By Marilyne Kékéli
"Marilyne, you know what, I think that despite all of this information, I am not going to be able to participate in the angel investor pitch day. I don't think I have made enough sales this quarter. Why would they want to speak to me and hear about my business?"
The day was very hot. Car horns were blowing in the background. The air conditioning had started to blow a cooling breeze in what had been a stiflingly humid room.
This was an afternoon of March 2018, and I was teaching a group of small business owners and makers how to pitch themselves to prospective investors in a local authority business center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
I would certainly remember this sentence a few months later, when I left my role at a large bank in the City of London and started my very own jewellery business.
'Whether you are selling a product, your skills, your company or your presence; we are always selling, even when we do not realise it.'
Sales is typically the most stressful and unpredictable part of a small business’ journey. Despite the fact that it is seldom taught at school and in universities, it is probably one of the most important skills a human being can have. Whether you are selling a product, your skills, your company or your presence; we are always selling, even when we do not realise it.
As a small business owner in London, finding opportunities to sell to the public beyond the internet has been a mighty struggle. The city’s expensive commercial real estate is a significant hurdle for most small businesses, and this often leads to those that are well capitalised, or have personal connections, to have privileged access to brick and mortar stores. That leaves the majority of us struggling to further establish our credibility. Because you see, selling in a store and commercial location is not just about meeting the public, it is an exercise in establishing trust. When a customer sees you in a store and tries on your products, it gives credibility and legitimacy to your brand and what you stand for - it is also an amazing opportunity to test what works and assess what doesn’t.
'I wanted to create a space that would establish our presence in some of the best real estate in the city...'
Most small businesses in London are left out of this opportunity because of a lack of funds and connections and that is even more the case for ethical brands, as well as brands that are founded by entrepreneurs of colour. I wanted to create a space that would establish our presence in some of the best real estate in the city; a space that was accessible for us, in locations that may not have had designers and makers like us feature before.
I also wanted to make it easy for customers who wanted to patronise us. It should be as easy as strolling out with friends to have a coffee in their favourite haunts, before buying a lovely piece of jewellery, a newly treasured plant or a mug handmade in natural terracotta for a friend’s birthday.
2020 has been a difficult trading year for us independents. While we are all taking stock of how the current pandemic has impacted the ways in which we engage with the public, the reality is that our continuous success will continue to rely on our ability to be successful online and offline.
'It is about uncovering sheer creativity and talent and sharing it with the public.'
Since its inception, the mission of the Good Makers Fair (GMF) has been to shed a light on talented independent designers who do not always get the opportunity to share the spotlight. It is about uncovering sheer creativity and talent and sharing it with the public. In these challenging times, I am even more convinced that GMF's mission remains critical. If you’d like to visit us, we will be at Islington Square for one more weekend. Come and see what the Good Makers Fair is all about!
Good Makers Fair at Islington Square.
29-31 August 2020
5-6 September 2020
12-13 September 2020
11am – 5pm
Find us online
Born in Togo on the Gulf of Guinea and now based in London, Marilyne Kékéli founded sustainable jewellery brand, MAMATER in 2018. MAMATER makes ethical sophisticated adornments for spirited women who want to look good and live well. Having launched her brand and seen firsthand the difficulty it was for entrepreneurs of colour and those with unconventional backgrounds to find stockists, Marilyne launched Good Makers Fair in autumn 2020.