Military wife Gemma Wigley has grown her business, Craftly Little Pickle, from its humble beginnings to becoming a supplier to a major retail outlet with the support of the Aldershot Enterprise Centre.
Having previously worked in men’s fashion, Gemma got made redundant when she was 7 months’ pregnant with her first child. Her business idea was sparked by the need to source bunting for her daughter’s first birthday:
“I couldn’t find anything suitable so my husband bought me a second-hand sewing machine and I made the bunting myself! A friend liked it and asked if I could do some for her. From there I found myself doing a few orders for other friends.”
The business expands
Craftly Little Pickle’s product line consists of bunting, seasonal decorations and Christmas bags. The business started properly in 2018, just after Gemma had had her second daughter and the family was posted to Nottingham. She recalls making £80 on Etsy that year and her business steadily grew:
“In 2018, Year 2, I made £90 on Etsy. Since then, business has changed dramatically!”
Having started her venture with a sewing machine at the end of the dining room table Gemma was getting a few orders per month. Then the Christmas period got busy as she decided to produce Christmas bags. Moving off the dining table and to a desk in the corner of the dining room, she also started taking up curtains for her neighbours and sewing on military badges as she proved quicker than the on-camp tailor!
“At this point I still wasn’t running the business fulltime as my daughters were still very young but it fed my creative mind and was enough to bring in a bit extra cash.”
The move to Aldershot
During the COVID Pandemic in 2020, the family were posted to Aldershot:
“COVID turned out to be really good for my business. I got busy on Etsy and launched the Linen Bunting Collection. To do this I bought the minimum amount of fabric I could to create 4 colourways. I remember I was really concerned as it was expensive. Now I purchase thousands of metres per year!”
As she was getting busier, her husband installed a desk under the stairs so she could have a dedicated workspace. With two pre-school daughters at home, Gemma was now gaining new contracts all the time and her Etsy business was taking off:
“By 2021 I was so busy that my little cupboard workspace had got out of hand and became restricting. I was finding I had to put work away every night whilst working from home.”
Gemma heard about the Aldershot Enterprise Centre, then located at Mandora house, and took the decision upgrade her business workspace to an office:
“In some ways it was great as I had more space but it was also daunting due to the extra overheads. Although I just needed the space as opposed to amenities the centre offered, it was also nice to see other people at the Centre in the day.”
A supportive environment from the co-working community
When Aldershot Enterprise Centre moved to Victoria Road, Gemma did weigh up her options but decided to move with them. She rented a larger office and has found the extra space has helped grow the business as it has enabled her to become more productive. With the business growing, she has taken on an employee:
“I have employed someone part-time, particularly to fulfil orders during the school holidays, where previously the business would just stop!”
Gemma also finds the location of the centre convenient:
“The location is great in the town centre and the nearby Post Office, which I use regularly. I also believe it’s important to support local businesses such as the post office and the businesses within the centre.”
Gemma supports two other Aldershot tenants: Aldershot Sewing Machines services her machines and supplies threads and Kraken Print and Design does her stationery. She also likes the fact that she is away from home and can connect with the co-working community the centre offers:
“If I want to be sociable I can go downstairs and be sociable. I love the fact that working here differentiates from home life, but I still have the option to work from home.”
She also finds the Centre Management team helpful:
“Lorna and Jo are really helpful and friendly. You do feel that you can ask them anything and they will go out of their way to help you. Actually, we help each other, I am happy to help them out with anything they might need.”
Gemma is now delighted to report that her business has grown beyond her expectations and not only does she have a contract for a leading luxury London hotel, but she will also be selling her work in John Lewis this Christmas. Crafty Little Pickle will be selling as a brand in the Kingston-Upon-Thames branch for a week in December 2023.
As well as creating products for ITV and Netflix, Crafty Little Pickle has over 5,000 sales on Etsy. Her main product line, the Linen Bunting Collection is very popular and her name banner bunting was the Top Pick recently by the Etsy Style Editor. Additionally, Gemma produces a Christmas line including table runners, Christmas bags, and everlasting tags – the latter also being a recent style editor pick on Etsy:
“Christmas is always my most lucrative time of year and I am flat out preparing and fulfilling orders nearly all year round.”
Gemma is now considering an expansion of her business, with the possibility of taking on an employee for more hours and expanding within the centre.
Gemma’s Top Tips for entrepreneurs
Gemma believes that good money management is essential for running a business. And although she has invested in equipment when she has needed to, she believes that being financially wise is important:
“Don’t put a massive financial outlay into your business when starting out, practice good money management.”