After discovering a love of bushcraft, Sophie launched Grain & Knot in 2013. Based in South East London, she handcrafts wooden goods from her home studio, creating tactile wooden kitchenware from reclaimed timber. This year she won our Space for Ideas competition, which meant we helped launch her first physical store. By the time of opening, Sophie already had thousands of followers from Instagram thanks to her beautifully curated feed. What was it like meeting her fans in-person and what did she learn? We spoke to her about the importance of expanding her retail presence beyond the digital space:
How was transitioning from online to offline; were there any challenges?
Coming from a retail background, I've sold at markets and fairs many times so I just made sure I was organised. There were a few teething problems with the internet but I made sure I got set up early every day before any arrivals.
What advice would you give to brands who are thinking of opening a physical space?
Take your time to choose a space that works for you, try not to break the bank with unnecessary purchases, and keep things streamlined. Having a launch party was a great way to celebrate the opening and to invite friends, family and supporters to see my hard work in person. Having everyone in one space was a real turning point for me.
Tell us about the decision process behind the design?
I worked with Fred Ridby who’s an interior designer based in North London. I wanted to recreate my home studio. We met and talked through my ideas and decided to go for all natural materials, which suited my brand ethos.
Over half of your customers knew you from Instagram, what was it like meeting them in-person?
It was really special to put faces to Instagram handles and see how they responded to items. Here they could feel the weight to get an understanding of the materials. The brushes proved really popular; when selling online you only get a rough idea about what customers like. I could also gauge if some items were priced too high/low by how quickly/slowly they were selling.
What did you learn from leading the workshops?
Part of my idea was that whilst I was in the space I would continue to make items and teach others to pass on my skills. I don't have colleagues so this was a fantastic way to connect with people. A lady came in and bought a few of my items, then booked her husband into one of my woodcarving workshops so he could make more for her! Connections with local people like that are invaluable.
You mentioned you wanted a space to meet customers and see what they liked about your brand. Did this affect your products in terms of what/how you made?
There are items that I really enjoy making so I’m always drawn to them. And yet other items I don’t enjoy making as much are more popular. It made me realise that I need to have variety.
How did you find using the iZettle system?
It was really easy to input the items. As each is unique, I thought it was going to be a challenge but I was able to split the items into categories and sell via price.
How did you find selling in-person versus online?
I can explain more to the customer about the timber and techniques used, as well as any challenges I faced while making them. It’s a much more personal experience. It’s important with handmade items to understand the full story behind them.
How did using iZettle impact the customer experience?
It was very professional. Having a proper till system and receipt was beneficial to the overall customer experience. I was able to put my contact details on the receipt too, which was a nice touch.
What were the other ways iZettle supported your store?
It was really valuable seeing the daily breakdowns of sales. Once the store had closed, I could see the total sales, including which category sold the most and what didn't do so well.
What are your plans for future stores?
I would absolutely love to open another store next year. It’s a great opportunity to meet customers and make new contacts. I have nothing set in stone yet but I am sure I will make some plans soon!