Meet the Expert - Chloe Hardisty on Building a Community
Today we are back again for our 'Meet the Expert' series and this week we are talking to the amazing Chloe Hardisty, founder of cult craft brand Cotton Clara. If you haven't been around for Meet the Expert before - hello! In this series of blog posts, we pick the brains of other business owners to learn some more ourselves and share their expertise with you! Whether you have your own business or you're just a big lover and supporter of small businesses (we see you and we appreciate you!) we hope you find some inspiration and some take home nuggets of wisdom!
Cotton Clara began as a side hustle when Chloe was on maternity leave and has grown into a colourful craft empire with a unique personality. After all the changes that swept across the world in 2020, craft has really become a treasured outlet and source of joy for many of us. Cotton Clara's kits bring out your inner creativity and fill you with the kind of satisfaction you can only get from making something with your own two hands! With a monthly subscription service for die-hard crafters and perfectly curated insta feed Chloe has been able to build a devoted community of crafters. We count her among our own small-biz cheerleader squad so we wanted to learn a little more about her business and how Cotton Clara has built it's community.
For anyone reading who doesn’t know Cotton Clara, could you tell us a little bit about your business, who you are and how it came to be?
We're a modern craft company, we design embroidery kits and we're branching out into other crafts soon. We make stuff that you want to put on your wall when it's finished, which I found a gap in the market for when I was looking for craft kits when I was expecting my first child. I've been running Cotton Clara for about 7 years. I've just built it up gradually after having my second son and knowing I wanted to forge out a creative career for myself, rather than stick in the corporate world. It's just grown and developed and with every year I've got clearer on what I want the business to be and what it can be.
We feel like our brands have grown up together and we’ve loved watching your journey and cheering you on from the side lines! One of the things we’ve loved to see is how you’ve built a community of makers around your brand. Was this aspect of the business something which happened organically or did you set out to achieve this from the outset?
Ah I've loved seeing your business grow too! I think the community bit comes naturally with the product, and the fact that it's an interactive thing, and people often need advice or support and also want to show off their finished work! It wasn't something I set out to do, but it feels so important as the business grows to keep it connected to the community, to always listen to feedback and notice what people are loving and what they are not loving! We'd love to do more around the community, to try and connect, so we're looking at how we can do live tutorials, or demonstrations so that people who are less confident can really have their hand held. We'd also love to invite people into our space when we can for workshops and maybe even networking meetings. We are so blessed to have such a beautiful office, I feel like I want to share it!
The word ‘community’ can sound a little airy fairy, but in a tangible sense, what does it mean for Cotton Clara and what is your favourite thing to come from having a business rooted in community?
I just love the encouragement we get from our community, so many lovely messages sent about the kits and how people have loved them, or how it's helped take their mind off a difficult time. When you've had a negative comment or interaction with a customer, these encouragements really help keep me going. And the feedback on product development is so helpful! I love sharing snippets of new products coming up and getting people's reactions. The people who use the products really do have the best ideas and look at things from a different angle, so that is massively useful!
What have been the key ways you’ve grown and engaged with the Cotton Clara community? What things do you do to foster and encourage this connection?
I've tried to be as honest as I can and just present my real self on instagram and I think that's helped. Right from the start I've shared little wins or frustrations and I think this helps people to feel part of the journey and interested in the outcomes. Then it's just the basics of always trying to reply to comments and DMs and be interested and engaged in other people's work too.
Obviously every business is different, but what advice would you give to anyone out there looking to start growing their community around the business, whether their business is big or small?
My advice to anyone starting out would be to be as honest as you can be, don't be afraid to ask others for advice or to collaborate, but also don't take rejection personally! Understand what makes your business different and unique so you can be sure to communicate those things well. I don't think we're there yet, but my aspiration is to produce content for our social media platforms that provides real value to the customer, for us that's free patterns, cool DIY tutorials, online embroidery classes and trend and style stuff that we know our customer would love! I want our feed to be like reading your favourite magazine!
From the other angle, if we really love a brand, what can we do to get behind them and be part of their success story?
Supporting a brand is as simple as liking and sharing, just engaging with us online if you love us!
We’ve talked about the wider group of loyal crafters that love and support your brand, but on a smaller scale, what kind of community do you have to support you personally? Who do you go to when you’re having a wobbly moment or need inspiration and advice?
My husband works in the business with me now so we support each other and he knows the ins and outs of the business which is so helpful, I don't feel like I have to stop talking about work because he's as into it as I am. I have a couple of friends that are massive supporters and always there to listen to the challenges, but over the last few months both me and my husband have found having a coach really vital. Being able to talk to someone independent and who is used to working with business leaders is just life-changing. I feel like I'm understanding myself more and working through challenges much more quickly with my coach. I would highly recommend it to anyone, not just anyone running a business. I'm convinced we all need coaches!
Describe yourself in three words.
Creative, impulsive, excitable
We’ve met up to chat creating a community, what drink should I buy you?
Decaf oat milk cappuccino
What’s your favourite quote?
“Everything is figureoutable’, Marie Forleo followed closely by “Find out who you are and do it on purpose" by Dolly Parton
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Current guilty pleasure is watching episodes of The Bold Type. My husband would hate it so I sneak them in when he's busy doing something else!
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Morning for sure, I'm up at 5am and in bed by 9pm, sometimes before my kids!
What’s your favourite Mustard locker?
I love the Sage Green Skinnys in our staff room!