We recently had the pleasure of meeting Rusthall’s Janet Fullalove-Jones for a cuppa and cake, and a chat about her thriving fashion brand, FullaBeanies. As well as a successful entrepreneur, Janet is a real local celebrity in Rusthall, often seen along the high street sporting one of her trademark crocheted beanies. Janet gave us the lowdown on the unexpected transition of her hobby into a successful business.
It began in the wake of her young children sleeping through the night. Janet found herself faced with the options of either spending her evenings eating, or watching the television, neither of which seemed productive. She needed a hobby. After consulting Google with a search for ‘cheap hobbies’, she encountered crochet. A trip to the charity shop for a hook and some yarn, a few YouTube tutorials later, and Janet was ready to commence her new hobby.
At first she was thrilled to be learning a new skill, filling her time with something constructive and mentally challenging. But a year later she was still going strong, and realised that she not only enjoyed crocheting, she was also rather good.
Her first creations were kids’ beanies, which she made for her children. At the time, her popular elder daughter was getting invitations to every birthday party, and money was tight on her husband’s salary alone. Janet’s solution: homemade beanies as gifts. For everyone. Local children sporting Janet’s fine handmade beanies soon caught the eyes of other parents at the school gates. Before long, Janet was getting more and more requests for beanies.
With the increasing demand for her hats, Janet realised that she could take the next step and charge for her creations. And together with two of her crafty friends – The Rusthall Handmade Collective – she took her beanies to the Rusthall Fete, on her very own stall.
She sold nothing.
But, she had a smashing time hanging out with her friends on the stall, talking to would-be customers and having something of her own outside of family-life.
Janet also learned that although she’d had some good support from her local parent-friends with the children’s beanies, they didn’t sell particularly well on the stalls. Undefeated, Janet tweaked her business plan, and decided instead to focus on ladies’ fashion. With the change in direction, she did begin to make sales.
To gain further exposure, Janet pitched FullaBeanies everywhere she could think of. She networked with her valuable mum-friends, contacted local businesses in Tunbridge Wells, took samples to shops and sent emails far and wide. Her husband would often baulk at the idea of writing to the likes of The BBC, believing that they’d never get back to her. But this would often fuel her determination to prove him wrong, and although it would sometimes take months to receive a response, she frequently did, with some work. You may recall ITV’s Alison Hammond sporting a FullaBeanies hat while presenting on This Morning a couple of years ago.
FullaBeanies continues to expand. Janet employed FullaBeanies’ first member of staff – Louise – to assist her with the production line, and will be looking to employ a third crocheter very soon to keep up with orders, a positive sign of growth if there ever was one!
To continue with her growth trend, Janet has moved out of her comfort-zone of crocheting, and is now writing for Women’s Weekly and Simply Crochet. This is giving her a regular audience as a designer, with her very own patterns featured for their readers.
It would appear that Janet is a natural at running a business as well as crochet, but it wasn’t entirely epiphanic. Although she has had to learn the business ropes herself, some of her past work experiences have served her well. After a failed attempt at becoming a hairdresser, where her tutor informed her that she had absolutely no talent (the irony: Janet is now dressing heads with hats instead!), she bailed out of college to find work.
Armed with zero qualifications, Janet found work at a wine merchant at the age of 19. She was running wine tasting sessions, although barely of the legal age to drink it. There, she met fellow colleague, Louise. Louise was on the verge of setting up her own cafe, and once it was open, recruited Janet as an employee. Janet waited tables, but also learnt a considerable amount about running the business. Louise taught her about management of staff, of finances, communication with customers and how to be a boss as well as an employee. Louise was also a pivotal role model for an impressionable young Janet. Louise was a newly-single mother, juggling running two cafes while raising her two children.
In many ways, it has been an unimaginable journey for Janet, from a hobby born out of boredom, to creating a full-time, successful fashion brand. She often gets imposter syndrome, in total disbelief that she is worthy of the success of FullaBeanies.
2017 sees some exciting new developments for FullaBeanies, with Janet beginning to explore the festival market. She’ll be attending Al Fresco in Tunbridge Wells and Joy Festival in Groombridge, with the view to attending larger festivals such as Glastonbury in the future.
Janet highly recommends finding a creative outlet – whoever you are, regardless of your goal. She gained focus and personal productivity when she first began crocheting, and feels that having a creative outlet can provide a sense of therapy and inner peace amongst the chaos and monotony of everyday life. It does not matter what you create, be it food, music or paintings. You don’t even have to be particularly good. But Janet stresses that whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it, as without enthusiasm, you won’t want to continue.
Her advice for business startups is to take a proactive approach. Once you have your product, create opportunities to promote it. Send emails, send letters, utilise social networking. Provide concise detail about your product or service, perhaps create a portfolio or media pack. Take samples of your work to prospective clients. And have a little faith.
You can purchase their hats through their Etsy site, but do stay tuned for their new website, which is currently under construction.
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