as Kettle Yarn Co, and farm producers such as Purl Alpaca Designs. There are unusual yarns such as soy, bamboo and milk, as well as traditional yarns such as wool, alpaca and silk.
How do these businesses complement one another?
It's more than just a shop – it's a creative space bringing people together. There is a knit night every month, and an art exhibition every other month. We host talks and classes covering a range of art and fibre subjects such as knitting, crochet and jewellery making.
Both businesses have a focus on their communities. For Jess it is the artists and makers that produce pieces for the shop. For Maya it is the artists and makers that buy supplies from the shop. There is a lot of crossover in these communities especially when it comes to ethics and values.
Another way the businesses complement each other is by focusing on transparent supply chains. Both of us want to know where things are made and by whom. We want to know that people are being compensated fairly for their work.
The businesses collaborate on the window displays to create something fun, artistic and colourful to draw people in. Right now there is a giant arm knitting piece that we did in pink and white to co-ordinate with the colours of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.
What made you decide to share a shop space?
Essentially we had each outgrown our previous shops and were having trouble finding larger spaces that would suit. Tiny boutiques, no storage, a bit off the beaten track etc. Coming together gave us the opportunity to move to a busier high street location without taking on all of the overhead. This means a shared workload – and a shared responsibility.
As small business owners we both spend a lot of time working in the shop. By sharing the time and responsibility we are able to take holidays and weekends knowing that the shop is in good hands. This means we can come back to work less stressed and better prepared to tackle more important things.
How has this helped you develop your individual businesses?
Being on the high street means that the footfall has been much higher than our smaller, out of the way shops. In turn our customer base has grown and so have our businesses. It's hard to beat being next to the bus stop, free advertising while people wait. If the bus stops at the street light, then everyone gets to peek into the shop!
The bigger space has meant being able to host more events and workshops, and an ability to have people come to us. We were also able to hire some behind the scenes staff for the first time in the winter. Natalie works one day a week for each of us and there's enough room for all of us to be on our laptops without everyone having to work at the front counter.
We've also been able to lean on each other's experience and advice. Everything from social media campaigns and advertising to shop displays and events. We can get a sense of what may work first, without having to make the same mistake twice. Sometimes it's as simple as getting someone else's feed back first, knowing that we have each other's best interest at heart, as well as a solid knowledge of the other businesses first.
What advice would you give other small business owners who are thinking of collaborating in this way?
We are fortunate in that the way we run our businesses is very similar in terms of our routines and our objectives. It’s essential that you find someone who is on the same wavelength.
Communication and compromise. TRUST! Your own business is your baby, you have to allow someone in to help nourish and take care of it. It means lowering guards and easing on control.
How has collaborating made you stronger as women in business?
We both have different strengths and weaknesses and different skill sets so we can bring different things to the table. Customer service experience, film-making, computer or language skills etc.
We also push each other along, which means things that might have sometimes been put on the back burner if you were left to your own devices actually do tend to get done. There's more motivation as a team than on our own.
There is a confidence dealing with the ‘bullies’ that come with running a business such as telephone companies trying to rip you off or dodgy landlords trying to screw you over. We had a bad experience before moving into this premise and it was invaluable to have someone else there through it.
Running your own business involves many highs and lows and the brilliant thing about working in a partnership like this is that someone is there to pick the other up when they are down.