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Entrepreneur sets up new online hub for small business support

Becky Ackerman is the founder of I Do Handmade Hub, a one-stop shop for crafters and makers to find resources to build their small businesses.

Often the best idea for a business is to solve a problem you want fixed – and that’s why crafter Becky Ackerman started I Do Handmade Hub, alongside the pop-up business she runs with her mum Wendy.

When she was setting up for her wedding in 2013, someone else viewing the venue asked where her decor was from. Becky and her mum Wendy had made it all themselves – and that’s how they got their first customer for I Do Handmade. The pair started designing decor for events and parties, and the rest is history.

Now, 11 years later, she’s started a hub to help other similar businesses to grow and thrive.

A one-stop shop for makers

Becky said: “Starting a small business can be incredibly challenging. I wanted The Hub to give businesses what I wish I had when I got started. A place that collates all the opportunities out there into one place and – most importantly – a lifeline of friendship and support to help you feel less alone.”

I Do Handmade Hub gives members access to a live feed of business opportunities, including more than 1,000 markets across the UK and details of 130+ physical shops or stockists that welcome small business products to their shelves. It also brings together hundreds of events, workshops, networking opportunities and courses that are going on across the UK, all designed with business owners in mind.

Hub members can also tap into a live feed of media requests to help give their brand press coverage and use the ‘Ask an expert’ tool to submit questions to an accountant, a lawyer and many other subject matter experts to help move their business forward.

It’s also a community for like-minded business owners, with discounts, opportunities, tools and resources shared.

The inspiration behind the hub

On why she started the hub, Becky, said: “I found it impossible when running my product-selling business a few years ago to search for the right opportunities to showcase, promote and sell my products on top of the making, packaging, and filming myself doing all of the above for social media purposes.

“Online discussion groups like Facebook really helped get my business up and running. I was clueless on where to go for advice, or how to do things.

“I wanted to create a place that solved both these frustrations. A safe space to help each other grow and thrive, with a live feed of opportunities for business owners

“We want to help people grow their businesses faster, and not on their own.”

How the hub developed

Becky explained that her own craft brand, I Do Handmade, had evolved into teaching others, but when COVID hit, they had to cancel all the workshops and convert the sessions into kits for people to make at home.

“When the world of in-person retail reopened, we were looking for places to sell the kits in high footfall locations,” Becky said. “I contacted Westfield Shopping Centre to rent a kiosk, but it was so expensive. I asked if I could share the space with a few businesses and put an advert on Facebook.

“180 businesses ended up sharing the space. We turned it into a flexible pop-up, where businesses could have a stall for a day or however long they wanted. In the end, we didn’t have a stall to sell our products as it turned into a business operation.

“Since then, we have done popups at Lakeside Shopping Centre, Westfield Stratford and even Waterloo Station to help create opportunities for small businesses to trade in these difficult-to-rent locations.

“Our popups very organically built such a supportive community of business owners. We love meeting so many brands, and hearing their frustrations with doing everything, usually solo, we wanted to build a platform to help more businesses and launched The Hub.”

Becky said her proudest moments so far include: “Hearing life-changing stories happening at our popups and through the community, from major high street retailers discovering brands at our popups, to companies collaborating who met each other at our events.

“This business is so rewarding to run, and the supportive small business community is so encouraging to be around.”

Advice for budding business owners

Becky’s top tips for those wanting to start a business are:

  1. Just do it. I wasted time waiting for things to be ready. Turns out I don’t think anything’s ever 100% ready. Just do one task and amend it afterwards. Whether it’s setting up a website, creating an Instagram account, purchasing a domain. Make one step and the next step will become a little easier.
  2. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. This journey has been made much easier with the help of business mentors and coaches, podcasts, and inspiring authors helping pave the way.
  3. Don’t be put off by businesses doing well on social media, most people are winging it. They’ve just been winging it for a bit longer so are better wingers! We are only bombarded with highlights, we don’t know their story, the trials or tears they’ve had to get to where they are.
  4. Things take time. No matter how many ‘make your business wonderful’ or ‘£10k a month how to’ podcasts are out there, overnight success is not a viable business strategy! Good things take a loooong time. Keep going, be patient and don’t give up!

To find out more about I Do Handmade, visit: idohandmade.co.uk/community-membership/

Bex Bastable
Bex Bastablehttp://bexbastable.co.uk
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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