- Hello my lovelies. Today I want to introduce you to a fellow blogger and jewellery, craft designer. Say hello to Zen, who I met at an event earlier on and she was incredibly charming and talented. Read on for another instalment of women in business, Zen Zhou.
Interview with Zen Zhou
A bit of background. How did you get started?
I’ve been making jewellery since I was a child and started selling it in a local shop (in Singapore) when I was 16. Sitting around at numerous craft fairs trying to sell my jewellery led to the idea of Makers & Friends- a curated shop dedicated to helping local designers & makers build their brands (& make sales!). By taking care of the selling aspect, yet maintaing the personal aspect through regular “meet the maker” events, designer-makers can focus on their favourite activity- creating!- and customers still get to know the story behind the item 🙂 And through careful curation, customers interested in buying unique products have a regular place to go to (as opposed to a craft fair which is only held on a few days each year)
As for my creative living blog, I love wearing my DIYs and my friends often ask me where I get my stuff from, so I decided to start a blog to share my DIY ideas with others 🙂
Where do you get inspiration from for your designs
Everywhere! Seeing what people are wearing on the street, window shopping, other creative bloggers… Instagramming is definitely a daily activity 🙂
What do you enjoy about designing
The many possibilities: how the same thing can be made into 10, if not more, different things. Which is why I do themed collaborations with other bloggers! It’s really fun to see how 2 people can interpret the same topic in different ways. For example, Emily from Coffee No Filter & myself decided to both create rainbow DIYs
You also have pop-up shops where you sell only made in UK products, why was this important to you?
Makers & Friends is important to me for 2 reasons. Firstly, I have always loved going to markets and looking for unusual products. They are so much more memorable than store bought ones- I still have the handmade notebooks I bought in Fremantle market in Australia when I was a kid and the little glass pigs I bought from Covent Garden on my first visit to the UK.
Unfortunately, I find that many markets now carry a lot of the same products which were mass manufactured in third world countries, leading them to become homogenised and lose their charm. In a sense, I am trying to recreate that feeling of wandering through a market and never knowing what unique and interesting products you will find through Makers & Friends.
Secondly, as a maker myself, I understand the difficulties in finding a good forum to sell one’s products. One way is through consignment to shops. However, everything is in favour of the shop. For example, when I used to consign my handmade jewellery in Edinburgh, 1 shop quadrupled the price of my products but only paid me 25% of the selling price. (We had agreed upon a 100% mark-up). Another never even paid me for the goods sold! With Makers & Friends, everything is clearly stipulated in a written agreement beforehand so the designers don’t have to worry.
What advice would you give to women wanting to start their own business?
Running your own business can be isolating so make sure you get in touch with a community of people involved in a similar field.
What’s a typical day if you have one.
Lucky me! I don’t have a typical day. 🙂 One of the amazing things about working for yourself is your time is under your own control so my friends get quite envious that I can have fun on a weekday. But I often work late into the night and on weekends, so it all evens out in the end 🙂
Do you have a dream goal that you’re working towards?
To be a full-time creative blogger, sharing my designs and tutorials with others, would be the ultimate dream.
What makes your heart sing?
A duh answer, but creating and making stuff 🙂 Even if it’s just upcycling old stuff that other people would view as rubbish, like wooden chopsticks from takeaways! (I only use the unused ones in my DIYs of course!) Actually, I think I get the most satisfaction out of that, come to think of it 🙂
What have you learnt about yourself since starting your own business?